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Published in Print: April 12, 2000, as Strong Leadership, Inclusiveness Vital To Improving Race Relations

Strong Leadership, Inclusiveness Vital To Improving Race Relations

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School leaders can positively influence race relations if they use several strategies simultaneously to defuse tensions and include parents and teachers in the dialogue, a recent study concludes.

Follow Up

Read an executive summary of "Leading for Diversity: A Study of How School Leaders Achieve Racial and Ethnic Harmony." The report is also available for $16 by calling Art, Research, and Curriculum Associates at (510) 834-9455.

"A lot of people think race problems are just endemic to society, and that schools can't do anything" about them, said Rosemary Henze, the director of research and evaluation for Art, Research, and Curriculum Associates Inc., the Oakland, Calif., nonprofit organization that released the report last month. "We have evidence school leaders can make that difference."

The study, "Leading for Diversity: A Study of How School Leaders Achieve Racial and Ethnic Harmony," documents 12 successful practices used at 21 elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the country where race relations were strained between 1996 and last year. School leaders are defined as teachers, principals, superintendents, other administrators, and school board members.

Each of the schools implemented a majority of the policies and included participation by principals, teachers, and parents, along with support from local, national, or international communities, the report says.

School leaders who achieved results set priorities for the needs of students, such as physical safety or nurturing a sense of belonging. They also fostered a shared vision, served as initiators or facilitators of change, and supported the development of other leaders.

The districts in the study wielded a great deal of power over "how interethnic relations were played out in schools," the report says.

Successful schools were located in districts that emphasized diversity and equity, provided time for collaboration between teachers, and built in transition time for principals new to the district, the study found.

Real-World Effects

Making lasting changes is always a challenge, said Richard A. Flanary, the director of the office of leadership development and assessment for the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va.

"The reality is that there are lots of issues and things that happen outside schools that come back into schools," Mr. Flanary said. "It takes a lot of intervention."

While school-based programs can aid the immediate school community, Mr. Flanary said, he's not sure if they can make a significant difference outside school walls.

Vol. 19, Issue 31, Page 18

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