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The latest federal numbers are out from IES on demographic trends in public school leadership and it’s a good news, not so good news story.  There is actually great news in terms of gender equality—with women going from 25% of principals in 1987-88 to 52% in 2011-12.

Their numbers have more than doubled and they now make up the majority of principals.  Meanwhile, wages have continued to grow even when adjusted for inflation (as a cynic, I might guess that wages would go down as more women took leadership roles—but on the surface this seems a victory of merit over misogyny).  While education may be a bit unique, this is a giant victory for gender equality, and someone needs to dig deeper into this success.

The not so good news from my perspective is in the slight uptick in People of Color in school leadership, while the country is increasingly varying shades of brown.  In ’87-’88, 87% of US public school principals were White, in ’11-’12 it was 80%.  Hispanics went from 3% to 7%, there were 9% Black principals in ’87-’88 and 10% in ’11-’12 which was actually a decrease of 1% from the previous year, and 2% of principals were “other” in ’87-’88 increasing to 3% in ’11-’12.  So minimal progress here.  So minimal I don’t know if it counts as progress.

Meanwhile, according to EdWeek in 2014 we passed the demographic milestone where non-Hispanic Whites are a minority in public schools.  And given current demographic trends, the ratios will continue to increasingly skew towards People of Color, particularly Latinos and Asian Americans.

This is a problem.  Several studies have confirmed what many of us knew–that there is a deep and persistent belief gap across races, and that many (often unconscious) beliefs by White educators undermine the achievement of Black and Brown children.  We have also seen increasing evidence, especially for Black children, that having educators of their race has academic benefits.

The makeup of school leadership is something that we can change and matters deeply. Huge progress has been achieved for women, we need to take some lessons from that case study and figure out how to increase the racial diversity of school leaders.  We are predictably mis-serving whole categories of children, we know that this matters now and will matter more in the future.

If we care about these children, we need to take concerted institutional action now.

That’s a big and historically persistent, “if.”

You can view the full report here, and I excerpted a couple of the key data tables below.

Dirk Tillotson writes education commentary on his blog GreatSchoolVoices.org. This post was republished with permission from the blog OneOaklandUnited.org.

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