Schools have undergone a multitude of reform in recent decades, most based on American educational accountability structures and policies. School improvement efforts have taken on a variety of forms. Despite the intensified pressure for improvement, there has not been an increase in our nation’s student achievement. In fact, racial inequities in academic performance continue to grow. As the students in our public educational systems continue to become racially, culturally and linguistically more diverse, educators need support and training to become culturally competent and racially conscious. Developing cultural competency is not a quick nor simple feat, yet there are countless research-based tools, successful models, and frameworks that can be used to guide these efforts. Cultural competency and racial consciousness must be layered on school improvement factors to better serve our most underserved students. This study examined the role that cultural competency has on school improvement efforts through phenomenological methods. Taking a deep look into one district’s vision and plan for building cultural competence and racial consciousness in its staff, this study examined the lived experiences of teachers as they used their training as part of the improvement process to successfully support and benefit all students, specifically those historically most underserved. Education professionals and decision makers must truly understand how fundamental beliefs about race and culture affect pedagogy. Once this is clear, change can begin. Thus, professional development opportunities should include more than teaching strategies. Instead, they must encompass a broader understanding that includes introspection of race and culture woven into overall school improvement measures.


Candace Raskin

Committee Member

Silvy Un Lafayette

Committee Member

Melissa Krull

Date of Degree




Document Type



Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership





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In Copyright