Equity Issues in the Education Profession
Black, Female Assistant Principals Face Higher Climb to Principalship
- By Dian Schaffhauser
has found that black and female assistant principals are
"systematically delayed" and denied promotion to principal,
compared to their white or male counterparts, despite having
equivalent qualifications and more experience on average. The
findings were published in AERA
a peer-reviewed, open access journal of the American
Educational Research Association.
the research, authors Lauren Bailes, an assistant professor of
education at the University
and Sarah Guthery, an assistant professor of education at Texas
reviewed the progress to promotion for 4,689 assistant principals in
Texas from 2001 to 2017, using data from the Texas
In that state, according to the report, principal "patterns"
show "slightly more progressive patterns of school leader
diversity" than the United State as a whole. About two-thirds of
principals are women and about six in 10 are white.
the study, the researchers identified assistant principals serving in
their first year and tracked their progress to promotion — if it
occurred. All had earned a master's degree and acquired a principal's
license, the minimal credentials needed to qualify for promotion to
principal in the state.
project found that Black assistant principals were 18 percent less
likely to be promoted than white candidates who were equally
qualified, even after holding education, experience, school level and
school location constant. When black candidates were promoted, their
average time to promotion was 5.27 years; the average wait time for white candidates was 4.67 years, leaving, the researchers noted, "a
0.6-year gap attributable to race."
the area of gender, the authors examined high school leader roles
specifically. They established that women were five to seven percent
less likely to be promoted into high school principalships than men,
even though women made up half of high school assistant principals —
and nearly two-thirds of assistant principals in all types of schools
— in Texas, As women spent more time on the job as assistant
principals, their likelihood of promotion decreased relative to their
male peers. Women candidates spent 5.62 years as an assistant
principal versus 4.94 years for men, leaving a 0.68-year gender gap.
when women worked as assistant principals in high schools for a
longer time and had more career experience than their male
counterparts, the study found, they were more likely to be promoted
to principal in elementary schools than to high schools, an outcome
with implications for their future opportunities in higher levels of
leadership. "Because a high school principalship is so often
viewed as requisite for district leadership, women who lead
elementary schools are less likely to be tapped for superintendencies
and other district leadership positions," said Bailes, in a
analysis found that women and Blacks had more years of experience
even before becoming assistant principals. Men who became high school
assistant principals had 1.25 years less experience on average than
women who entered high school principalships. In elementary and
middle schools, the difference was 1.62 years.
though more diversity in the teacher and principal workforce has been
shown to improve teacher retention and student outcomes, our findings
indicate that there are still systematic race- and gender-based
inequities within the profession," noted Guthery. "We find
that diversity exists in the pipeline, but the pipeline tends to
squeeze out women and Blacks much earlier than studies of school
leadership usually capture."
added that the underrepresentation of minority groups is likely to
have far-reaching effects. "Because principals and district
leaders are more likely to identify educators of their own race for
promotion, the underrepresentation of minority groups is likely to
ripple throughout schools and districts," she said. According to
the report, the presence of a Black principal increased the
probability of hiring a black teacher by five to seven percentage
points, reduced turnover of teachers and also fed into better
learning outcomes for black students.
researchers offered guidance to state and district policymakers,
suggesting that they develop metrics of success within their school
systems that rate equity in promotion for equivalently qualified
individuals who aspire to school leadership. At the district level,
they advised assigning assistant principals to apprenticeships with
principals who had a track record of training and promoting a diverse
group of assistant principals.
such as principals and district leaders, need to identify and
actively nurture diversity in all levels of leadership," Bailes
said. "It is crucial that districts monitor inequities in their
report is openly available on
the AERO Open website.
brief video on YouTube,
the researchers share a summary of their findings.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.