How District Leaders Can Build (and Retain) Diverse Pipelines

Now is the time to diversify educational leadership at every level. With intentional actions, careful planning, and commitment, district leaders can build more equitable representation. Learn how.
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“Districts that prioritize diverse talent pipelines see the greatest return on investment,” explains Dr. Michael Hinojosa. As superintendent of six K-12 systems in his 43 years of public education experience, Dr. Hinojosa knows what it takes to build a strong bench of talent.

Representation—the ability to see yourself reflected in the leaders around you—is invaluable when half of all K-12 public school students identify as people of color. Research shows that all students benefit from seeing diverse teachers and school leaders working together to advance equity and excellence.

“When I was superintendent in Dallas, we created a team solely focused on boosting our pipeline of minority principals. Because candidates for those positions typically were assistant principals, we soon realized that we needed a team to strengthen that pipeline, too. And where do assistant principals come from? The teaching ranks, of course, which required an even sharper focus on recruiting minority educators. In other words, the pipeline is a continuum, with each leg dependent on another.” 

We hear from district leaders across the nation who are committed to improving the diversity of their leaders, but are not sure how to do so. In our latest paper, Invest in Leadership: Five Actions District Leaders Can Take to Increase School Diversity, we explore proven strategies district leaders can use to build more equitable representation, retain high-quality (and resilient) leaders, and shape the future of educational leadership in their districts. 

Action 1: Create leadership pathways for career mobility 

Investing in high-quality leadership development and principal preparation is an integral part of building a diverse bench of talent that is well-prepared to move into—and stay in—the principal role. Learn how. 

Action 2: Examine and advance more equitable promotion practices 

Tapping into the existing talent in your schools is another strategy for increasing diversity and retaining effective leaders. Here are ways districts can do so equitably. 

Action 3: Foster conditions that reduce turnover and retain school leaders of color 

Intense workloads and compliance requirements along with shifting demands, charged political climates, and staff shortages are top reasons principals cite for leaving. Principal turnover is disruptive to student achievement, teacher retention, and school improvement efforts. But it does not have to be the reality.

Action 4: Implement more transparent and equitable recruitment and hiring practices

Take the following steps to ensure that educators and leaders of color feel truly welcomed in the district and that district and school hiring processes are free from bias.

Action 5: Truly prioritize and measure school leader diversity

Closing the representation gap and creating more equitable opportunities for educators of color to grow as leaders and advance in their careers requires commitment and resolve at every level.

Strategic investments are needed to develop the next generation of school leaders who better reflect the communities they serve. By diversifying our teacher and school leader pipelines, we empower more students to realize their futures as the next generation of leaders.

Explore our full series of papers and uncover how district leaders can build more equitable representation at every level of leadership—from principal pipelines to equity-focused leadership to teachers of color stepping into more leadership. 

“I’m proud to say that in three decades as a district leader,” reflects Dr. Hinojosa, “44 people (including 17 women) who worked with me became superintendents, and about 75% of them are people of color.” Building more equitable representation is not only necessary, it’s possible. 

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