Multicultural Benchmarks for Assessing and Maintaining an Effective Multicultural School

Banks (1999) lists eight multicultural benchmarks for schools to utilize in order to maintain an effective multicultural school.  He states the following should be in place (p. 106):

  1. A multicultural education policy statement sanctions and supports diversity.

  2. The staff has positive attitudes and expectations toward diverse students.

  3. The school staff reflects ethnic and cultural diversity.

  4. The curriculum is transformational and action-focused.

  5. Parent participation provides a cultural context for teaching and a link with student personal/cultural knowledge.

  6. Teaching strategies are constructivist, personalized, empowering, and participatory.

  7. Teaching materials present diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural perspectives on events, concepts, and issues.

  8. Each program component is monitored on a continuing basis.

A Policy Statement

    School districts should have a policy statement on multicultural education that conveys the board of education's dedication to establishing and preserving schools in which students from all groups have an equal opportunity to learn (Banks, 1999).

   The purposes of a policy statement include: legitimacy to multicultural education in the district, facilitating the creation of programs and practices that promote cultural diversity and equal educational opportunities for all,  and communication to parents and the public that multicultural education is a priority in the district (Banks, 1999). 

    The statement should include a rationale for multicultural education and guidelines that can be used by staff in the district to develop and apply a comprehensive multicultural education plan (Banks, 1999).  The New York City board of education's policy statement (1989) included the following rationale:        

        Whereas, people from all parts of the world live and work in New York City, necessitating a multicultural education which fosters intergroup knowledge and understanding and equips students to function effectively in a global society; and Whereas, multicultural education values cultural pluralism and rejects the view that schools should seek to melt away cultural differences or merely tolerate cultural diversity; rather, multicultural education accepts cultural diversity as a valuable resource that should be preserved and extended. . .  

    Following is an example of major objectives for multicultural education written in the Indianapolis Public Schools' (1996) policy statement:

1.  To promote and foster intergroup understanding, awareness, and appreciation by students and staff of the diverse ethnic, racial, cultural, and linguistic groups represented in the Indianapolis Public Schools, the United States, and the world.

2.  To help students develop more positive attitudes toward cultural diversity, especially in early grades by dispelling misconceptions, stereotypes, and negative beliefs about themselves and others.

3.  To identify the impact of racism and other barriers to acceptance of differences.

    A helpful resource for providing multicultural education rationales is the position statements developed by national professional organizations, such as the Curriculum Guidelines for Multicultural Education, a policy statement adopted by the National council for the Social Studies (NCSS) (Banks, Cortes, Gay, Garcia, & Ochoa, 1992).  


The School Staff

    All school staff should represent the racial and cultural diversity in U.S. society.  In order to develop positive attitudes toward racial and ethnic diversity, students need to see administrators, teachers, counselors, and others from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.  This will encourage an understanding that our society values and respects people from different groups.  Student beliefs can be strongly influenced by their experiences.  If role definitions in the school reflect negative stereotyping, such as a white, male principal and female teachers, students may harbor inaccurate beliefs about gender and race.  To help alleviate this problem, school districts should implement a policy for hiring and promotion of people from different racial, gender, and ethnic groups (Banks, 1999).


Staff Attitudes and Expectations

    Continuous professional development programs can help educators in developing high expectations for low-income students and students of color and to better understand the cultural experiences of these students (Banks, 1999).  Although many of these students have health, motivational, and educational needs that can often challenge teachers, many are academically gifted and talented (1999).  Oftentimes, their talents are not immediately revealed by standardized testing (Fordham, 1996).  Teachers must learn to be adept at discovering the hidden and underdeveloped abilities of students of color and low-income students (Banks, 1999).  The theory of multiple intelligences developed by Gardner (1983) can be useful for teachers in reexamining the concept of intelligence and to develop a broader view of human ability.  


The Curriculum

    Concepts, events, issues, and problems from different ethnic perspectives and points of view should be included in the school curriculum (Banks, 1997).  The curriculum should reflect a transformation and social action approach to multicultural education, rather than a contributions or additive approach (Banks, 1999).  This means that the curriculum is reconceptualized by making ethnic content an integral part of a transformed curriculum and should be distinguished from merely adding ethnic content to the curriculum.

    The teacher's role in implementing a multicultural curriculum is of great importance (Banks, 1999).  The teacher has influence over the curriculum with his or her values, perspectives, and teaching styles.  This is why it is not feasible to produce a multicultural curriculum, give it to teachers, and state that a multicultural curriculum exists in the district.  Valuable multicultural materials are made ineffective when used by a teacher who lacks a knowledge base in multicultural education or who does not have positive attitudes toward a variety of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups.  For this reason, it is imperative to implement continuous staff development.

    Another way to ensure that effective multicultural curriculums are being utilized in the schools is to analyze the preservice teacher education programs (Banks, 1999).  School districts should consider multicultural education components in teacher education institutions as a priority for the hiring of graduates.  The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education has taken a leadership role in multicultural education by requiring its members to implement components, courses, and programs in multicultural education (National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE], 1997).  


Teaching Strategies

    The teacher should be adept at implementing the multicultural curriculum with interactive and cooperative strategies (Banks, 1999).  As part of the multicultural curriculum, students should be given many opportunities to express their feelings and emotions and to participate in dialogues and cooperative groups with their peers.  Didactic, teacher-led instruction has serious weaknesses when teaching any content; however, it is notably unfitting when teaching multicultural content - an area in which diversity is valued and different perspectives are a vital part of the content.  


Teaching Materials

    Teaching materials in a school district should reflect the historical and contemporary experiences of a range of ethnic and cultural groups (Banks, 1999).  However, it is not enough for textbooks and other materials to simply contain content about various groups.  Issues and perspectives pertinent to various groups should be included, and the multicultural content should be an fundamental part of the textbook or presentation and not an add-on or appendage.  



    Banks (1999) explains, "A major goal of multicultural education is to create equal educational opportunities for students from different racial, ethnic, and social-class groups."  There is great disparity in academic achievement and graduation rates for students from different racial and income groups in most school districts (1999).  School districts must determine these gaps and develop a plan for eliminating them.

    Consideration must also be given to the proportion of students of color that is expelled or suspended from school, and the amount  in special and gifted education (Sapon-Shevin, 1994; Zigmond, 1992).  Oftentimes, students of color are overrepresented among students who are suspended from school and in classes for the mentally disabled (Reschly, 1988).  Conversely, these students are typically underrepresented in gifted education. 


Parent Involvement

    Because of the problems schools encounter, helping students to achieve academic skills and to become productive citizens becomes increasingly difficult - unless it seeks the support of parents and the community (Graham, 1992; Hidalgo, Bright, Siu, Swap, & Epstein, 1995).  However, it is a challenging task to attain the support of parents because of the rising numbers of both parents working outside the home (Banks, 1999). In Education Week (1986) an article, "Here They Come, Ready or Not," reported that fewer than 5 percent of U.S. households now reflect the traditional family model of  the past (i.e., a working father, mother at home, and two or more school-age children).

    Because of the increased levels of stress and demands on time in U.S. households, schools must reconsider ways parents can realistically be involved in the school (Comer, 1980).  Schools should be careful not to consider noninvolvement in traditional methods as a lack of parent interest (Banks, 1999).  School districts should  employ a program for involving parents that is considerate of the changing characteristics of families, parents, and society (Banks, C.A.M., 1997; Graham, 1992; Hodkingson, 1991).  It is the school's responsibility to reach out to its surrounding community and welcome outside involvement.



    The successful implementation and maintenance of a multicultural education program is dependent on an effective evaluative plan (Banks, 1999).  It is necessary for methods to be developed in order to conclude whether multicultural education goals established by the board of education are being achieved. A successful monitoring program may consist of (1) classroom visits to observe the use of strategies that are consistent with cultural characteristics of students, (2) inspections of standardized test scores disaggregated by race and social class, and (3) investigations of the proportion of students of color who are suspended, are dropouts, and who are classified as mentally disabled and gifted.

    The monitoring program should be implemented on a systems level and not focus on any one individual (Banks, 1999).  This can help to reinforce the idea that multicultural education is a shared responsibility of the school and that everyone within the school building has an investment in its success.  An effective and well-conceptualized evaluative program will provide the feedback necessary to determine whether multicultural benchmarks are being met in the school and future directions to follow to ensure the ongoing improvement of its multicultural climate. 



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           Banks, J.A. (1997). Teaching Strategies for Ethnic Studies (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

           Banks, J.A. (1999).  An Introduction to Multicultural Education (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

           Banks, J.A., Cortes, C.E., Gay, G., Garcia, R.L., & Ochoa, A. (1992). Curriculum Guidelines for Multicultural Education (Rev. ed.), Washington, DC: National Council for the Social Studies.

           Comer, J.P. (1980).  School Power: Implications of an Intervention Project. New York: Free Press.

           Fordham, S. (1996).  Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity, and Success at Capital High.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

           Gardner, H. (1983).  Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

           Graham, P.A. (1992). S-O-S: Save our Schools. New York: Hill and Wang.

           Here they come, ready or not. (1986, May 14).Education Week. Special issue. 

           Hidalgo, N.M., Bright, J.A., Siu, S-F, Swap, S.M., & Epstein, J.L. (1995). In J.A. Banks & C.A.M. Banks (Eds.),Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education (pp. 498-524). New York: Macmillan.

           Hodgkinson, H. (1991). Reform versus reality. Phi Delta Kappan, 73(1), 9-16. 

           Indianapolis Public Schools. (1996, November).Resolution No. 7397: Indianapolis Public Schools Multicultural Education. Indianapolis: Author.

           National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. (1997). Standards for Procedures & Policies for the Accreditation of Professional Education Units. Washington, DC: Author.

           New York (City) Board of Education.  (1989).Statement of Policy on Multicultural Education and Promotion of Positive Intergroup Relations. New York: Author.

           Reschly, D.J. (1988). Minority MMR overrepresentation and special education reform. Exceptional Children, 54, 316-323.

           Sapon-Shevin, M. (1994). Playing Favorites: Gifted Education and the Disruption of Community. Albany: State University of New York Press.

           Zigmond, N. (Ed.). (1992). Issues in the education of African-American youth in special education settings.  Special Issue. Exceptional Children, 59, 99-176.