Leader Diversity

Leader Diversity

All students, but especially those from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds, benefit from having diverse school teachers and leaders. Minority teachers tend to have higher expectations for minority students, and students benefit from having role models that reflect their racial and ethnic backgrounds. In fact, a just-released study by Johns Hopkins University found that having just one black teacher in elementary school decreases black boys’ likelihood of dropping out of high school by almost 40 percent.

Principal Diversity

Despite the growing ethnic and racial diversity of students in American public schools, 80 percent of principals are white, according to U.S. Department of Education data.  Another study from University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University found that there may be systemic, gendered, and racial biases in principal pathways that lead to an overrepresentation of white male principals. While states need to address the diversity of the teaching workforce too, which is also more homogenous than the students it serves, there are steps they can take to encourage teachers of diverse backgrounds to pursue leadership opportunities.

New America’s Finding: No states reported meaningful efforts to increase principal diversity in our survey.

Center Director Diversity

While the child care workforce is more racially and ethnically diverse than the K–12 teaching workforce, “people of color are disproportionately concentrated in lower-status and lower-paying jobs in certain settings and have limited representation in administrator and director roles as well as teacher educator and other leadership and decision-making roles in the field,” according to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. One of the primary concerns with increasing the education and training requirements for center directors is that it will further reduce the existing diversity in the workforce. Requiring expensive bachelor’s degrees without opportunities for scholarships or substantially higher compensation could discourage early childhood educators making low wages from pursuing leadership roles.

Some states have policies in place to make higher education and training more accessible for the early childhood workforce. Many states offer T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood scholarships that help teachers and leaders earn college credits, degrees, and credentials. The scholarships often cover most of the cost of tuition and fees, and recipients often benefit from a wage increase. Center directors are eligible for T.E.A.C.H. scholarships. One state, Louisiana, is taking a different approach. Center directors are encouraged to participate in the administrator’s ladder of the Louisiana Pathways Child Care Career Development System to increase their education in early childhood and administration. Participating directors who work in publicly-funded centers can receive fully refundable School Readiness Tax Credits ranging from $1,600 through $3,300 annually. Higher levels on the career ladder lead to larger tax credits. However, starting in 2018, these tax credits will instead be tied to the quality of adult-child interactions and instructions in classrooms. While these efforts are not targeted towards increasing diversity among center directors, they may encourage people to pursue leadership positions who might not have done so otherwise.

New America’s Finding: No states reported initiatives with the primary purpose of increasing diversity among center directors.

Leadership Diversity Takeaways

Lack of diversity is a problem among principals and center directors. Students benefit when they can relate to their teachers and leaders. States can take steps to encourage culturally and racially diverse teachers to pursue leadership roles and provide supports, such as mentoring, in order to retain diverse leaders. This is an area where states would be wise to focus more attention.