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A Message from Superintendent Pero: Cultural Proficiency

We share the belief with national experts that investing in people and professional learning is the best strategy for school improvement, and that only by building internal capacity and coherence, can long-term change be accomplished, and improvement sustained. Our intent with securing national experts, Generation Ready, is to build our internal capacity in a manner that can be cascaded throughout all nine buildings and other departments such as transportation, athletics and food service. It is critical that while we learn together, we are able to look at individualized building-level data (both qualitative and quantitative) in order to create specific building-level goals so ALL of our students can find success by getting what they need.

I appreciate Generation Ready’s inside-out approach. It encourages school leaders, teachers and support staff to reflect on their own understandings and values in a non-threatening environment in order to promote positive change. This approach enables a shift in culture by tackling ethnic and social gaps and embracing an environment shaped by diversity. This Cultural Proficiency Initiative supports both the individual development of teachers, administrators and support staff, and the improvement of schools/district using theory, data, practice and collaboration.

Based on a Cultural Proficiency model, we will provide high-quality professional development throughout the school year that will enable school administrators, teachers, and support staff to foster cultural awareness and respond respectfully and effectively to bias. We have secured a minimum of three full-day workshops. Workshops will include Board of Education members, the Central Office Team, building leaders and administrators, staff and PTSA members. Some objectives for these workshops include:

  • Understanding how to review the culture of our schools and underserved cultures.
  • Understanding how to identify barriers that may prevent a person, school, and district from becoming culturally proficient.
  • Deepening the understanding of Cultural Proficiency as a shared priority to overcome barriers.
  • Examining equity for education at the school level and beyond.
  • Utilizing data and rubrics to guide support teams in the examination of policies and practices.
  • Engaging in cultural proficiency exercises to understand how the organizational capacity relates to the ability to leverage equity and inclusion.
  • Exploring action steps for implementing a culturally proficient school.

Some Questions we will ask to guide our work may include:

  • What barriers to student access, opportunity or learning exist within our classrooms, schools and District?
  • What educational practices do we currently exercise that have lost relevance for our students?
  • What are the cultural correlations to the achievement gap?
  • What data might we want to collect and track to uncover barriers?
  • How might we expand access opportunities for underserved student groups?
  • How might we use Generations Ready’s Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency to address ethical tension?

In addition to the series of workshops, we will be gathering data via focus groups, starting at our four secondary schools this year, and continuing at the five elementary schools the following year.

Focus Groups: Two High Schools/Two Middle Schools

Focus Groups will serve as one of the “diagnostics” in which our schools and our District will be assessed to understand current strengths and weaknesses related to culture and the steps that need to be taken for us to achieve a fully culturally proficient and inclusive environment. This will assist us with aligning staff and organizational behavior to the expressed values and mission of Pittsford Central School District. Focus groups will include students, parents/community members, Board of Education members, teachers and support staff. Selection of focus groups will be determined in the future. Complementing the focus groups will also be a process called “Equity Walks” as described below.

Equity Walks: Focus on Secondary Schools in year one, Elementary Schools in year two

Equity walks consist of a thorough look at each school to assess that the school environment is one that lends itself to equal opportunities for all students and parents. The purpose of the walk is to look at the school environment, examine data (achievement, suspensions, referrals, AP class student selection), and visit classrooms to determine if the environment is one that is conducive to all students having equal access to be as successful as they can be. How we are communicating to parents, including language barriers, and how discipline policies and school procedures are written, will be reviewed for consistency and fairness.

It is our belief that academic success and a positive learning environment are inextricably linked. They are not at odds and are not separate entities. Every child’s experience through the Pittsford Schools will be one that challenges them to grow academically and socially/emotionally. It is our role to help them learn, grow and be prepared to contribute to a diverse world. Our District’s Mission reads: “The Pittsford Central School District community works collaboratively to inspire and prepare our students to be their best, do their best and make a difference in the lives of others.” Our cultural proficiency work as described above will reinforce our mission while continuing our focus on being a student-centered District.