School & District Management

New Principal-Training Program Aims to Increase Number of Leaders of Color

By Denisa R. Superville — March 09, 2022 | Corrected: March 17, 2022 4 min read
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Corrected: This article has been corrected to make clear that Morehouse College does not currently have an educator-prep program.

A new partnership between Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University—two historically Black institutions—and the New Leaders principal-prep organization aims to increase the number of principals of color and those committed to equity working in the nation’s schools.

The fellowship for aspiring principals, launched as a pilot earlier this year, includes two online tracks: a one-year program that leads to a principal certification, and a year to 15-month program that culminates in a master’s degree.

The partnership, which was announced Wednesday, had been more than a year in the making. It was sparked in part by data illuminating the gap between the race of students in the classrooms and those running schools and the experiences of communities of color during the pandemic, Jean Desravines, the chief executive officer of New Leaders, said in an interview.

While more than half of the nation’s public school students are students of color, nearly 80 percent of principals are white.

“There is a recognition that for far too long we have not fully maximized the opportunities to ensure that we setting up all of our students for success,” Desravines said. “While COVID has been so unfortunate for so many reasons, if we do not use this as a chance to reimagine what K-12 looks like and to help reshape K-12 education in a way that benefits all of our students, particularly our marginalized students, it would be a missed opportunity.”

The program also comes at a time when some surveys and polls forecast an exodus of principals over the next few years after the stress of the pandemic and the political and social pressures of the last few years.

“It’s our view that this is a unique opportunity to think about how we rebuild the pipeline and build one that has far greater representation than before,” Desravines added.

Filling a need

New Leaders has prepared principals and aspiring principals for 20 years to work primarily in urban districts and schools with large enrollments of students of color. The program, subjected to independent analyses by the RAND Corporation and Mathematica, has been noted for its rigorous selection process and producing principals who’ve shepherded academic improvements in their schools.

The quality of online university-preparation programs has not been studied in depth, and even some of those based at universities have been criticized for having numerous shortfalls, including misalignment between curriculum and the work graduates will do as school leaders.

The new fellowship will build on New Leaders’ current program, with the curriculum shaped, in part, by Morehouse and Clark Atlanta.

The two institutions, will also help select faculty for the new school leadership fellowship, though their professors are not expected to be instructors, Desravines said.

The core instructors will be practitioners who were not only successful principals, but who also have experience helping other school leaders transform their schools, Desravines said. They will also hold Ph.Ds, he said.

Students each will have a coach throughout the program and will participate in job-embedded residencies.

The program launched as a pilot in January with 35 candidates, from district and charters schools, Desravines said.

The goal is to have between 300 to 500 candidates a year. The principal certificate program has a tuition of about $15,000 annually, while the master’s degree program costs $25,000 a year.

New Leaders is using more than $12.5 million in direct grants from foundations and donors to provide $5,000 scholarships to each student.

“We are very ambitious because we know the need is there,” Desravines said. “We know there is a tremendous level of demand, and we believe, given our track record, given these two preeminent historically black colleges, that we are uniquely positioned to fill this void.”

Officials from Clark Atlanta and Morehouse acknowledged the role their institutions have played in shaping leaders of color throughout their histories.

“Equity in the education of students of color must be an urgent national priority,” David A. Thomas, the president of Morehouse College said in a statement announcing the program.

“Our children need guidance and nurturing from principals who understand the unique cultural experiences, proud heritage, and sometimes challenging socioeconomic circumstances that affect learning opportunities for young Black students and those from other minority groups.”

George T. French, Clark Atlanta University’s president, noted that the school was “established on the beliefs that all disenfranchised, particularly people of color, [should] have access to higher education and better opportunities.”

The new program, French said, “will give CAU scholars the knowledge, skills and tools needed to become principals and leaders in our nation’s schools and diversify the higher education leaders’ pipeline.”

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