In the past decade, the role of the principal has changed from that of a building manager to an instructional leader who sets the tone and vision of the school. Principals are now expected to recruit, hire, and support strong teachers as well as deeply engage with families and communities. Even while the role of the principal has evolved, one thing that has not changed is the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among administrators. This issue has received considerable attention in Tennessee, especially as we think about how to ensure that our schools recruit and retain more teachers of color.
Diversity in school leadership is closely linked to diversity in teaching. Researchers have found that principals of color are more likely to recruit as well as retain teachers of color. Schools with larger numbers of black teachers or a black principal are also more likely to identify black students for their gifted programs. This is especially important because even with identical test scores, white students are twice as likely as black students to be identified as gifted.
While Tennessee has taken some important steps to diversify the educator pipeline, the numbers are still alarmingly low. Eighty-two percent of principals in Tennessee are white and about eighteen percent are black. Due to concerns over data quality, there is no public data about the number of Latino and Latina principals statewide.
There are a few bright spots. Almost 30 percent of candidates in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s leader preparation program are racially and ethnically diverse, which is significantly higher than the state. Teach for America-Nashville recently launched the Nashville Assistant Principals Fellowship to help experienced educators gain their administrator credentials through Lipscomb University and one of the focus areas is to increase the diversity of the Assistant Principals pool within Metro Nashville Public Schools. [Read More about the findings at SCORE]