Effectiveness of CRT in Literacy Instruction – An Example of Bias in Research

Cheesman, E., & De Pry, R. (2010). A Critical review of culturally responsive literacy instruction. Journal of Praxis in Multicultural Education, 5(1). doi:10.9741/2161-2978.1034

Article in Brief

The article in question seeks to determine the effectiveness of the Culturally Responsive Teaching model in literacy instruction.  The authors attempt to do this with a wide ranging literature review while also explaining the recent history of education policy and the more common methods of instruction with literacy.


The begins by articulating the urgency with which we must consider intervention on literacy instruction in our schools.  We are educated on the serious risks associated with low levels of literacy development both on a whole society level but on the individual level as well.  Once the urgency is created in the author for the high need for exemplar literacy instruction we are introduced to the most recent history in regards to education policy.  Titled “School Reform Efforts” we learn about the steps that have been taken and a few of the models adopted to close the “achievement gap”.  Beginning with the hallmark reform effort most often known as “no Child Left Behind” we learn of the “valiant” attempts of the Bush administration to help the cause of minority and low socio-economic status students in schools.  The author then turns to two common models that have been adopted to try and close the gap within schools.  Tiered instruction and Culturally Responsive Teaching.  The two methodologies are explained (CRT in a more lengthy manner) and the author moves on to other challenges in closing the achievement gap.

A number of “Cause of Reading Failure” are named in the following section, from behavioral problems to reading disability, the author makes a real case for the challenges involved in promoting learning in literacy.  Next we are taken through the research backed components of effective reading instruction.  We learn of five “established” research based practices that are known to develop literacy in children.

Finally we are taken to our section on the actual effectiveness of CRT in literacy instruction.  After a few paragraphs the author moves towards the implications for future research and the article ends with a brief conclusion.

Contribution to the Field/Implication for Future Research

The authors results in their study limit this articles ability to contribute to the CRT movement however the article is certainly part of the educational research canon.  Literacy instruction is a hot issue in our country and particularly in Arizona where students are unable to move on to 4th grade if they have not passed a 3rd grade reading test.

The article draws itself in sharp contrast to my current efforts in education however it does elicit some powerful questions about the practicality of CRT as well as the difficulty to operationalize the method.

Theoretical Framework

The article poses itself as a literature review of the effect of Culturally Responsive  Teaching practices on literacy instruction.  The article certainly reviews A LOT of literature however not enough of it seems to pertain to the actual act of Culturally Responsive Teaching.  The actual framework seems to be much more based around a literature review of recent education policy and practices as well as what works in literacy instruction but the review of Culturally Responsive teaching literature is lacking.


Data Collection

The data collection is really just an aggregation of a large number of articles and research findings in education.  The authors have reviewed over fifty articles to establish their research topic and findings in this literature review.


The analyses of the effect of culturally responsive teaching seems to come through the lens of two separate research articles.  While the authors utilize over fifty articles and readings to explain the state of literacy and education as well as define what Culturally Responsive Teaching is, we find they analyze the results of very few articles.  In their analyses they find that while Culturally Responsive Teaching is intuitively appealing it does not seem to actually be so when analyzed with a research based approach.  The author then points to a study that actually hypothesizes that an approach that is not culturally similar will promote interracial awareness.  The authors then go on to attack the credibility of various Culturally Responsive research because of faulty terminology in some articles.  The authors go on to say that recommending these practices without further evidence of effectiveness will serve to undermine the great promise of literacy instruction from scientifically-based reading research.


The author concludes by pointing to Dr. Walter J Turnbull, a changemaker in education in Harlem, New York, as an outstanding example of a culturally responsive approach to education.  While lauding Dr. Turnbull on his success the authors question the ability of the approach to be replicated and repeated across different contexts.  In the implications for future research the authors articulate a number of questions about the viability of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the need for more evidence of effectiveness.  These questions include isolating factors within the Culturally Responsive approach, questioning what mindsets are required and pondering how to best analyze the true effects in order to answer research questions.

In short the authors prescribe a heavy dose of future research with strong operationalization and systemization of Culturally Responsive practices so as to catalogue and organize them according to effectiveness and their ability to replicated.

Readers thoughts

I wanted to make some quick comments about the article as it provided strong evidence for comment in relation to the course themes of impact, access and excellence.  From the beginning it seems clear that the authors are not interested in actually discussing the effects and possible benefits of the Culturally Responsive model.  In fact the authors state the correct model about four pages in without ever mentioning the potential of CRT.

I make this note because this article speaks about how structures of power and influence can actually misrepresent theories that empower those that are marginalized.  The authors cite very few articles in relation to CRT and ask for it to be systemized which it is exactly the point of CRT to NOT be systemized.  The CRT method is about reflection, adaptation and evolution not systems and operations that are replicated across communities.  I think that the authors suffer from some sort of industrial complex that does not allow for a dynamic method like CRT to enter the mainstream.  I think it is important to note that an article like this can sway the minds of a good many people because it academically published, however it suffers from some real biases in it’s analyses and presentation!

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