Remedial and Special Education
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In U.S. public schools, systemic racism and discrimination
have long impacted racially and ethnically minoritized
youth (or youth who routinely face oppression or discrimi-
nation based on the social constructs of race, ethnicity;
Gillborn, 2005; La Salle et al., 2020; Proctor et al., 2017;
Stewart, 2013). In comparison to their White peers, racially
and ethnically minoritized youth have been systematically
(a) subject to lower academic expectations (Blanchett et al.,
2005), (b) taught below grade-level material (Losen &
Welner, 2002), and (c) identified less frequently for gifted
programs (Grissom & Redding, 2015). This has impacted
students’ rates of proficiency on standardized tests of read-
ing and mathematics (Trent et al., 2019), rates of graduation
(Zaff et al., 2017), and pursuit of post-secondary degrees
(Merolla & Jackson, 2019).
Racially and ethnically minoritized youth (specifically
Black, Latinx/Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan
Native students) are instead overrepresented in high-inci-
dence disability classifications (i.e., specific learning dis-
ability, emotional disturbance, intellectual disability),
categories for which determinations tend to be more subjec-
tive (Sullivan & Bal, 2013) and based on data that may lack
validity (Lovett et al., 2020). Fish (2019) discusses the
complex intersection of race and disability. Specifically,
they describe racially and ethnically minoritized youth are
commonly classified with lower status disabilities such as
emotional disturbance and intellectual disability which pres-
ent risks (e.g., social stigma, less access to higher level con-
tent) in comparison with White students with higher status
classifications such as other health impairment, speech-lan-
guage impairment, and autism spectrum disorder which may
be afforded more opportunity or support (e.g., greater access
to inclusion in the general education classroom, more oppor-
tunity for social interaction with peers; see Fish, 2019).
Broadly, special education is considered a civil right and
social good intended to provide necessary and appropriate
1046760RSEXXX10.1177/07419325211046760Remedial and Special EducationFallon et al.
1University of Massachusetts Boston, USA
2The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, USA
3The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, USA
4University of Connecticut, Storrs, USA
Lindsay M. Fallon, Department of Counseling and School Psychology,
University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Boulevard, Boston,
MA 02125, USA.
Supports to Improve Academic
Outcomes With Racially and Ethnically
Minoritized Youth: A Review of Research
Lindsay M. Fallon, PhD1, Emily R. DeFouw, PhD2,
Talia S. Berkman, BA1, Sadie C. Cathcart, MEd1,
Breda V. O’Keeffe, PhD3, and George Sugai, PhD4
For decades, racially and ethnically minoritized youth have been subject to unequal distributions of access and opportunity
in school, leading to inequities in academic outcomes. Educators require knowledge and skills to provide relevant
instruction and create a more supportive, effective classroom environment. This systematic review includes 24 qualitative
and quantitative studies in which researchers investigated a culturally responsive classroom intervention or practice to
promote academic outcomes for racially and ethnically minoritized youth. Within these studies, authors described several
approaches to promote academic success: (a) developing authentic partnerships with families, (b) using effective pedagogy
with students’ culture infused, and (c) accessing rigorous professional development. In addition, studies were assessed for
methodological quality, and qualitative works met design standards more often than the quantitative studies reviewed.
Implications include the need for additional research to inform comprehensive support for educators to design effective
instructional environments for all students, especially those who have historically encountered systemic barriers in school.
systematic review, racial diversity, academic supports
2 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
services for students with disabilities. However, it may also
lead to “stigmatization, segregation, exposure to low expec-
tations, receipt of weak curriculum, and constraint of post-
school outcomes” particularly for those from minoritized
backgrounds (Sullivan & Bal, 2013, p. 476).
In the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1990, states were
required to start tracking the number of students with dis-
abilities served by race/ethnicity. When IDEA was reautho-
rized in 2004, lawmakers prioritized addressing inadequate
academic instruction that could lead to racial disparities in
disability classification (Fletcher et al., 2004). The No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 also emphasized the
importance of detecting underperformance of disadvan-
taged groups. Furthermore, NCLB’s successor, the Every
Student Succeeds Act of 2015, emphasized accountability
for educational performance of distinct subgroups including
those defined by race and ethnicity (Gordon, 2017).
Researchers have suggested that educational systems inclu-
sive of culturally responsive instructional practices may
address disproportionate representation of racially and eth-
nically minoritized youth in special education by promoting
equitable access to high-quality instruction in inclusive
educational environments (Klingner et al., 2005). The pur-
pose of this article is to provide a systematic review of stud-
ies in which researchers investigated a culturally responsive
classroom intervention or practice to promote academic
outcomes for racially and ethnically minoritized youth.
Below is brief rationale for the study and a concise review
of research related to considering student culture in the
implementation of academic supports.
Access and Opportunity
Scholars contend that educational outcome disparities are
the result of unequal distributions of access and opportunity
(Burns et al., 2019; Flores, 2007; Milner, 2012a). Inequities
in public education are driven by an entrenched history of
systemic oppression toward minoritized individuals main-
tained by a normalized culture of Whiteness (Brown, 2014).
Storlie and Toomey (2016) provide examples of this, includ-
ing how cultural values important to many Latinx/Hispanic
individuals (e.g., familism, ethnic identity, collectivist ori-
entation, collaboration) may not be seen as acceptable in
school due to the pervasive dominance of values associated
with Whiteness (e.g., individualistic orientation, separate-
Systemic racism is perpetuated by those in dominant
positions to maintain social power, which in turn can create
challenges for racially and ethnically minoritized students
to achieve academic success (Picower, 2009). A complete
account of historical events and sociopolitical forces that
have maintained racism and oppression in schools is out-
side of the scope of the current review. However, many
scholars have written extensively about this (e.g., Grooms
et al., 2021; Milner, 2012b) and have called for dismantling
racism by removing systemic barriers to access and oppor-
tunities in schools (Picower, 2021). Part of this work is call-
ing on educators to build the consciousness, knowledge,
and skills necessary to cultivate relevant, rigorous, cultur-
ally responsive learning environments (Muniz, 2019).
Educators must acknowledge students’ multiple, inter-
secting identities and incorporate student culture in the
design and delivery of academic instruction and supports
(e.g., Gay, 1993; Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Culture
refers to group values, ways of thinking, standards of behav-
ior, and beliefs, with race and ethnicity anchoring an indi-
vidual’s identity and expression (Gay, 2000). For decades,
scholars’ theoretical work related to multicultural educa-
tion, culturally responsive teaching, and culturally relevant
pedagogy have laid the foundation for changing educational
practice. A summary of key theories related to culture and
education is presented in the next section. Then, recent
quantitative and qualitative research aimed at improving
academic outcomes for racially and ethnically minoritized
youth in the classroom are synthesized. Finally, the findings
of the review highlight examples and applications associ-
ated with the theories described below.
Culture and Education
J. A. Banks (1973) was among those who pioneered the
multicultural education movement indicating the need to
reform instruction to provide students from diverse racial,
ethnic, and cultural groups the opportunity to experience
educational equity. This notion shaped a multicultural
instructional framework, which included five dimensions:
(a) content integration (including examples, resources, and
ideas from students’ cultures when teaching), (b) knowledge
construction (aiding students to understand implicit cultural
bias and generate their own knowledge), (c) prejudice
reduction (building knowledge of cultures, promoting inter-
group contact, and reducing prejudice), (d) equity pedagogy
(using a variety of instructional methods and collaborative
learning tasks to connect home and school), and (e) empow-
ering school culture and social structure (challenging the
systems within schools and the community to promote
reform that would encourage equitable access to opportu-
nity; J. A. Banks, 1997). Banks described these dimensions
as both unique and overlapping.
Gay (2000) defined cultural responsiveness as it pertains
to classroom instruction broadly. She indicated that cultural
responsiveness is the consideration of individual differ-
ences (e.g., culture, language, heritage, experiences), and
the act of seeing those differences as both normative and an
asset to the classroom community. Specifically, she indi-
cated culturally responsive teaching is validating (affirming
of cultural heritage), comprehensive (teaching the whole
Fallon et al. 3
child), multidimensional (inclusive of diverse experiences),
empowering (promoting confidence and agency), transfor-
mative (challenging traditional practices), and emancipa-
tory (giving students a voice; Powell et al., 2016). Around
the same time, Ladson-Billings (1995) indicated that teach-
ers who use culturally relevant pedagogy (a) build curricula
that reflect students’ culture, (b) vary their teaching meth-
ods dependent on student need, (c) set high expectations for
learning, and (d) establish relationships with students’
The work of Gay (2000) and Ladson-Billings (1995) dis-
rupted deficit approaches that were popular for decades,
undermining the notion that many racially and ethnically
minoritized students had deficiencies to overcome to be
successful in school. More recently, Paris and Alim (2014)
further drove asset pedagogies forward by proposing that
educators should engage in culturally sustaining pedagogy,
which includes efforts to perpetuate (i.e., sustain) linguistic
and cultural pluralism in the classroom. This involves edu-
cators embracing students’ cultures and valuing students’
languages, histories, and ways of being in the classroom
(Paris & Alim, 2017).
Validating students’ home culture and language is
emphasized in the work of many other researchers, includ-
ing sociolinguists. Powell and colleagues (2016) described
the importance of language in culturally responsive instruc-
tion. Specifically, they referenced the work of Gee (1989)
who proposed that each individual has a “primary dis-
course” (i.e., how interactions occur at home and in the
community; part of a person’s “identity kit”) and many sec-
ondary discourses. Educators are encouraged to acknowl-
edge there is a dominant discourse, spoken by those in
power, and Delpit (2006) argued that many students must
learn “power literacy” to access the dominant culture in
school. Power literacy involves learning the codes and/or
rules for communicating with those in power (e.g., how to
dress, speak, talk, write, and interact; Delpit, 1988).
Furthermore, scholars contend that validation of students’
home language is critical, as well as expressing to students
that no language is superior but rather more apt in certain
social contexts (Seals & Peyton, 2017). It stands to reason
that attention to and appreciation of student culture pro-
motes positive outcomes (Byrd, 2016), but studies are
needed to advance the field’s understanding of this
Consideration of Culture and
Research addressing how consideration of culture and aca-
demic supports intersects to support student outcomes has
largely been conceptual. For instance, Muniz (2019) drew
from prior theories to posit that culturally responsive teach-
ers must be trained to provide relevant, rigorous instruction.
This conceptualization, however, has not been studied
empirically. Furthermore, many of the existing studies
related to cultural responsiveness in the classroom are
descriptive (e.g., case studies of exemplary classrooms;
Byrd, 2016). A synthesis of available research is critical to
building a more robust literature base to guide educators’
Syntheses focused on culturally responsive (a) school
leadership (Khalifa et al., 2016), (b) teacher in-service
training (Bottiani et al., 2018), (c) schooling for certain stu-
dent groups (e.g., indigenous youth; Castagno & Brayboy,
2008), and (d) pedagogy for specific content areas (e.g.,
mathematics; C. A. Thomas & Berry, 2019) exist. These
syntheses supplement the few available systematic reviews
that target cultural responsiveness in the classroom more
generally. Morrison and colleagues (2008) reviewed 45
classroom-based studies of culturally responsive pedagogy.
The focus of their analysis was to link teacher actions
described in eligible studies to Ladson-Billings’ (1995) the-
ory of culturally relevant pedagogy. Results indicated that
no study embodied Ladson-Billings’ complete theory. Also,
the authors did not report specific study characteristics nor
the quality of the research reviewed, limiting the conclu-
sions drawn from findings.
Similarly, Aronson and Laughter (2016) reviewed 40
studies and dissertations focused on culturally relevant edu-
cation. The vast majority of researches included in the
review were case studies, with only two studies applying a
pre- and post-test design (both producing insignificant
results). A methodological limitation was that the authors
only included the terms “culturally relevant pedagogy” and
“culturally responsive teaching” in the search. Broadening
the search terms may reveal more intervention studies for
which teachers implemented a change in their practice to
support minoritized students’ academic outcomes in the
classroom. The limitations to prior reviews inform the pur-
pose of this study.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of the review was to implement a broadened
search to capture studies possibly missed in prior reviews.
Studies included in the review were to contain a culturally
responsive support or intervention provided to youth to
affect an academic outcome. Specifically, studies for which
educators made a change to their practice, implemented an
intervention, or provided a support to students in class-
rooms in which the majority of youth identified as racially
and ethnically minoritized youth (see Note 1) were included.
Studies were required to include a quantitative (single-case
design, group design) or qualitative analysis as well as an
academic dependent variable. The search focused on the
two decades after IDEA (1997) as this is when the policy
required states to start tracking the number of students with
4 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
disabilities served by race/ethnicity. The research questions
were as follows:
Research Question 1 (RQ1): What culturally respon-
sive academic supports, interventions, or practices
implemented to promote an academic outcome with
racially and ethnically minoritized students (>50% of
the sample) in school (e.g., public, private) and class-
room settings (e.g., general education, special education)
have been studied with quantitative or qualitative meth-
odology from 1997 to 2018?
Research Question 2 (RQ2): Of the studies that met
search criteria, what were the general study characteris-
tics (e.g., type of implementer, participants, intervention
setting, and type of support or intervention provided)
and the quality of research employed?
Upon searching and systematically screening abstracts,
studies that met inclusion criteria were coded and subject to
review using quality standards for research as proposed by
the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC, 2017b) and
Brantlinger and colleagues (2005). The decision to include
unpublished dissertations was to capture the “gray litera-
ture,” reduce publication bias, broaden the review’s scope,
and adhere to the methodological standards outlined by the
Below is an account of search procedures, eligibility crite-
ria, as well as how studies were retrieved, screened, and
coded (Talbott et al., 2018).
Studies were located via two levels of screening. The first
was an electronic database search of five widely used edu-
cational and social sciences databases: ERIC, PsycINFO,
PsycARTICLES, Education Full Text, and ProQuest
Dissertations and Theses. Abstracts were searched with
terms including culture*, divers*, race, ethnic*, minorit*,
African American OR Black OR Hispanic OR Latino/a/x
OR Chicano/a OR Asian OR Native American OR
Indigenous OR American Indian OR Native Hawaiian OR
Pacific Islander OR multiracial OR multiethnic OR multi-
ple race* AND academic* OR pedagogy OR instruction
OR intervention OR practice* OR teach* OR achieve*
AND school. Only quantitative studies conducted in the
United States were included. This produced 785 undupli-
cated results that were subsequently screened for inclusion
in the review (see Figure 1). Studies were required to occur
in a school context in the United States, be published in
English as a peer-reviewed journal article or dissertation
between 1997 and 2018 (in the 20 years after the 1997
amendments to IDEA were passed), and include an inter-
vention, change in academic instruction and/or practice as
the independent variable. This initial screening resulted in
56 studies. Researchers reviewed the reference lists for
these 56 studies (i.e., performed an ancestral search) and
located an additional 13 studies to include in the second
level of screening.
The 69 studies identified from both the database search (56
hits) and ancestral reference list reviews (13 hits) were
screened according to five criteria. To satisfy inclusion cri-
teria, a study had to include (a) an analysis of the effective-
ness of a support, intervention, or practice as the independent
variable; (b) a student academic dependent variable (e.g.,
achievement, fluency, accuracy); (c) a student sample for
which >50% identified as a race or ethnicity other than
White; (d) were enrolled in Grade K-12; and (e) in a school
(not educated at home, in a residential setting, or at a hospi-
tal, for instance).
Researchers documented various aspects of each article
using a coding manual. The coding manual was developed
by the first author (contact for a copy) by adapting the items
of coding manuals used in similar previously published sys-
tematic reviews (e.g., Fallon et al., 2015, 2018) to collect
data aligned with the research questions of this study.
Described in greater detail below, upon developing an ini-
tial draft of the coding manual, the first author solicited
input from all members of the research team, requesting the
team provide feedback to clarify item wording, define con-
fusing terminology, indicate if additional response catego-
ries were needed for any item, and suggest items missing
from the manual that were required to answer the research
questions. Then, the first author incorporated feedback
from the research team and finalized the protocol for study
coders to use systematically when reviewing research
The finalized manual included items aligned with six
sections: (a) screening, (b) study characteristics, (c) imple-
menter characteristics, (d) student characteristics, (e) inter-
vention characteristics, and (f) study quality. Study quality
items were separated by study design: quantitative (single-
case, group) and qualitative studies. These items were
derived by the noting the presence or absence of the design
features described in the subsection “Study quality.”
Screening items were developed by phrasing the five
screening criteria in the form or a “yes” or “no” question.
Next, coders gathered relevant data related to study, imple-
menter, student, intervention, and outcome characteristics
from research reviewed.
Fallon et al. 5
Study, implementer, and student characteristics. For each
study included in the review, coders documented the fol-
lowing: (a) the type of implementer in each intervention
(e.g., general education teacher, special education teacher,
paraeducator, student support personnel, and researcher),
(b) the number of implementers, and (c) the implementer’s
years of experience. Student characteristics assessed
included (a) the type of school setting (i.e., elementary,
middle, high), (b) the number of student participants, (c)
percentage English Learners (ELs) in the sample, (d) per-
centage of students by race/ethnicity (i.e., Latinx [Hispanic
Origin], African American/Black, Caucasian/White, Asian,
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Multiracial, American
Indian/Alaska Native), (e) number of students with dis-
abilities, and (f) disability categories represented in the
Intervention and outcome characteristics. Intervention char-
acteristics reviewed included (a) a description of academic
supports, interventions or practices targeted (e.g., math,
reading), (b) operational definitions of these supports and
replicability, and (c) the dependent variable (e.g., unit tests).
Coders also documented if treatment fidelity data were
assessed and how those data were collected.
Study quality. In addition, coders reviewed each study to
document features of design quality (Talbott et al., 2018) to
address RQ2. This was a necessary precursor to evaluating
the effectiveness of the academic practices studied in future
research syntheses. So as not to conflate poor design with
limited outcomes, understanding current implementation of
academic practices and supports with minoritized youth
was seen as contingent on the integrity of the research.
Single-case design studies. Coders developed a protocol
(available upon request from the first author) to review
cases and overall studies for methodological quality and
evidence (please see WWC Standards Handbook, Version
4.0 [WWC, 2017b] for a complete description of stan-
dards used in review of study quality). Study designs were
reviewed and classified to have met design standards, met
standards with reservations, or determined that it did not
meet standards. For each study that met design standards,
Eligible studies that included an
academic intervention forLevel
1screening (n= 56)
Eligible studies that found
through an ancestral search
Total number of studies in the
Eligible studies found through
both searches for Level 2
screening (n= 69)
Total number of studies
identified for screening
Group Design Studies
(2017) Design and Evidence
Single Case Design Studies
Design (2017) and Evidence
Quality Indicators for
(Brantlinger et al., 2005)
Figure 1. Identification, screening, and review procedures.
6 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
coders conducted visual analysis to determine whether
strong, moderate, or no evidence of a causal relation could
be determined for all outcomes measured (WWC, 2017b).
Group design studies. Group design studies were coded
using the WWC Study Review Guide (https://ies.ed.gov/
ncee/wwc/wwcsrgpublic; Standards Version 4.0, Sin-
gle Study Review Protocol Version 2.0) to evaluate each
study’s eligibility for review, then design and evidence.
First, studies were screened to determine their eligibility
for review during the screening procedures. Each study was
reviewed to determine if it (a) contained a primary analysis
that examined the effectiveness of an intervention, (b) used
an eligible design, (c) addressed at least one relevant out-
come, and (d) recruited an appropriate sample. If eligible,
the study was reviewed to determine if result (or the study’s
evidence) meets standards, meets standards with reserva-
tions, or does not meet WWC standards. Finally, coders
reviewed published effect sizes for studies meeting stan-
dards with or without reservations.
Qualitative studies. To determine the credibility and
trustworthiness of the qualitative studies screened, cod-
ers applied a framework including 10 total quality stan-
dards described by Brantlinger and colleagues (2005) and
employed in similar reviews (e.g., Bottiani et al., 2018).
These quality standards were selected as they address the
credibility and trustworthiness of methodological decisions
made throughout data collection, analysis, and interpreta-
tion processes (Brantlinger et al., 2005). Similar to mea-
sures of reliability and validity in quantitative research,
these credibility measures allow for generalizability of find-
ings in qualitative research. See Table S1 in Supplemental
Material for definitions of quality review characteristics.
Coders were doctoral-level school psychology graduate stu-
dents. A primary and secondary coder was trained by a
school psychology faculty member (first author) to conduct
the study’s search with the identified terms. Then, the cod-
ers and first author practiced screening the first 10 results.
The coders then conducted screening of search results.
Once screening was complete, the coders rated studies by
first reviewing the coding manual with the first author.
Then, each coder practiced coding three articles. After prac-
tice was complete, answers were compared, and discrepan-
cies in ratings were discussed with the first author until
consensus was reached.
Inter-Rater Agreement (IRA)
After training, the primary coder independently coded arti-
cles using the manual. The secondary coder also coded
33.3% of the studies screened into the review for the pur-
pose of calculating IRA. These studies were determined
randomly using randomizer.org. To calculate IRA, item-by-
item agreement was used. That is, if the two raters coded an
item in the manual in the same manner, it was counted as an
agreement. Then, the total number of agreements was
divided by the total number of possible agreements. Overall,
IRA for the screening procedures was 100% and 97.9% for
all coding procedures. Any discrepancy between the two
coders was reviewed by the first author to resolve.
Descriptive statistics (i.e., frequency counts, percentages)
were used to summarize coding variables across the 24
studies that met inclusionary criteria (see Table 1). To cate-
gorize the content of studies, coders used a procedure simi-
lar to other syntheses (Khalifa et al., 2016; C. A. Thomas &
Berry, 2019) by conducting a directed content analysis
(Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). In essence, as described by J.
Thomas and Harden (2008), coders took the step of “going
beyond” the content of the original studies to answer the
current research questions, namely what academic interven-
tions, practices, and supports have been implemented to
improve academic outcomes among minoritized students.
Due to variability in language and theoretical frameworks
for culturally responsive practice (Khalifa et al., 2016),
directed content analysis was grounded in a synthesis of
existing theory (rather than a single framework), to encap-
sulate a broader group of studies. The coder’s intention was
to employ a process that was flexible and iterative with the
goal of including all relevant literature.
Specifically, all coded studies were first reviewed by the
primary coder for categories of academic interventions,
practices, and supports emergent in each study, referencing
theories related to culture and education described previ-
ously (e.g., features of culturally responsive [Gay, 1995]
and culturally relevant pedagogy [Ladson-Billings, 1995]).
Through review with this lens, analytical categories
emerged to comprehensively describe the independent vari-
ables coded in the studies reviewed (J. Thomas & Harden,
Study categories aligned with three general topic areas.
The first pertained to demonstrations of partnerships with
stakeholders outside of the classroom, termed partnering
with families and community members. This category
aligned with Ladson-Billings’ (1995) conceptualization of
culturally relevant pedagogy, which emphasizes establish-
ing relationships with students’ families. The second cate-
gory pertained to practices and interventions delivered
within the classroom, termed using effective pedagogy.
Within this category, five subcategories were identified.
The first subcategory was the use of empirically supported
instructional practices, which aligns with Ladson-Billings’
Table 1. Implementer and Student Characteristics.
Type of teacher or
staff Number Years of experience
settingaStudents % ELb students
% Student race/
No. of students with
Single-case design studies
Shumate et al. (2012) Resource room
1 3 M 5 100 L (100) 5 SLDd
Valenzuela et al. (2014) Researcher 1 N/R E 4 N/R L (75),
Group design studies
Bianchini (1997) Gen Ed N/R N/R M 43 N/R L (58),
Boaler & Staples (2008) Gen Ed 8 N/R H 4,600 17 L (32.2),
Capraro et al. (2016) Gen Ed 56 4.32 (avg) H 3,801 14 L (51),
Cuevas et al. (2005) Gen Ed 7 7–24 (range) E 28 46 L (57),
Duffin et al. (2016) Gen Ed 1 N/R H 51 N/R L, B, A (75) N/R N/R
Enyedy & Goldberg (2004) Gen Ed 2 >10 E, M 54 61 L (97) N/R N/R
Fránquiz & Salinas (2011) Gen Ed 1 N/R H 11 100 L (100) N/R N/R
Hitchcock et al. (2016) Gen Ed;
7 6–10 (n = 2)
>10 (n = 5)
M 46 N/R NH (76), A (9), B (2) 4 N/R
Lee (2005) Gen Ed 53 N/R E 1,523 N/R L (56) B (17), A (2), H (14) N/R N/R
Moon & Callahan (2001) N/R N/R N/R E 120 N/R B (64), L (4),
A (7) O/M (4)
Olson (2011) N/R N/R N/R E 80 60.0 L (86), B (13) N/R N/R
Powell et al. (2016) Gen Ed; SpEd 25 N/R E 456 28.0 — N/R N/R
Rodriguez (2010) Gen Ed 9 N/R E N/R 43.5% L (68), B (5), A (2), O/M (10) N/R N/R
Ross et al. (2004) N/R N/R N/R E 3,523 N/R B (Varied) N/R N/R
Ross et al. (2007) Gen Ed; SpEd 5 N/R E 49 N/R B (100) N/R N/R
Sampson & Garrison-Wade (2011) Gen Ed; Principal 3 N/R H 45 N/R L (56), B (40), A (4) N/R N/R
Woodrich & Fan (2017) Gen Ed 1 N/R M 97 30.0 L (61), O/M (39) N/R N/R
Braun et al. (2016) Gen Ed; Support 23 N/R M 140 N/R L (51), B (12), O/M (5), AI (1),
Gutstein et al. (1997) Gen Ed; Principal 9 N/R M 743 N/R L (99) N/R N/R
Huggins et al. (2011) Gen Ed; Principal 9 2–3 (n = 4);
>10 (n = 2)
H 700 N/R L (49), B (35), A (1) N/R N/R
Rubel & Chu (2012) Gen Ed 7 1–8 H 420 14.0 School 1: L (75), B (25) School
2: L (10), B (90)
Young (2010) Gen Ed; SpEd;
7 2–3 (n = 2);
6–10 (n = 2);
>10 (n = 3)
E 220 N/R L (40), B (40), A (5), O/M (3) N/R N/R
aGrade level: E = elementary school, M = middle school, H = high school. bEL = English Learner. c% Minoritized youth: AI = American Indian, A = Asian, B = Black, H = Haitian, L = Latinx/Hispanic,
NH = Native Hawaiian, O/M = Other or multiple races, W = White. dSLD = Specific Learning Disability; N/R = not reported in the article.
8 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
(1995) emphasis on the use of effective instructional meth-
ods and setting high expectations for student learning. The
second and third subcategories were inquiry-based instruc-
tion and collaborative learning opportunities, both aligned
with J. A. Banks’ (1973) conceptualization of knowledge
construction (empowering students to generate their own
knowledge) and equity pedagogy (which emphasizes using
a variety of instructional methods and collaborative learn-
ing tasks). The fourth subcategory was incorporating stu-
dents’ experiences/social context in instruction, aligning
with Ladson-Billings’ (1995) recommendation to build cur-
ricula that reflect students’ culture as well as Paris and
Alim’s (2014) and Gay’s (1995) guidance to affirm stu-
dents’ culture through instruction. Finally, the final subcat-
egory within using effective pedagogy was incorporation of
technology in teaching, which in many cases maximized
opportunities for content integration, a term J. A. Banks’
(1973) used to describe using examples, resources, and
ideas for students’ culture when teaching. The third and
final category was termed access to information and sup-
port due to its focus on professional learning communities
(PLCs) and staff professional development (PD). Often,
access to information and support provided educators with
the knowledge and tools needed to educate the whole child
and give students a voice, features of Gay’s (2000) concep-
tualization of cultural responsiveness.
Once these categories were determined by the first
author, another member of the research team reviewed all
articles and categorized studies independently with the cat-
egories identified. Finally, a third member of the research
team reviewed categorizations carefully. Consensus was
reached for study categorizations across the three members
of the research team, and all articles were then coded
according to these final categories.
Effect size estimates were not calculated for quantitative
studies for two reasons. First, the focus of this review is on
synthesizing a broad literature. Using expanded search
terms (in comparison to past reviews) to achieve this aim,
fewer commonalities pertaining to specific independent and
dependent variables were noted across studies. Also, the
research questions focused on study characteristics and
quality, not estimating the magnitude of intervention effect
in studies reviewed, per se. Second, most studies did not
meet WWC design standards. Many used a case study (non-
experimental) design. According to the WWC, studies
should meet WWC design standards (WWC, 2017a) before
being reviewed with the evidence standards (WWC, 2017b).
As depicted in Table 1, most studies contained a quantita-
tive group design (n = 17, 70.8%), followed by qualitative
(n = 5, 20.8%) and single-case (n = 2, 8.3%) design.
Overall, general education teachers served as implementers
(n = 19, 79.2%) then principals (n = 4, 16.7%), researchers
(n = 4, 16.7%), special education teachers (n = 3, 12.5%),
and support staff or coaches (n = 3, 12.5%). In total, 20
studies (83.3%) reported the number of implementers
(M = 11.7, SD = 16.0, range = 1–56), but only eight
(33.3%) reported years of professional experience.
Approximately half (45.8%) of the studies occurred in
elementary schools (n = 10), followed by high schools (n =
7, 29.2%) and middle schools (n = 6, 29.2%). One study
occurred in a K-8 setting (Enyedy & Goldberg, 2004). One
study did not report the number but rather the percentage of
students by racial/ethnic background in the sample
(Rodriguez, 2010). Of the 22 studies (91.7%) that did report,
the number of student participants ranged from four to 4,600
(M = 782). In total, 11 studies (45.8%) reported the percent-
age of EL students (English-language learner [ELL], range
= 14.0%–100%). In addition, although all the studies
reported that they included more than 50% students from
non-White racial backgrounds, one study (4.2%) indicated
generally that the majority of students were from racially
and ethnically diverse backgrounds (Powell et al., 2016).
All studies occurred in public schools (N = 24, 100%),
in urban (n = 19; 79.2%) or rural (n = 2, 8.3%; Hitchcock
et al., 2016; Powell et al., 2016) settings. In addition, the
majority of the studies took place in the general education
classroom (n = 22, 91.7%), followed by a special education
self-contained classroom (n = 1, 4.2%) or a separate room
(n = 1, 4.2%). The academic intervention, support, or prac-
tice was delivered in a schoolwide (n = 4, 16.7%), class-
wide (n = 15, 62.5%), small group (n = 3, 12.5%), or
individual (n = 2, 8.3%) format.
In Table 2, the academic practices, interventions, or sup-
ports used in each individual study are presented alongside
overall findings from each paper reviewed. The subject of the
academic practice or intervention included mathematics (n =
6, 25.0%), science/Science, Technology, Engineering, and
Mathematics (STEM; n = 6, 25.0%), literacy (n = 3, 12.5%),
social studies (n = 2, 8.3%), or multiple subject areas (n = 7,
25.0%). Table 2 also indicates the categories associated with
each study reviewed, as determined during data analysis. Of
the categories identified, using effective pedagogy such as
empirically supported instructional practices (n = 15, 62.5%)
were utilized most often. These were practices deemed sup-
ported by evidence in the studies reviewed. Also, several stud-
ies offered collaborative learning opportunities (n = 11,
45.8%), integrated students’ experiences/social context in
instruction (n = 11, 45.8%), used inquiry-based instruction
(n = 9, 37.5%), and incorporated technology (n = 6, 25.0%)
into instruction. Many studies also investigated the impact of
PD on staff (n = 12, 50.0%) or the development of PLCs
(n = 3, 12.5%) on student outcomes. Still others studied the
impact of partnering with families and community members
(n = 7, 29.2%). Only five studies assessed and reported
implementers’ treatment fidelity data. One study included
Table 2. Review of Studies by Content Area and Summary of Categories and Findings.
Content and study Variables measured CategoriesaStudy summary
Boaler & Staples (2008) Content-aligned tests; open-ended project assessment;
standardized state assessment; relationships with math;
type of teacher questions; time allotment of lessons
EIP, IBI, CL • Investigated an “equitable teaching approach” for high school math
• Created heterogeneous student groups
• Teachers asked questions instead of lecturing
Gutstein et al. (1997) Student work; curricular materials; teacher and student
behavior and perspectives related to student knowledge,
culture, and critical thinking skills
EIP, SE • Investigated “culturally relevant mathematics instruction”
• Teachers built upon students’ experiential knowledge and taught critical
• Empowered students to “develop personal and social agency”
Huggins et al. (2011) Standardized state assessment; student work; meeting
minutes and agendas; teacher notes; lesson plans;
classroom observations; student and teacher self-report
CL, PD, PLC • Created a PLC for math and science teachers to promote project-based learning
• Provided district-level PD to implement PLCs to increase student achievement
Rubel & Chu (2012) Observed frequency and type of opportunities for math
learning; classroom observation inventory; cognitive
demand of math lessons
EIP, SE • Provided PD for “culturally relevant mathematics pedagogy”
• Centered instruction around students’ experiences
Shumate et al. (2012) Student scores on daily math quizzes; teacher acceptability
EIP, CL, SE • Teacher provided “culturally relevant instruction” during math using culturally
relevant examples and effective instructional strategies
Valenzuela et al. (2014) Accuracy on curriculum-based measurement EIP • Provided targeted, supplemental mathematics intervention (Touch Math)
• Preliminary case study data support improvement in math computation
Science and STEM
Bianchini (1997) Open-ended science unit tests; student behavior during
group work; students’ self-reported experiences of group
IBI, CL, SE, PD • Investigated small group work as a social activity, context for learning science, and
means for eliminating barriers to scientific inquiry
• Found students with higher “status” in the classroom participated more in groups
and learned more science content
Capraro et al. (2016) Standardized state assessment; teacher-reported
experiences with PLCs, PD, and project-based learning
IBI, CL, PLC, PD • Provided teachers with sustained PD which focused on establishing PLCs and STEM
project-based learning. Students scored higher on state tests.
Cuevas et al. (2005) Elicitation protocol with scientific problem-solving tasks IBI, SE, PD • Teachers designed inquiry-based activities for science and included students’ home
languages and cultures.
• Students’ ability to engage in science inquiry improved, especially for low-achieving
Duffin et al. (2016) Student-reported interest in and utility value for chemistry;
summative assessment of chemistry knowledge
IBI, CL, SE • Three-week, inquiry-based chemistry project
• Intervention increased students’ utility value for chemistry and intention to study it
in the future, as well as their performance on the chemistry assessment.
Enyedy & Goldberg (2004) Observed classroom roles, rules, and participation; test of
scientific content knowledge
FCP, EIP, IBI, TECH, PD • Analyzed inquiry-based science lessons and teacher–student discourse in two
• Found that one teacher, who taught with students as co-inquirers and used more
inclusive pronouns, had students with more knowledge at end of the unit
Rodriguez (2010)bStudent concept maps on scientific thinking and knowledge;
teacher-reported experiences with the intervention
IBI, SE, TECH, PLC, PD • Teachers participated in a PD to establish a responsive and ongoing community of
• Students showed increased content knowledge.
Content and study Variables measured CategoriesaStudy summary
Fránquiz & Salinas (2011) Student work (writing); observed student interactions;
standardized state assessment
SE, TECH • Used primary sources during social studies lessons for U.S. newcomers
• Teachers taught historical thinking via digitized primary sources and document-
• Provided the choice to write in either English or Spanish.
• Native language supports significantly contributed to students’ historical thinking
Sampson & Garrison-Wade (2011) Student feedback forms and focus group on perceptions of
FCP, EIP, IBI, SE, TECH • Compared “culturally relevant” and “non-culturally relevant” American history
• African American children preferred culturally relevant lessons.
Olson (2011) Reading fluency accuracy; reading fluency rate EIP, CL • Investigated a preferential instruction and peer tutoring intervention for second
• Lower performing readers gained fluency and accuracy.
Ross et al. (2004) Standardized state assessment and other inventories; focus
groups and observations of teacher–student relationships
and intervention experience
FCP, EIP • Evaluated impact of Success for All and Direct Instruction (DI)
• Inconclusive effects were found on student achievement and school climate, likely
due to “uneven” implementation despite positive program perceptions
Woodrich & Fan (2017) Student attitudes toward writing; quality and number of
student writing contributions during group work
CL, TECH • Investigated use of anonymous collaborative writing in Google Docs among eighth
• Students with different language fluencies participated more equitably when they
were able to remain anonymous during writing tasks; face-to-face writing tasks had
the highest scores; students liked Google Docs for writing activities.
Braun et al. (2016) Attendance; GPA; Credits earned; Focus groups related to
student perceptions of the intervention
FCP, EIP, PD • Evaluation of the Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program.
• Positive perceptions of the program included teachers as warm demanders, positive
school community climate, as well as efforts to promote student self-efficacy and
• Quantitative analyses revealed an association with the program and high school
Hitchcock et al. (2016) Curriculum-based measurement, Woodcock Johnson III
Writing; survey and focus groups about writing process
EIP, TECH • Developed 12-week expository writing intervention for science using technology.
• Students’ writing skills improved.
Lee et al. (2005) Writing samples; unit tests; standardized national and
international assessment items
EIP, IBI, CL, SE, PD • Instructional intervention targeting literacy and science emphasizing students’
culture. Science and literacy performance improved, especially for fourth graders.
Moon & Callahan (2001) Iowa Tests of Basic Skills FCP, EIP, CL, SE, PD • Investigated mentoring, parental involvement, and multicultural curricula
• No effect was found on student achievement, yet more students were selected for
the gifted program and demonstrated improved problem-solving and social skills.
Powell et al. (2016) Classroom observations using the Culturally Responsive
Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP); teacher
interviews; computerized assessment of reading and math
aligned with state standards
FCP, EIP, IBI, PD • Examined the CRIOP and related professional development
• Teachers demonstrated increased culturally responsive instruction, and better
student achievement resulted.
Ross et al. (2007) School climate observations; surveys, interviews, and
focus groups with stakeholders; standardized student
assessment in literacy and math
FCP, EIP, PD • Investigated a schoolwide comprehensive school reform intervention.
• In the first year of implementation in one middle school, positive effects were
found on student academic achievement and school climate.
Young (2010) Classroom observations, interviews, inquiry group meetings,
follow-up meetings, reflections, documents, online
discussions, researcher’s field notes.
PD • Implemented and evaluated culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) in one urban school
over a 3-month period.
• Findings included pervasive confusion about CRP, cultural and racial bias at both
individual and systemic levels, and lack of implementation support.
Note. STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; GPA = grade point average.
aCategories included EIP = empirically supported instructional practices; IBI = inquiry-based instruction; CL = collaborative learning; SE = students’ experiences/context; PD = professional development; PLC = professional
learning communities; FCP = partnering with families and community members; TECH = technology. bRodriguez (2010) included a community of practice which was categorized as a PLC. cBraun et al. (2016) measured
accelerations across all subject areas; Hitchcock et al. (2016) assessed writing and science; Lee et al. (2005) assessed literacy and science; Moon and Callahan (2001) assessed language arts and math; Powell et al. (2016) assessed
math and reading; Ross et al. (2007) assessed language arts, reading, writing, and math; Young (2010) assessed language arts and math.
Table 2. (continued)
Fallon et al. 11
implementer self-report data (Capraro et al., 2016). The other
four studies included direct observation of implementers’
treatment fidelity (Hitchcock et al., 2016; Lee et al., 2005;
Shumate et al., 2012; Valenzuela et al., 2014).
Review of Study Quality
Group and single-case design studies. None of the 17 group
design studies met the WWC eligibility criteria (WWC,
2017a); therefore, no group design studies were reviewed
using the WWC design quality standards or levels of evi-
dence (WWC, 2017b). The majority of group design studies
were disqualified at screening due to ineligible study design
(n = 14, 82.4%). In addition, one did not use an eligible
outcome variable (i.e., Sampson & Garrison-Wade, 2011),
one was published over 20 years from the review date (i.e.,
Bianchini, 1997), and one did not sufficiently link outcome
measures to the intervention (i.e., Ross et al., 2007).
Single-case design studies that met eligibility criteria
(WWC, 2017a) were evaluated for design quality and evi-
dence using WWC Standards Handbook (WWC, 2017b). Of
the two single-case design studies, one study (Valenzuela,
2014) did not meet design standards as it did not include at
least three attempts to demonstrate an intervention effect
across cases within the study. The other study (Shumate
et al., 2012) met the WWC eligibility criteria, and all cases
(n = 5, 100%) within the study met design standards, dem-
onstrating strong evidence overall.
Qualitative study review. Each qualitative study that met
inclusionary criteria (n = 5) was coded according to the 10
quality standards outlined by Brantlinger et al. (2005),
defined briefly in Table S1 in Supplemental Material. Spe-
cifically, the use of triangulation, thick description, particu-
larizability, and collective work were strengths of all
qualitative studies reviewed (N = 5, 100%). Most studies
(n = 4, 80%) also included external auditors or peer debrief-
ing, an audit trail, and prolonged field engagement. Fewer
studies utilized disconfirming evidence, researcher reflex-
ivity, and member checks.
This article presents a synthesis of studies published over a
20-year period in which researchers investigated a cultur-
ally responsive classroom intervention or practice to pro-
mote academic outcomes for racially and ethnically
minoritized youth. Search and screening procedures resulted
in 24 studies reviewed, the majority of which utilized quan-
titative methodology albeit with substandard methodologi-
cal rigor. This indicates that although there is emerging
evidence related to culturally responsive practices to pro-
mote academic outcomes, additional high-quality studies
are needed to continue to build a robust literature base that
addresses the unequal distributions of access and opportu-
nity historically experienced by racially and ethnically
minoritized youth in schools.
As described in the section “Results,” across studies,
implementers were primarily general education teachers
with various years of professional experience. Students in
the studies reviewed ranged from elementary to high school
age, with many studies including students determined to be
ELs. Also, most studies reported that student participants
were Latinx/Hispanic or Black. The percentage of student
participants with disabilities was less often reported.
Types of Accommodations, Supports, and
Studies reviewed targeted outcomes in several instructional
areas: math, science/STEM, social studies and history, lit-
eracy, as well as across two or more instructional areas.
Researchers often measured student achievement or content
knowledge in specific topic areas. Although the academic
supports provided across studies varied, three main catego-
Partnering with families and community members. Many stud-
ies described ways in which family and community mem-
bers partnered in providing academic supports to youth.
These partnerships appear to lay the foundation upon which
effective classroom supports can be provided. In some
instances, family and community involvement included
information gathering or sharing. Sampson and Garrison-
Wade (2011) offered families the opportunity to come to
school and learn about culturally relevant history lessons
prior to their implementation. Ross et al. (2004) described
parents’ high satisfaction with Direct Instruction imple-
mented to improve achievement scores, indicating parents
were poised to advocate to the school district to continue to
fund training teachers to use the approach.
In other studies, families were encouraged to be more
active participants in the delivery of academic supports to
students (e.g., parent-implemented literacy instruction at
home in addition to school; Ross et al., 2004). In one study,
Moon and Callahan (2001) involved community members
in mentoring students in the classroom (i.e., acting as tutors,
advisors, “encouragers”) and were invited to formal family
outreach efforts. Community members were also included
in monthly meetings with families and annual day-long
family empowerment seminars. Braun and colleagues
(2016) described the use of community partnerships to cre-
ate connection and foster students’ feelings of safety in and
outside of school. The authors indicated the value of com-
munity members celebrating students’ achievements toward
long-term goals, and how adults in the community should
take collective responsibility for student success.
12 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
Although there was no universal approach to partnering
with families and communities that emerged from results of
the review, many of the efforts made by researchers illus-
trate the importance of collaboration central to Ladson-
Billings’ (1995) conceptualization of culturally relevant
pedagogy. Furthermore, J. A. Banks (2008) indicated con-
nections built among home, school, and community
strengthen the school culture and social structure, and
encourage individuals to set high, attainable expectations
for youth that ultimately lead to student success. Based on
findings from this review, families might be actively
engaged by participating in collaborative school trainings,
communicating with educators, and providing data to
inform educators’ effort.
Using effective pedagogy. Studies described pedological
approaches such as empirically supported instructional
practices, inquiry-based instruction, and providing collab-
orative learning opportunities.
Use of empirically supported instructional practices. Many
studies described the value of effective practices to promote
learning. These included engaging students in instructional
goal-setting (Braun et al., 2016), peer tutoring (Olson, 2011),
strategy instruction (Hitchcock et al., 2016), multisensory
methods (Valenzuela et al., 2014), discourse about academic
content (Lee et al., 2005), and using academic language in
communicating ideas (Powell et al., 2016). It is unclear if
these empirically supported practices were indeed effective
in the current studies reviewed, especially when treatment
fidelity was largely unknown. For example, in a comparison
study of Direct Instruction and Success for All, the authors
reported implementation was uneven and, as a result, rel-
atively ineffective (Ross et al., 2004). Researchers who
described more favorable outcomes often integrated sup-
portive instructional practices with inquiry-based instruction
or opportunities for collaborative learning in the classroom.
Inquiry-based instruction. Some studies evaluated efforts
to structure the learning environment such that students
learned by answering questions or solving problems. This
approach aligns with J. A. Banks’ (1973) concept of knowl-
edge construction. Braun and colleagues (2016) described
inquiry-based learning as a “productive struggle” (p. 391)
that promotes the brain’s ability to process complex infor-
mation. This was evident across subject areas, but most
commonly for studies in science or STEM classrooms. In
many of the studies, students learned academic content by
working to solve problems reflective of the real-world, their
lived experience, and/or their cultural background (e.g.,
Cuevas et al., 2005; Duffin et al., 2016; Enyedy & Gold-
berg, 2004). Boaler and Staples (2008) found that students
achieved more when exposed to an open, applied math-
ematics curriculum in which teachers posed sophisticated
conceptual problems to heterogeneous groups and guided
problem-solving through questions (vs. when students
were taught via more traditional lecture and practice). In
addition, Enyedy and Goldberg (2004) reported that when
students were enlisted as co-inquirers with their teachers,
they demonstrated greater content knowledge at the end of
Collaborative learning opportunities. Some of the studies
that utilized inquiry-based instruction to offer students the
opportunity to work collaboratively (e.g., Bianchini, 1997;
Boaler & Staples, 2008; Duffin et al., 2016), which may
be valued in cultures with collectivist orientations (Stor-
lie & Toomey, 2016). In other studies, collaborative tasks
were for the purpose of creating a product or artifact of
learning (e.g., piece of writing; Woodrich & Fan, 2017).
Capraro et al. (2016) described creating collaborative
learning opportunities by utilizing a project-based learning
framework. Students worked to arrive at a “well-defined
outcome” from an “ill-defined task” (p. 184). The work
is meaningful to students and the products are authentic.
Examples of collaborative learning opportunities included
selecting which summer jobs will pay the most considering
the cost of resources needed (transportation, uniforms) and
applying to those jobs, as well as developing a remediation
plan to implement after an assessment of pollution sources
present in the community. Engagement with instruction
comes from applying academic content to students’ envi-
ronment, incorporating students’ experience, and making
Students’ experiences/social context in instruction. Several
researchers described the benefits of making material rel-
evant to students’ experience and social context. In a study
by Sampson and Garrison-Wade (2011), students identified
primarily as African American and Latino and were taught
non-culturally relevant and culturally relevant history les-
sons to determine which was preferable. Both types of les-
sons included a multi-instructional approach with similar
features: group work, movement, technology, and student-
led discussions. An example of a non-culturally relevant
lesson targeted learning about Ellis Island and included a
video presentation and a discussion of how immigration
then led to their diverse community population now. An
example of a culturally relevant lesson on the Declaration
of Independence included hip hop and poetry in the content
delivery which was then integrated into student technology-
based presentations afterward. Students preferred the les-
sons designed to be culturally relevant. In another example,
recently immigrated students were taught to engage in
historical thinking using primary sources and permitted to
compose answers to questions in their first language (i.e.,
Spanish) or English. Incorporating students’ primary lan-
guage in instruction was also used to engage students in
Fallon et al. 13
science instruction in the study by Cuevas and colleagues
(2005) and demonstrated valuing students’ primary lan-
guage in the classroom (Seals & Peyton, 2017).
Technology. Finally, researchers integrated technology
into the delivery of pedagogical content to facilitate aca-
demic engagement and promote knowledge construction.
For instance, one study found that students with emerging
English proficiency preferred to remain anonymous while
working on a collaborative writing task with peers using
a shared Google Doc (Woodrich & Fan, 2017). In another
study, students preferred lessons in which teachers inte-
grated cultural examples using technology (e.g., videos,
songs) to stimulate interest and discussion (Sampson &
Garrison-Wade, 2011). Findings from still another study
demonstrated that the use of technology (e.g., visuals, soft-
ware) to write multimodal lab reports improved students’
knowledge of science material (Hitchcock et al., 2016).
Although technology might be considered a tool rather than
a practice, use of technology can promote engagement and
participation in class (Hitchcock et al., 2016; Woodrich &
Fan, 2017), support the incorporation of students’ culture in
instruction (Ladson-Billings, 1995), and lead to meaningful
discussions about social and political consciousness (J. A.
Banks, 2006; Sampson & Garrison-Wade, 2011).
Overall, the classroom supports described in the articles
reviewed included many hallmarks of a multicultural
instructional framework: (a) cooperative, interactive, flexi-
ble learning environments; (b) relevant instructional con-
tent; and (c) opportunities for students and teachers to work
together to achieve a common goal (C. A. M. Banks &
Banks, 1995). In addition, use of home language in some of
the studies reviewed aligned with recommendations put
forth by Seals and Peyton (2017). Yet, only some studies
reviewed provided an explicit description of any support in
the classroom to acknowledge the dominant discourse in
society and to teach students “power literacy” (Delpit,
2006). Also, no study overtly utilized culturally sustaining
pedagogy, prioritizing linguistic and cultural pluralism in
the classroom (Paris & Alim, 2017). This indicates an area
in which teachers might benefit from training, as well as a
topic for additional research.
Access to information and support. Articles discussed the use
of PLCs and PD to change educators’ practice.
PLCs. Three studies reviewed described the utility of
PLCs to support teachers’ implementation of culturally
responsive academic practices. Huggins and colleagues
(2011) described how PLCs with science and math teach-
ers were used to transform instruction in an urban school.
The aim of these communities was to engage in meaning-
ful collaboration with one another to make strides toward
incorporating culturally responsive practice (e.g., building
relationships, using effective teaching strategies). During
PLC time, teachers determined which students were learn-
ing and which were not, and they collaboratively planned
how to provide additional supports to those who needed it.
Authors purported this was the first study to link PLC plan-
ning to change in teacher practices that promoted increased
student achievement. Similar results were found for both
Braun et al. (2016) and Capraro et al. (2016). Specifically,
PLC time encouraged the use of collaboration and effec-
tive instruction incorporating culturally responsive practice
in the classroom, often supported by sustained PD at the
school or district level (Capraro et al., 2016).
PD. Many studies described sustained PD (e.g., 1–3
years; Rodriguez, 2010) to support educators to learn and
implement culturally responsive practices in the classroom.
This included the opportunity to engage in targeted train-
ings and workshops (e.g., Lee et al., 2005), critical discourse
on instructional planning (e.g., Powell et al., 2016), and/
or written self-reflection about classroom practice (Young,
2010). Trainers offered support to teachers to develop and
maintain classroom relationships, collaborate with fami-
lies, plan meaningful and relevant instruction, and explore
and integrate diverse perspectives into curricula—practices
paramount toward being responsive to student culture in the
classroom (Powell et al., 2016). Results of studies reviewed
provided additional evidence that ongoing, high-quality PD
is vital to support teachers to engage in equity pedagogy
(C. A. M. Banks & Banks, 1995) and transform educational
systems to be culturally responsive (Klingner et al., 2005).
When evaluating results, it is important to consider the rigor
of study methods to determine whether results of qualitative
studies are trustworthy and data from quantitative studies
are reliable and valid (Maher et al., 2018). In the current
review, qualitative research reviewed incorporated many of
the features of study quality outlined by Brantlinger et al.
(2005), supporting the credibility of findings. However,
quantitative research reviewed largely did not meet criteria
for study quality outlined by the WWC. Indeed, only one
single-case design study reviewed met quality standards
and demonstrated strong evidence (Shumate et al., 2012),
and most group design studies did not employ an eligible
study design (often due to the lack of a control group or a
small sample; e.g., Cuevas et al., 2005). This indicates there
is a dearth of rigorous, replicable research evaluating aca-
demic practices to support minoritized youth in the litera-
ture base. As described below, future research must
prioritize designing studies with sufficient methodological
rigor to fully evaluate the potential of these practices to pro-
mote academic outcomes for racially and ethnically minori-
14 Remedial and Special Education 00(0)
Results should be interpreted with consideration of a few
limitations. First, this systematic review included specific
inclusion criteria. Studies were required to be qualitative or
quantitative (group design, single-case design) in nature,
and to include an intervention or support to impact an aca-
demic dependent variable. This eliminated theoretical
papers or research articles that targeted teacher training or
classroom practice only without measuring its impact on
student outcomes. Also, authors had to describe the study as
one that aimed to support students from diverse back-
grounds in order for the study to emerge in the search.
Studies that did not do this explicitly may not be included in
the review, highlighting the importance of clear study
descriptions (particularly in paper abstracts) to locate rele-
vant articles. This is critically important for educators in the
field who might look to the literature base for guidance and
may not be able to locate pertinent articles easily.
Relatedly, the review included studies for which 50% or
more of the sample were racially and ethnically minoritized
youth. This cutoff was intentional as much of the interven-
tion research available in the literature includes samples
with a large proportion of White students (e.g., Same et al.,
2018), and this review contained research questions tar-
geted studies for which a majority of students identified as
racially and ethnically minoritized. Without this cutoff,
additional studies may have been identified, yet this would
not have answered the research questions specifically.
Also, the purpose of the review was to determine the
breadth and quality of research published over a 20-year
period. However, this meant that some studies reviewed in
the current synthesis were published before quality stan-
dards were available from WWC and Brantlinger et al.
(2005). Hence, although there are a fair number of empiri-
cal studies of academic supports to benefit minoritized
youth published since 1997, research remains largely pre-
liminary and nonexperimental. Relatedly, review of quality
for quantitative studies focused explicitly on methodologi-
cal rigor and did not evaluate which features of the design
or method in studies reviewed led to reduced study quality.
In addition, studies published prior to 1997 were not
reviewed, which may have missed work from the early
1970s upon the publication of J. A. Banks’ (1973) seminal
text or the passing of the first iteration of IDEA (2004), the
Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law
94-142), in 1975.
Furthermore, the coding manual used was not validated
systematically (e.g., from scholars and practitioners exter-
nal to the research team) before screening and reviewing
existing studies. This may have unintentionally introduced
bias into the review process. Also, three members of the
research team were involved in the independent review
and categorization of studies to reach consensus, yet it is
possible that other researchers may have determined dif-
ferent categories upon review of study findings. Finally, as
the independent and dependent variables were different
across studies, it was not possible to calculate effect size
estimates to compare results quantitatively. Therefore, it is
not possible to draw conclusions about intervention effec-
tiveness across studies.
Implications for future research. The purpose of this review
was to synthesize recent research pertaining to culturally
responsive academic supports, yet future reviews may vary
the procedure to include additional studies. For instance, a
replication might target a lower threshold (or no restriction
at all) with regard to the percentage of the sample identified
as racially and ethnically minoritized youth. In addition,
researchers might not impose a restricted range for year of
publication to include studies published before 1997 or
since 2018. It may also be beneficial to have input from
external researchers when devising and validating a manual
to use to code studies and categorize findings to reduce the
threat of bias. Furthermore, future reviews might target
studies with a common dependent variable (e.g., reading
scores) to allow for a more comprehensive quantitative
Based on results of the current review, there were gaps in
details reported in studies reviewed relative to participants
and the supports provided. For instance, in the studies
reviewed, it was not always clear how many years of expe-
rience implementers had. Including years of experience in
these studies would allow researchers to explore if individ-
uals with more experience were providing academic sup-
ports for minoritized students systematically. It could be
that teachers with more experience were able to provide
these supports with greater fluency or more success, but
without these data, meaningful comparisons are not possi-
ble. Also, many studies did not report information related to
student disability status. As the purpose of the review was
to synthesize findings to support cultivating rigorous, cul-
turally responsive learning environments to address dispro-
portionate representation of racially minoritized youth in
special education, these data were not critical, but having
this information would support a more comprehensive
This lack of standard reporting practices regarding imple-
menter, setting, student, and intervention characteristics may
impede continued research on culturally responsive practice.
Adequate reporting should include replicable descriptions of
study and intervention procedures, as well as sufficient con-
textual information to aid interpretability. In addition to
improved reporting practices, this review reflects inconsis-
tencies in the language used to study culturally responsive
Fallon et al. 15
academic practices across the field, which has important
implications for continued research. Although all studies
reviewed focused on minoritized students, not all studies
explicitly labeled practices as “culturally responsive,” and
those that did, they often used variable wording. Clear, con-
sistent language may help researchers better understand the
impact of existing culturally responsive practice and pave
the way for future researchers to better align their work.
Implications for practice. Many of the studies reviewed
included supports or interventions explicitly described as
culturally responsive (Powell et al., 2016; Shumate et al.,
2012), but it is important to note that stakeholder feedback
is necessary to deem a practice relevant or responsive to an
individual’s culture (e.g., Sobel et al., 2011). Cultural
responsivity is a transactional process. In fact, cultural
responsiveness can offer teachers the opportunity to co-
construct knowledge with students (e.g., engage in cogene-
rative dialogue), which can encourage student participation
in instruction, and allow teachers to learn more about stu-
dents’ culture and their needs (Lawrence, 2020).
In addition, findings from this review highlight the impor-
tance of (a) family and community partnerships, (b) effective
pedagogy in the classroom that integrates student culture
explicitly and uses a constructivist approach to teaching, and
(c) access to high-quality PD and learning communities.
Within these areas of practice, there are several implications
for teachers, in addition to school and district leaders.
First, teachers might consider the extent to which the
classroom environment, expectations, lesson content, and
curriculum design reflect these features and take steps
toward change. One way to start this is by learning about
students’ interests, values, traditions, and beliefs. Fostering
connection with students (and families) will likely increase
students’ sense of belonging and feelings of safety (Braun
et al., 2016). This might promote engagement in the learn-
ing environment, and ultimately student academic success.
Second, school and district leaders might consider imple-
menting school and district-wide structures to support teach-
ers’ access to high quality PD and learning communities, as
well as community partnerships. Professional development
aimed at teaching practices such as integrating student cul-
ture and home-language, collaborative learning activities,
and use of technology, may offer the training and support
teachers need for effective use of these strategies. Moreover,
the development of PLCs, across schools or districts, offers
teachers the opportunity to build knowledge and skills
among their peers. Finally, while teachers may individually
partner with community organizations or resources, forging
these partnerships at the school or district level, as in many
of the studies reviewed, may enable more sustainable and
comprehensive community–school engagement.
Together, school leaders and educators can build cultur-
ally responsive academic practices into daily classroom
routines. Individual changes in teaching practice, as well as
advocacy for systemic change, will support all students, spe-
cifically minoritized youth who face marginalization and sys-
temic barriers to academic achievement in schools.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not repre-
sent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The
U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences
supported this research through Grant R324B170010 to the
University of Massachusetts Boston.
Lindsay M. Fallon https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0813-3337
Supplemental material is available online with this article.
1. It should be noted that the focus on racially and ethnically
minoritized youth is not meant to homogenize a heteroge-
neous population, but rather to be succinct in the descrip-
tion of the research purpose and method. The researchers
anticipated that the samples from studies reviewed would
include students from many distinct racial and ethnic
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