Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Peo, J. (2015). Exploring cultural proficiency: A case study of a culturally and linguistically diverse middle school in a predominantly White school district. MA thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Lincoln, Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education, Under the Supervision of Professor Theresa Catalano. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Jared Peo


Issues of diversity continue to plague our nation. Recent events and Supreme Court cases have revealed a side of the United States that many wanted to believe was only part of our nation’s past. Diversity is a reality and predictions about future population demographics estimate an increase in diversity. As diversity increases, conflict becomes more frequent because “difference threatens dominance” (Howard, 2006, p. 57). The academic achievement and socioeconomic gaps between minorities and the dominant culture have been extensively researched and debated. However, they have not diminished despite legislation aimed at reducing them. This begs the question: how will the United States respond to the issues that are likely to follow? Achieving cultural proficiency in school districts has been identified as one way in which students could achieve higher academic success and could be prepared to be outstanding citizens. This was the term chosen by the district being studied. Through interviews and participant observations, this study explored the cultural proficiency of teachers, staff, and students of a culturally and linguistically diverse middle school within a predominantly White school district that had taken on the task of improving cultural proficiency. Findings revealed the complexity of such a pursuit, including the ways the school had found success and the difficult issues and obstacles that arose. Cultural proficiency is about outcomes that have been achieved, not those that are intended. As such, the school and the district may have chosen the path toward cultural proficiency without sufficient planning and resources.

Adviser: Theresa Catalano