Responding to diversity : examination of a small, rural school's response to a changing demographic
As the nation’s schools continue to increase in diversity, teachers are faced with numerous challenges regarding how to meet the needs and strengths of diverse student populations. In addition, small, rural schools tend not only to lack in resources, but may not be adequately prepared to understand student backgrounds, unable to support diverse learners' social and cultural well-being, especially those consisting of a homogenous, Caucasian staff. This qualitative case study examined one small, rural school’s response to a changing demographic, particularly in its Latino student population. Specific attention was given to teachers' attitudes, views, and perceptions regarding their Latino student learners. Faculty members' interviews served as the primary data collection method coupled with an examination of current school documents and notes from a researcher's journal. The three data collection methods provided insight into the research questions: 1) how does a small, rural school respond to its changing demographic, particularly in its Latino student population?; and 2) What are the views, perceptions, and attitudes of staff members regarding the school's Latino student population? The major findings suggest that the school displayed evidence of increased support in The major findings suggest that the school displayed evidence of increased support in resources are still necessary to effectively meet the needs and strengths of diverse learners within the school. At times, the evidence revealed teachers not taking responsibility of diverse learners' needs and strengths, placing blame on outside factors. Additionally, faculty members offered many examples of students' needs, but had difficulty identifying students' strengths. Staff members held narrowed views of what inhibited student learning and did not possess a thorough understanding of culturally responsive teaching practices. Also, teachers' and administrators' views varied from those they perceived of their colleagues; and lastly, generalizations latent with pity were evident in some responses. The results of the research contribute to the contemporary literature regarding teacher belief systems regarding diverse learners, how they perceive students of color, and how understanding these perceptions might help educators devise practices that will more successfully meet diverse learners' needs and strengths. Current research lacks in teacher perspectives; this research intends to add to the existing dialogue.