Beacon Schools define cultural competency as respecting and valuing diversity and making teaching and learning relevant and meaningful to students of various cultures (NASSP, 2006). Beacon Schools are committed to the high achievement and growth of every student, providing a college preparatory program of study that sets high expectations and requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Through the integration of technology and collaborative work of students, staff, families, and community partners, each Beacon School brings together its neighborhoods’ diverse communities and prepares students with the academic knowledge and 21st century leadership skills necessary for college and career success.
Beacon Schools serve students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Beacon Schools learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. They celebrate the differences and diversity among students, families, and staff members through parent and community engagement and cultural enrichments and events.
Culturally responsive teaching is integral to the Beacon personalized learning approach that identifies each student’s unique interests and abilities and uses a variety of instructional techniques including blended learning and critical thinking questions to meet the needs of the diverse learners in every classroom. Culturally responsive instructional strategies used by Beacon Schools include integrating student voice and choice into learning experiences, using explicit examples that positively depict a variety of cultures, using learning styles of diverse students to differentiate instruction, language bridging activities, and group problem-solving experiences.
Beacon Zone curriculum and instruction are student-centered and culturally responsive, providing equitable access to high-level learning opportunities to students from all cultures and backgrounds. Beacon lessons are standards-based with an emphasis on Essential Learning Goals and follow the Beacon curriculum and pacing and planning guides. The Beacon Network ensures that its curriculum includes topics related to student cultures, includes varied perspectives, and is modified as needed to ensure cultural representation in its annual review of curriculum prior to the start of the school year and throughout the year in collaborative unit and lesson planning.
Beacon Schools with TNLI programs promote bilingualism and the use of both English and Spanish throughout the school day. TNLI students receive instruction in both English and Spanish as well as both English Language Development and Spanish Language Arts. Student Advisories are conducted in both English and Spanish. Language interpretation services are made available to Spanish speaking students participating on Student Voice Committees.
The Beacon Network Leadership Team will support culturally responsive education and engagement practices across the network through collaborative professional development on curriculum, instruction, assessments, and student engagement and discipline practices, and through quarterly monitoring of attendance data and information on student and parent satisfaction gathered by school leadership teams through parent and student surveys, school advisory boards, and student voice committees.
In addition, the Beacon Network ensures that the school and work environments are open to and accepting of diversity and free from discriminatory behavior and practices through the establishment of a strong and positive school culture and climate, clear policies, and continuous data and feedback loops.