Is it important to acknowledge students’ diversity in classroom settings? Why or why not?
Page 1: Introduction to Diversity
Students in our nation’s classrooms today are more diverse than ever. They represent different races, ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they speak many different languages. Further, these students often exhibit a wide range of academic, physical, and social abilities or skills. Consider the following statistics:
- During the 2010–2011 school year, 54% of public school students were White and 46% were students of color.
- It is estimated that students in the United States represent more than 1,000 cultures.
- In 2011, 21% of school-age students lived in poor households.
- About 4.7 million students in the United States have limited English proficiency, and 11.2 million speak a language other than English at home.
- In many school districts, students and families speak over 100 different languages.
- During the 2011–2012 school year, approximately 11% of public school students ages 6–17 received special education services. Of these students:
- 61% spent the majority of their school day (i.e., greater than 80%) in the general education classroom.
- 20% spent a portion of their school day (i.e., 40% to 80%) in the general education classroom.
Nor should teachers think, “I don’t teach in a big city so my students will not be diverse.” Schools in suburban and rural areas, too, are enrolling greater numbers of diverse students, particularly where local economies, such as those based around agriculture and food processing, are dependent on immigrant labor. Even in a classroom of students with apparently similar European-American backgrounds, teachers will find that their students have highly diverse roots, traditions, and customs that trace back to England, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, or Holland. Additionally, students come from backgrounds that include a wide range of family situations (e.g., two-parent, adoptive, divorced, single-parent, households headed by grandparents or other relatives).
The remainder of this module will present information about some of the most important kinds of student diversity: cultural, linguistic, that involving exceptionalities, and socioeconomic status. Before we delve into these aspects, however, it is important for teachers to understand their perceptions about students who come from backgrounds different from their own. Moreover, they need to understand how these perceptions might influence their expectations for their students and, subsequently, the ways in which they teach.