Literacy Matters Vol 24 Winter 2024

component of the democratic educational endeavor” (p. 93). This study seeks deeper insights into how Black elementary educators perceive Black student communities and their distinct cultural knowledge and identities. This research holds significance due to the educational debt discussed previously. Educational institutions are indebted to Students of Color, necessitating a shift towards a more culturally consistent and equitable education, making a case for exploring culturally sustaining pedagogy within the literature (Kena et al., 2016; Ladson-Billings, 2006). In distinguishing between culturally relevant and culturally sustaining pedagogies, Paris (2012) argued that pedagogical approaches must surpass mere “responsiveness or relevance to the cultural experiences and practices of young learners.” Instead, they should actively empower young individuals to sustain their cultural and linguistic competence while concurrently providing access to dominant cultural competence (p. 95). Culturally sustaining pedagogy asserts that the term “relevant” falls short in explicitly articulating and supporting the transformative objectives of social critique and systemic change. Its explicit mission is to foster “multilingualism and multiculturalism among students, educators, and other educational stakeholders” (p. 28). It revolves around educators integrating these principles into their everyday teaching practices. Culturally sustaining pedagogy goes beyond centering on dominant White, middle-class, monolingual/ monocultural educational achievement norms, as articulated by Alim and Paris (2014). For instance, teachers can incorporate nontraditional texts into their instructional methods and reading sessions to be more inclusive. Furthermore, as pointed out by Paris and Alim (2017), including hip-hop pedagogies in the curriculum can contribute to developing cultural literacy in schools, addressing the historical undervaluing of Black cultural expressions. Incorporating hip-hop pedagogies allows students to re-envision, reclaim, and construct their identities, histories, languages, and cultures (Paris & Alim, 2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogy is not rooted in the belief that our sole focus should be closing the so-called “achievement gap.” As Paris and Alim (2017) emphasized: In this endeavor, we are committed to envisioning and implementing pedagogies that do not rely on a lens of amusement, contempt, and pity (e.g., the “achievement gap”) but instead prioritize engaging in complex ways with the innovative linguistic, literate, and cultural practices of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other youth and communities of color (p. 2). A culturally sustaining educator ensures that the classroom environment is inclusive and welcoming for all students. For example, texts that portray Students of Color and other cultural groups in a positive light are prominently displayed when arranging the classroom library. This practice fosters student teacher relationships and is an initial step in affirming students’ cultural identities.

is inherently problematic as it places blame on the students, portraying them as the victims of an unjust system. Ladson Billings (2006) offers a more apt description of this phenomenon as an “educational debt” owed to these students, highlighting the protracted historical continuity of Eurocentric educational norms that have systematically deprived many students of color of their right to an equitable education. “A deficit is the amount by which a government’s, company’s, or individual’s spending exceeds income over a particular period. Thus, for each budget cycle, the government must determine whether it has a balanced budget, a budget surplus, or a deficit” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p. 5). This analogy underscores the persistent imbalance that demands redress within the educational landscape. Pedagogical Strategies Crafted by Black Scholars to Empower Black Students Numerous terms have emerged in scholarly discourse to describe effective teaching methodologies that serve as a bridge between the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of diverse students and the educational environment. These terms include “culturally responsive” (Matias, 2013), “culturally appropriate” (Phuong-Mai et al., 2009), “culturally sustaining” (Paris & 2014), and “culturally relevant” (Ladson-Billings, 1995). While these approaches share common goals aimed at instigating societal change and transforming the U.S. educational landscape, our primary focus will be on two specific pedagogical frameworks: culturally relevant and culturally sustaining methodologies. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Culturally relevant pedagogy extends beyond academic achievement and encompasses social and cultural empowerment. At its core, this pedagogical approach critically examines sociopolitical systems. By implementing culturally relevant pedagogy, students are educated and encouraged to critically assess prevailing processes and their role in shaping a democratic and multicultural society (Gay, 2010; Howard, 2013). Ladson-Billings’ (1995) framework for culturally relevant pedagogy comprises three integral components: first, students are nurtured to experience academic success; second, they are guided in developing and maintaining cultural competence; and third, they are equipped with a critical consciousness that empowers them to challenge the existing social order and its status quo. This approach underscores the imperative for all students, regardless of their learning styles and the social inequities they may face, to excel and attain academic proficiency at a minimum. Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy Culturally sustaining pedagogy builds upon the foundation of asset-based teaching and learning methodologies, including culturally relevant pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Paris (2012) conceived culturally sustaining pedagogy as a nuanced extension of culturally relevant pedagogy, one that actively embraces “linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as an integral

Literacy Matters General Articles

| 26 | Literacy Matters | Volume 24 • Winter 2024


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