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CuRTSEA: Empowering Student Achievement through Culturally Responsive Teaching

Providing 9th grade teachers tools to create an asset-based learning environment


To develop and evaluate the usability of Culturally Responsive Teaching for Student Equitable Achievement (CuRTSEA), a culturally responsive teaching professional development program.


With funding from IES, RTI developed, implemented, and tested a 9th grade program involving 96 teachers and 1,800 students.


The first year of the testing suggested an improvement in teachers’ culturally responsive teaching knowledge and self-efficacy following the program participation.

The importance of culturally responsive teaching in 9th grade

Teachers are the single most influential factor impacting a student’s achievement in high school. This is especially true in 9th grade, a year that is critical for students to start their high school careers strong and stay on track for graduation. For this reason, developing high quality teaching is essential to ensure students’ success.

Funded by the Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, RTI is developing and testing a 9-month culturally responsive teaching professional development program called Culturally Responsive Teaching for Student Equitable Achievement (CuRTSEA). CuRTSEA focuses on improving teachers’ culturally responsive teaching to improve the academic achievement of Hispanic/Latinx students. The focus on Hispanic/Latinx students is rooted in statistics showing that this population is the largest minority group in the United States and continues to grow. However, this group also has lower graduation rates and higher dropout rates than other students.

Developing Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices

During the first two years of the study, RTI studied teachers’ practices through surveys, observations, focus groups, and interviews. 

Teachers participating in the program attended two professional development workshops. They then practiced strategies in their classrooms and met weekly in teams to share progress and plan improvements.

The first workshop focused on critical reflection, where teachers were asked to reflect on and make adjustments to their classroom practices with a goal to decrease their implicit bias and improve student-teacher relationships.

The second workshop focused on assets-based teaching, an approach where teachers met with both teams and a coach to design and teach lessons based on assets that students bring from their own cultural backgrounds, experiences, and ways of learning. 

Finding Evidence of Culturally Responsive Teaching Success

Though CuRTSEA is still in its pilot year, the data collected shows initial evidence of the program promise. Surveys and interviews suggest the program improved teachers’ culturally responsive teaching knowledge and self-efficacy. Many said they feel better prepared to be more culturally responsive to Hispanic/Latinx students in their classroom teaching.

  • “This prompted me to …better create an asset-based teaching environment by broadening my own approach to include greater diversity of text opportunities that represent students and a diverse set of cultural and demographic backgrounds.” —9th grade teacher
  • “The pacing…was perfect. I was interested and engaged the entire time. We were able to focus our attention on a specific aspect of culturally responsive teaching that allowed us to take in information, discuss it with colleagues, and then hear various take-aways from the group that promoted deep thinking…and how our curriculum and pedagogy impacts our students.” —9th grade teacher
  • “I am really enjoying the collaboration with my colleagues. I hope more teachers [at my school] go through training.” —9th grade teacher

We are now entering into the third year of the study and will examine CuRTSEA for its efficacy, implementation, and cost to obtain evidence for future scaleup.

By investing in teachers, CuRTSEA is investing in future generations of students. We are excited to continue to learn about the program’s promise during the remainder of the study.