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Diversity in School Leadership

Improving teacher training programs will help recruit more minority teachers

Luis Mojica​

The United States’ demographics for public school students have changed drastically during the last two decades. White students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade in U.S. public schools decreased from 60% to 52% from 2001 to 2011 and is expected to decrease even further to 45% by 2023. On the other hand, the enrollment of minority students in U.S. public schools increased from 40% to 48% from 2001 to 2011 and is expected to increase to 55% by 2023.

Unfortunately, U.S. national demographics for school teachers and administrators does not reflect the current public school students’ portrait. Nevertheless, at some urban centers in the U.S., minority school administrators are no longer at the second level position: Miami - 18% white, 82% minorities; Los Angeles - 33% white, 67% minorities; Chicago - 36.2% white, 63.8% minorities; Milwaukee - 44% white, 56% minorities.

Even though the aforementioned cities have minority administrators in their educational system, these urban centers and many others, such as New York City, Cleveland, Boston, New Orleans and Philadelphia have an overwhelming amount of minority school students with a white majority of teachers and administrators as their role models.

For many decades we have been informed about the need to have minority leaders as effective role models who could serve as a cultural connection that can demonstrate the possibilities and opportunities available to their communities. However, we still have to make a conscious awareness to the educational stakeholders about the need to make this role modeling and cultural connection, integral aspects in the preparation to all leaders in education. As many research studies have already presented, minority leaders and teachers can provide unique contributions to students’ levels of comfort, motivation, and academic achievement, especially when minority students comprise a vast majority of the community in which they serve. This role modeling is essential to minority students because it helps them to develop self and cultural identity, create future aspirations and connect their academic career with family, community and the global environment. Nevertheless, this mentoring and modeling process needs to be done with role models who are connected to their culture, to the need of these students, and consequently aware of the importance of their task in these communities. In 1996, Jordan Irvine, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta was quoted in the New York Times by addressing this issue with a very eloquent statement: “ …. increasing the ethnic diversity of the teaching pool is not necessarily the solution. Middle-class black or Hispanic teachers can be as ill-prepared for inner-city classrooms as middle-class whites.” The selection of these role models have to be based not only on their ethnicity, but most importantly by their qualifications and capacity to perform their teaching and administrative duties with efficiency and dedication; an aspect that leads us to think that the question, is no longer how to recruit minority educational leaders but how we prepare high quality educators with the basic skills, knowledge and sensitivity for success.

During recent years, the attrition of minority teachers has also contributed to the white teachers increase in American schools. The major reason for minority teachers to leave the teaching profession is their dissatisfaction with administrative procedures and their lack of preparation from Teacher Preparation Programs in order to solve their problems in their new surroundings.

As we can notice from all the available research performed on the minority presence in American education, the reasons for the lack of non-white educators rely on many variables. Some of these reasons includes: the status of the current education pipeline (fewer minority graduates, fewer minority teachers and consequently fewer minority administrators); discrimination based on cultural and linguistic aspects; the lack of decisional power in middle management; the lack of effective preparation in teachers and administration’s preparation programs, and the resistance to change by the “old order”.

Many researchers have concluded that in order to improve the minority students’ condition, we have to improve our teachers and administrators’ training programs. According to the research results, these programs have to establish successful mentoring procedures and create in-service experiences in the schools and communities that will help our current and future educational leaders with their development of empathy and sensibility to the historical and current role of race in our society.

Some aspects that could help the progressive educator with the expected resistance and deserves inclusion in any successful training are the following:

  • public policy information including local public officials, legal and legislative procedures
  • information about the complete educational structure (accreditation of preparation programs, certification of professionals in education, effect of labor unions & community members in the educational process and current funding of programs)
  • in-service practice with effective and non-effective scenarios
  • basic finance & fundraising strategies
  • public relation & marketing
  • community, city, state, national and international connection & collaboration
  • mentoring of students/parents/school staff into pedagogical careers
  • affective strategies for empathy development in culture and community needs
  • effective evaluation & curriculum development that includes al the aspects listed above with the use of technology

There are many programs around the nation that provides training and support in the teaching and administration with an inclusive perspective. Obviously, these initiatives have and will continue to have resistance by the “older rule,” but the seed is being planted and if we all continue to apply these inclusive concepts as an additive approach to the existent curricula at the training and in-service levels, a significant change could take place in the near future. The current education situation of our minority population, which will be our majority of students and future leaders of our society in a few years, can not be ignored by education stakeholders. The negative results of neglecting this situation are increasing and approaching steadily as a well announced tsunami heads towards our educational system and consequently, the American society.


Luis Mojica (lm2172@tc.columbia.edu) is a co-investigator on “Playing History: The Impact of Integrating Music, History, Research & Reflection in Urban Minority Schools” at the Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers College, Columbia University.​

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