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Education Opinion

No Glass Ceiling for Women Principals

By Walt Gardner — November 25, 2016 1 min read

The principal’s office as the province of members of the boys club is an anachronism (“The Powerful Women in America’s Schools,” The Atlantic, Nov. 11). A look at any urban school district across the country serves as evidence.

Yet there are those who persist that they have been shut out solely because of their gender. I don’t buy that complaint. The New York City and Los Angeles school systems, the largest and second largest, respectively, have scores of elementary and secondary schools headed by women.

What is true, however, is that principals nationwide stay at their school about three to four years. At troubled schools, nearly 30 percent quit every year. By the third year, more than half leave their jobs.

I haven’t seen a breakdown of the data by gender, but I doubt there would be a significant difference. The fact is that the principal’s job has changed dramatically over the years. It’s far more demanding than ever before. Perhaps that’s why the Harvard Graduate School of Education created a new doctoral degree on leadership in education (Ed.L.D.). The three-year course is designed to develop dynamic new leaders and places great emphasis on attracting the broadest field of candidates.

You can be sure that female applicants will be given the same opportunity as male applicants. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I’ll continue to be skeptical.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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