Ladder of Assumptions

Check out this video of Brenda and Franklin CambellJones discussing the ladder of assumptions and how it impacts our work as educators.

Ladder of Assumptions


Where do you stand?

Cultural Destructiveness-Educating in a manner that you seek to eliminate the cultures of others in all aspects of the school and in relationship with the community you serve.

Cultural Incapacity-Educating in a way that you trivialize other cultures and seek to make the culture of others appear to be wrong.

Cultural Blindness-Educating where you don’t see or acknowledge the culture of others and you choose to ignore the discrepant experiences of cultures within the school.

Cultural Precompetence-Educating with an increasing awareness of what you and the school don’t know about working in diverse settings. At this level of development you and the school can move in a positive, constructive direction or you can falter, stop, and possibly regress.

Cultural Competence-Educating with your personal values and behaviors and the school’s policies and practices being aligned in a manner that is inclusive with cultures that are new or different from you and the school.

Cultural Proficiency-Educating as an advocate for life-long learning for the purpose of being increasingly effective in serving the educational needs of cultural groups in your school and community. Holding the vision that you and the school are instruments for creating a socially just democracy.

The Cultural Proficiency Continuum (Lindsey, Nouri Robins, & Terrell, 2009)

“Building” Capacity

It’s exciting to see how quickly each school in our district has taken the training on cultural proficiency and turned it into activities to engage staff, students, and parents. This is something that has truly resonated with members of the school community and fits squarely with the equity work that we have been focused on over the last 6 years. The recent training will help us in moving our schools and district to the next level in this area.

At Elmont Memorial, workshops have been conducted with cabinet members and faculty members to build common vocabulary around cultural proficiency and to help staff to begin to understand the concept of inherent bias and how that inadvertently impacts the work we all do. Curricula and lesson plans are being reviewed to make them more culturally responsive.

At Floral Park Memorial, Similar work has occurred at cabinet and faculty meetings. The building-level cultural proficiency leadership team planned and delivered professional development during teacher productivity time to continue to build vocabulary and open the dialog on inherent bias and its implications for work in schools.

At H. Frank Carey, the building-level cultural proficiency team facilitated a professional development workshop during a recent faculty meeting to introduce the concepts and theory behind cultural proficiency. The team is already planning activities for next school year including a Random Acts of Kindness campaign and monthly themed activities to build awareness and skills in various areas of respect and cultural proficiency for students and staff.

We couldn’t be more proud of the way our schools are ready to tackle this important and challenging work. We often spend our time working develop the art and science of teaching-lesson planning, instructional practice, differentiation, assessment, etc. This work gets to the heart of teaching and will drive all the other work we do in a way that respects and best meets the needs of all students.

In Pursuit of Excellence and Equity

On February 3rd and 4th, a committed group of 63 parents, community leaders, administrators, and Board of Education members from the component districts of the Sewanhaka Central High School District met at H. Frank Carey High School to embark on a journey toward building the cultural proficiency of our school district and communities. This group spent two full days engaging in thought provoking conversations about the cultural proficiency continuum, the ladder of assumptions, and the implicit bias that all people inherently have. Through discussion and connection protocols the group found over the course of the two days that when we take the time to really get to know one another we understand one another’s perspective and cultures better and realized that our differences are not as great as our commonalities.  A very big thank you to the District Cultural Proficiency Team for committing their time and energies to this important work. The District looks forward to many positive outcomes and changes as a result of the conversations and ideas that were generated during the training.