‘School Leaders of Color Collective’ Begins a Two-Year Journey

When you are a school leader of color, you may feel like a unicorn – the only one; a rare sighting. According to the National Teacher and Principal Survey in the 2017-18 school year, 78 percent of public-school principals were white, 11 percent were Black or African American, and 9 percent were Hispanic/Latinx.

That’s why TNTP and Turnaround for Children, with the generous support of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, launched the School Leaders of Color Collective. This fall, the partnership is beginning a two-year journey to build transformative Black and Hispanic/Latinx leadership communities, with the goal of supporting principals to thrive, sustain, and expand their impact, ensuring the social-emotional and academic success of the students and communities they serve. Two school districts in the Northeast region are leading the way in this effort: Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, and Rochester City School District in New York.

In the 2017-18 school year:

78% of public school principals were white

11% were Black or African American

9% were Hispanic/Latinx

We take an asset-based approach to coaching leaders of color, recognizing that members of the Collective have come to this program with a wide range of experience, from newer leaders with two years in the principal role to award-winning leaders with decades of experience, including a Principal of the Year. And unlike many programs for education administrators that are centered in whiteness, this will truly focus on the individual needs of Black and Hispanic/Latinx leaders, and making sure they get the resources they need to be successful and stay in the role.

The program has three core components that bring this mission to life.

In-depth Academic Diagnostics

Each district will undergo a series of diagnostics so leaders can begin with a clear picture of what is going on in their schools. We capture demographics and academics data, and expand our understanding of the district’s specific context through on-the-ground observation and assessment of student work. Even if a school is high-performing overall, we look closely for equity gaps that may exist for students of color, multilingual learners, students with individualized education plans (IEPs) and other historically marginalized groups. We don’t want to make assumptions about what’s going on; we want to go off what we know is going on, and the data will help us dig deeper.

Turnaround for Children will also conduct its Whole Child Design Inventory. Whole-child design focuses on forming developmental relationships, building supportive environments, developing students’ knowledge, skills and mindsets, and engaging in transformational change through shared leadership. Based on what we learn from the diagnostics, some school leaders will receive additional coaching and support from Turnaround for Children to strengthen their school’s alignment with whole-child design.

Personalized Leadership Coaching

Research shows that, after classroom teachers, principals are the next most important school-based factor in students’ academic achievement. The strong coaching relationships we hope to develop in the Collective will bolster the principals’ leadership by ensuring they feel supported and heard. We wanted to make sure that having a leadership coach didn’t just mean sitting in the office on a Zoom call. All principals will spend four hours per month working with coaches, walking the school building together, helping with staff professional development trainings or community meetings, and providing the technical advice and support that happens organically from doing the work together.

Leaders in the Collective will each be partnered with experienced and knowledgeable leadership coaches, all of whom are former principals, school founders, and/or leaders with backgrounds in equity-centered leadership at the school, district, and state levels. The one-on-one advisement and support will build on the foundations in TNTP’s Leadership Development Framework, but also encourage leaders to bring their full identities forward in ways that we believe will translate into the academic success of Black and Hispanic/Latinx children. Instructional leadership is a huge component of this program, because the work means nothing if the students don’t make progress along with the school leader.

Monthly Convenings Within and Across Districts

Each month, leaders will gather (virtually and/or in-person) to connect, network, share problems of practice, and learn from the best research of the partner organizations. These convenings create opportunities for connections within an individual district as well as across the two districts, hundreds of miles away.

As each principal in the Collective works toward their individual, district, and personal leadership goals, they will build and share a portfolio that demonstrates what they are learning. Leaders might target their portfolios to highlight their impact across academics, community engagement, or teacher development as a result of the training and support they’ve received through the program.

I am energized by the potential of SLOCC to bring Black and Hispanic/Latinx leaders together. And I am inspired by the ripple effects this program can have, not only for the members of the Collective, but for the staff and students in their schools, and the families in their communities. We want to see Black and Latinx children grow because of the improvements these principals make. We want teachers of color to see new pathways to becoming leaders themselves. We want the principals to show others what it means to be a leader who is excelling with their whole identity and their whole self. Through SLOCC, we hope to kickstart a positive cycle, where the support and coaching of the Collective makes it more possible for principals to stay in positions as highly effective leaders, to move on to becoming district leaders, and to open the door for more leaders of color to follow in their footsteps.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP