From the perspective of multicultural education, the key cultures are considered to be ethnicity or national origin, social class, primary language, gender / sex, religion, age, geographic region, urban-suburb an-rural, and exceptionality (Gollnick & Chinn, 1990). Three of these cultural variables-ethnicity, social class, and primary language-are consistently related to schools' difficulties in serving students well and bringing them to high levels of literacy. In the United States, the students least well served by schools often are African American, Asian American, Latina/o, and Native American in ethnicity; come from poor and working-class families; and speak home languages other than standard American English. These students are referred to here as students of diverse backgrounds. Students of these ethnicities constitute a growing percentage of the U.S. school-age population, accounting for about 35% of the total enrollment in prekindergarten through Grade 12 (Nettles & Perna, 1997). Many of these children grow up in poverty. For example, in 1992, 44% of African American preschoolers lived in households with incomes under $10,000, a figure $5,000 below the poverty line for a family of four. At the same time, 2.3 million students in the United States spoke a first language other than standard American English and were considered to have "limited English proficiency" (u. S. Department of Education, 1992).