Los Angeles County’s public mental health system was able to transform service delivery in response to well-funded policy mandates. For providers, a structure emphasizing accountability and patient centeredness was associated with greater stress, despite smaller caseloads. For clients, service structure and volume created opportunities to build stronger provider-client relationships and address their needs and goals. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) (1) is transforming health care delivery throughout the United States, increasing access for previously unserved populations and encouraging health care systems to provide coordinated, patient-centered care for chronic conditions to improve outcomes and reduce costs (http://innovation.cms.gov). For California’s public mental health system, large-scale transformation began earlier, in 2004, when voters passed Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) (2).
In this article we describe five culturally responsive core strategies to promote positive teacher relationships with young children in preschool and minimize challenging behavior: learn about children and families, develop and teach expectations, take the child’s perspective, teach and model empathy, and use group times to discuss conflict. As African American boys experience a much higher rate of suspensions and expulsions from preschool settings than do other children (Gilliam 2005), these relationship-building techniques are particularly relevant for teachers as they reflect on their own practices and biases—especially toward African American boys—in early childhood classrooms
In their work to meet the needs of all learners, districts are striving to support their special education students in two key ways. First, they want to have strong structures in place to best support these students, from equitable diagnosis processes, to schedules that allow the students to be in core classes with heterogeneous groups, as well as receive their targeted accommodations. Second, they want to ensure that special education students are integrated members of the school community, though it can be challenging to guarantee that all students embrace the understanding that everyone has learning gifts and needs.
As student populations become increasingly diverse, schools and districts aspire to meet the needs of learners from numerous racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Black and Latinx students, and students experiencing poverty, often have achievement scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates well below other students. Schools must identify which social services are within their scope of work, and provide referrals for those services that aren’t; this role requires that schools establish cohesive relationships with other agencies serving their students. Finally, districts serving students from ethnic minorities and low-income communities often struggle to find evidence of impactful innovative programming in schools with similar demographics, in part because research in this area is deficient.
A significant challenge districts face is addressing opportunity gaps that leave underrepresented students behind, from access to Pre-K programs to summer learning opportunities. Many district leaders also identify opportunity gaps when looking at the demographics of students enrolled in rigorous, AP, or IB courses, as well as core courses like math and science. Technology serves as another difficult topic. Within some schools and districts there are gaps in access to technology tools and connectivity at home as well as at school. And while many schools strive to use technology to spur deeper learning, schools with large low-income populations sometimes struggle to use technology in creative ways in part because they struggle with traditional accountability measures. Schools are also beginning to identify more nuanced opportunity gaps, such as networking for college and jobs, and how groups of students opt in or out of school activities.