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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Educator Effectiveness

August 2017


What does research tell us about the relationship between teacher completion of cultural competence training and student outcomes?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on the relationship between teacher completion of cultural training and student outcomes (for example, related to attendance, academics, social-emotional learning). For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of references and resources provided in this response, but offer this list to you for your information only.

Research References

Aronson, B., & Laughter, J. (2016). The theory and practice of culturally relevant education: A synthesis of research across content areas. Review of Educational Research 86(1), 163–206. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Many teachers and educational researchers have claimed to adopt tenets of culturally relevant education (CRE). However, recent work describes how standardized curricula and testing have marginalized CRE in educational reform discourses. In this synthesis of research, we sought examples of research connecting CRE to positive student outcomes across content areas. It is our hope that this synthesis will be a reference useful to educational researchers, parents, teachers, and education leaders wanting to reframe public debates in education away from neoliberal individualism, whether in a specific content classroom or in a broader educational community.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Farr, B. P., Sexton, U., Puckett, C., Pereira-León, M., & Weissman, M. (2005). Study of availability and effectiveness of cultural competency training for teachers in California (Final report). San Francisco, CA: Rockman et al and WestEd. Retrieved from

From the executive summary: “A study of the availability and effectiveness of cultural competency training for teachers in California schools was authorized by AB 54 in 2003…Through AB54, the legislature required the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, in consultation with the State Department of Education, to contract with an independent evaluator to conduct a study of the availability and effectiveness of cultural competency training for teachers and administrators…The intent of the study was to explore training programs for teachers that address their need to be culturally competent—to go beyond competence in addressing students’ English language learning needs alone. The term, cultural competence (or ‘cultural proficiency’ as is sometimes used), refers to a teacher’s ability to respond to differences positively and interact effectively with students from a variety of backgrounds. This is often elaborated as the attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and skills to interact with and support the development of students from all backgrounds. For this study, the cultural competence of a school was also considered.”

Note: REL Midwest is unable to confirm whether this resource has been peer reviewed. However, we have included it as it may be of interest to you.

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Retrieved from

From the publisher’s description: “The achievement of students of color continues to be disproportionately low at all levels of education. More than ever, Geneva Gay’s foundational book on culturally responsive teaching is essential reading in addressing the needs of today’s diverse student population. Combining insights from multicultural education theory and research with real-life classroom stories, Gay demonstrates that all students will perform better on multiple measures of achievement when teaching is filtered through their own cultural experiences.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Ladson-Billing, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from

From the publisher’s description: “In the second edition of her critically acclaimed book The Dreamkeepers, Gloria Ladson-Billings revisits the eight teachers who were profiled in the first edition and introduces us to new teachers who are current exemplars of good teaching. She shows that culturally relevant teaching is not a matter of race, gender, or teaching style. What matters most is a teacher’s efforts to work with the unique strengths a child brings to the classroom. A brilliant mixture of scholarship and storytelling, The Dreamkeepers challenges us to envision intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant classrooms that have the power to improve the lives of not just African American students, but all children. This new edition also includes questions for reflection.”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

López, F. A. (2016). Culturally responsive pedagogies in Arizona and Latino students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 118(5). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Despite numerous educational reform efforts aimed at aggressively addressing achievement disparities, Latinos continue to underperform in school. In sharp contrast to the belief that the inordinate achievement disparities among Latino students stem from deficiencies, some researchers assert that culturally responsive teaching (CRT) improves academic achievement because it views students’ culture and language as strengths… To contribute to the body of work establishing an explicit link between CRT and student outcomes, the present study examines the extent to which dimensions of teacher-reported CRT beliefs and behaviors are associated with Latino students’ identity and achievement outcomes in reading across grades three through five in Arizona… Consistent with the assertions in extant literature that CRT is related to students’ outcomes, the study found that teachers’ beliefs about the role of Spanish in instruction, funds of knowledge, and critical awareness were all positively related to students’ reading outcomes. For teachers reporting the highest level of each of the aforementioned dimensions, students’ reading scores were associated with approximately 0.85 SD (Spanish), 0.60 SD (funds of knowledge), and 1.70 SD (critical awareness) higher reading outcomes at the end of the school year after controlling for prior achievement. Teachers’ reported CRT behaviors in terms of Spanish and cultural knowledge (formative assessment) were both also significantly and positively related to students’ reading outcomes after controlling for prior achievement… Although the present study is not without its limitations, the findings support the extant work focused on CRT, suggesting for Latino youth. that teachers who use instruction that considers students’ culture an asset can reduce educational disparities… Notably, most teachers in the present study held a bilingual endorsement, which requires coursework focused not only on bilingual methodology and linguistics, but also on culture and experiences with funds of knowledge practices. Teachers who have said training appear to have high levels of knowledge about critical awareness, and put into practice asset-based pedagogies that are related to student outcomes. This is particularly salient given that the setting for the present study is arguably one of the most restrictive states for Latino youth. Thus, even though teacher-reported beliefs and behaviors regarding the role of Spanish in instruction were related to students’ outcomes, future studies are needed that examine the extent to which bilingual endorsement, which exceeds most programmatic requirements regarding diversity, might provide teachers with the necessary knowledge (i.e., critical awareness) that enables them to behave in ways consistent with CRT”

Note: REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible. Although we were unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this article, we determined that it might be of interest to you. The resource may be available through university or public library systems.

Mayfield, V. M., & Garrison-Wade, D. (2015). Culturally responsive practices as whole school reform. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 16. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Despite our best efforts, black children still lag behind white children in academic performance on standardized academic measures. Unconscious racism and our lack of ability to confront it present the most salient reason for the indefatigable prevalence of inequitable opportunities for children of color which undeniably result in achievement gaps. This study identified specific culturally responsive practices schoolwide in a middle school that is successfully closing academic opportunity gaps between White and Black students. The findings indicate professional development served as a conduit for ongoing discussions on race and building the cultural competency of staff. These discussions served to promote culturally responsive practices found in leadership, parent engagement, learning environment, and pedagogy.”

Mette, I. M., Nieuwenhuizen, L., & Hvidston, D. J. (2016). Teachers’ perceptions of culturally responsive pedagogy and the impact on leadership preparation: Lessons for future reform efforts. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 11(1). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of one school's teacher-driven professional development effort to address culturally responsive teaching practices in a large district in a Midwestern state. During the 2011-2012 school year, a team of teachers and principals began a three-year long effort to provide job-embedded professional development intended to focus on delivering high-impact strategies to transform the educational practices of teachers through improving cultural competence. A survey was given to 120 fulltime certified teachers, and findings suggest that while teachers agreed most that the professional development helped examine views on poverty, they agreed least that the professional development helped close the achievement gap. Additionally, elective and special education teachers were significantly more positive than core subject classroom teachers in terms of how the research they read improved instruction and how the professional development provided impacted building-wide faculty instruction. Analysis of open-ended items highlight several themes, namely the professional development helped teachers by acknowledging cultural differences of the students they taught, but that ultimately the challenges of lack of time and implementation apathy impeded the success of the professional development effort. These findings provide important insight for leadership preparation, particularly about supporting teacher-driven efforts, facilitating culturally responsive practices, and the reflecting on the pressures teachers face due to high stakes accountability and reform efforts.”

Nykiel-Herbert, B. (2010). Iraqi refugee students: From a collection of aliens to a community of learners—The role of cultural factors in the acquisition of literacy by Iraqi refugee students with interrupted formal education. Multicultural Education, 17(3), 2–14. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “To learn productively and experience academic success, students need access to curricula and instructional approaches that are ‘culturally relevant’ and ‘culturally responsive.’ Culturally relevant/responsive pedagogy uses ‘cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes’ and thus ‘empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically.’ This article examines the impact of culturally-relevant instruction on the academic performance of English language learners (ELLs) with interrupted education. The data collected in a 10-month long intervention program for non-literate refugee students from Iraq confirm that immersion in a learning environment congruent with the home culture can significantly improve the students’ learning outcomes. Although content learning was also positively affected, this article focuses on the students’ acquisition of literacy, since it was their lack of English literacy skills that identified them as at-risk for academic failure.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

Teaching Tolerance : –

From the website: “Our mission is to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. We believe that schools must educate all students for full participation in a diverse democracy. Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use our materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “cultural competence” AND “student” AND “teacher”

  • “multicultural education” AND “outcome”

  • “culturally responsive” AND “student outcomes”

  • “culturally responsive” AND “academic achievement”

  • “cultural responsiveness” AND “academics”

  • “culturally relevant education” AND “student achievement”

  • “culturally responsive education”

  • “academic achievement” + descriptor: “cultural awareness” - descriptor: “foreign countries”

  • “student outcomes” + descriptor: “culturally relevant education”

  • “cultural competence training” AND “student outcomes”

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.