Date of Completion


Embargo Period



urban schools, professional development, race/ethnicity, equity, cultural competence

Major Advisor

Dr. Jennie Weiner

Associate Advisor

Dr. Sarah Woulfin

Associate Advisor

Dr. Richard Gonzales

Field of Study

Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)


Doctor of Education

Open Access

Open Access


This small qualitative study focuses on whether and to what degree professional development on cultural competency can impact teachers’ views and behaviors. This study was motivated by the persistent and pernicious achievement gap in education. Indeed, despite numerous federal and state reform policies (e.g., No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, etc.) including the implementation of school turnaround models, the gap persists as do discrepancies between behavioral sanctions given to students of color and their white peers. For example, schools situated predominately in urban areas, servicing students of color and of lower economic status have higher out of school suspension and expulsion rates than their suburban peers with real implications for urban students’ access to and success in school. Finally, despite a more diverse student body, teachers remain majority white and female. And yet, despite these daunting realities, cultural competence provides a potentially powerful tool in combating their impact. Specifically, one promising way to support teachers in becoming more culturally competent may be through professional development. This research takes up this possibility directly and examines a group of middle school teachers’ receptiveness to a professional development intervention with a specific focus on cultural competence. This case has relevance to educational leaders in urban districts as it focuses on the development and implementation of effective professional development that can shift teachers’ mindsets and perceptions of students of color.