Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education

The DOE uses an educational strategy that embraces students’ identities. We call it “culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE).” It is a way of seeing diversity as a source of knowledge.

With CR-SE, students use their own identity to get education. They learn using aspects of their race, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or ability. Studies show that students learning with CR-SE are more active in class. They graduate more often, with better grades. Their self-esteem improves, and they become better citizens.

New York City is a diverse and inspiring city. But it, like much of America, is rife with bias and inequality. We want to give students mirrors that reflect the greatness of who their people are, and windows into the world that allow students to connect across cultures. To give all students both windows and mirrors, we will adopt a culturally responsive approach throughout all major policy areas.

Our Approach

CR-SE requires schools and districts to:

  • See and value the background, views, and needs of all students. This includes experiences related to race, culture, language, or ability.
  • Be aware of past and present forms of bias and oppression.
  • Identify and stop practices that boost historically advantaged groups at the expense of marginalized students.
  • Use teaching methods that are challenging, but honor students’ diversity. Students’ lives and identities should connect to their education. They should become critical thinkers and feel the agency to end inequality.
  • Employ staff with high expectations for all students. They must be able to examine their own personal beliefs around identity, while giving professional learning and support.
  • Build strong connections with students. Understand their lives, backgrounds, and identities.
  • Build partnerships with families and communities. These bonds can be a source of knowledge, and help shape school priorities.
  • Create emotional safe spaces and foster trust among students. In a conflict, use restorative practices to reconcile both sides. Nurture students’ identities and give them a sense of ownership and belonging.

Our Definition

New York City students live in a diverse, vibrant and inspiring city –a city that also reflects the complex system of biases and inequities deeply rooted in this country’s history, culture and institutions.The DOE commits to culturally responsive-sustaining education (CR-SE), a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple forms of diversity (e.g., race, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, ability) are recognized, understood,and regarded as indispensable sources of knowledge for rigorous teaching and learning.Culturally responsive-sustaining education uses educational strategies that leverage the various aspects of students’ identities, including the rich cultural, racial, historical, linguistic characteristics of students to provide mirrors that reflect the greatness of who their people are and windows into the world that allow students to connect across cultures.Numerous studies across the country show that CR-SE increases student participation, attendance, grade point averages, graduation rates, civic engagement, self-image, and critical thinking skills.To give all students both windows and mirrors, we will adopt a culturally responsive approach throughout all major policy areas.

What is CR-SE

Engaging in the work of CR-SE ensures that all students learn at high levels by requiring that schools and districts:

  • Value and affirm the varied experiences, perspectives and needs that students bring into the classroom - whether they be connected to racial/cultural background, language, disability or other - as essential assets and resources for learning, and meet students there;
  • Foster critical consciousness about historical and contemporary forms of bias and oppression;
  • Identify and interrupt policies and practices that center on historically advantaged social/cultural groups and lead to predictable outcomes of success or failure for historically marginalized students;
  • Use curricula and pedagogy that are academically challenging, honor and reflect students’ diversity, connect learning to students’ lives and identities, challenge students to be critical thinkers, and promote student agency to end societal inequities;
  • Improve classroom and institutional practice through a mindset of high expectations for all students and deep examination and knowledge of one’s personal beliefs, assumptions, experiences and identities through ongoing professional learning and support;
  • Build strong connections and relationships with students, which requires understanding their lives, backgrounds and identities;
  • Develop close partnerships with families and communities as sources of knowledge, experience and skills, and leaders in shaping school priorities and deepening learning;
  • Develop restorative practices in schools, including using restorative justice as a response to harm, fostering trusting relationships among students, creating emotional safe spaces that recognize and nurture students’ identities, and giving students a sense of ownership and belonging in the school.
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