Power of Philanthropy to Shape Future School Leadership
“Investing in leadership pipelines is a critical retention strategy,” observes Caroline Damon, Vice President of Academics at Chamberlin Education Foundation (CEF) in California. “We tend to focus on teacher vacancies, but we know that teachers stay when they have a great leader, and they leave when they don’t.” CEF, like Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) in Florida, is advancing new public-private partnerships to invest in the development of school leaders in their communities.
Both foundations are committed to closing opportunity gaps and ensuring more equitable outcomes for the students and families in their respective communities. JPEF is an independent think-and-do tank that sparks innovation, relationships, and resources to power the potential within public schools and achieve excellent outcomes for low-income and students of color in Duval County. CEF supports educators and community partners to advance educational equity and academic excellence for students in West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).
Public-private partnerships help to remove financial barriers that educators often face when pursuing opportunities for career advancement—and in doing so, they advance more equitable access to high-quality principal preparation programs.
This school year, CEF and JPEF are sponsoring scholarships for aspiring leaders in each of their communities to enroll in our National Aspiring Principals Fellowship. A first-of-its-kind online principal certification and master’s degree program, the Fellowship prepares educators to lead our nation’s schools. Launched in partnership with Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, the Fellowship is developing the next generation of school leaders who better reflect the communities they serve.
Today, 54 percent of our K-12 public school students identify as students of color, yet only 21 percent of their principals do. This is known as a representation gap, and we are working to close it. “Equity in the education of students of color must be an urgent national priority,” explains David A. Thomas, the president of Morehouse College. “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.”
Public-private partnerships, like these with CEF and JPEF, are becoming more common and increasingly more impactful. These partnerships help to remove financial barriers that educators often face when pursuing opportunities for career advancement—and in doing so, they advance more equitable access to high-quality principal preparation programs.
"By helping to fund training for these aspiring principals, we’re creating an even stronger support system for our diverse teachers and showing them a path to career advancement.”
Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President, JPEF
Sadly, careers in education continue to fall in earning potential. In many school systems, principals are expected to hold a master’s degree in administration or a related field—programs that on average cost about $52,000. Yet, public school teachers have seen their salaries decline four percent in the last decade. The combination of both factors can dissuade educators from pursuing traditional preparation programs as they often lead to burdensome debt.
Through investments in high-quality principal preparation, philanthropy can play a key role in championing and supporting more educators of color to move into school leadership roles. “One of our key focus areas has been recruiting, supporting and retaining Black male and Latino teachers,” explains JPEF President Rachael Tutwiler Fortune. “From our research, we know these teachers want to feel supported and be able to make a career in education and support their families. By helping to fund training for these aspiring principals, we’re creating an even stronger support system for our diverse teachers and showing them a path to career advancement.”
Building a diverse pipeline of school leaders who are well prepared and supported enables districts to retain the kind of talent that ensures all students thrive. Highly effective principals positively influence teacher retention. Research suggests that better-prepared principals are less stressed and more likely to stay in the role, even in high-need schools. To that end, the Fellowship provides ongoing access to community, mentorship, and other continuing support for Fellows after they complete the program and move into leadership roles.
Today, more and more research is quantifying the impact of a principal on sustained student learning. Researchers found that principals are responsible for 25 percent of the academic gains in their schools, second only to teachers. Research also reveals better student and school outcomes, especially for teachers and children of color, when a principal of color is at the helm. In fact, all students benefit from seeing diverse leaders and teachers working together to build school cultures rooted in respect, high expectations, and trust.
“Investing in leadership pipelines is a critical retention strategy. We tend to focus on teacher vacancies, but we know that teachers stay when they have a great leader, and they leave when they don’t.”
Caroline Damon, Vice President of Academics, CEF
There are other ways as well, beyond scholarships, that philanthropic partners can support school systems looking to grow their talent pipelines. For some communities, a foundation may play an important role in helping vet high-quality master’s degree programs for aspiring principals. In these scenarios, nonprofits become a research partner, helping analyze data and search for other funding options. For other communities, a foundation may build a more one-on-one relationship directly with the district.
“It’s important for foundations to not lose sight of investing in relationships at all levels of the school systems you are supporting, especially champions at the site level,” adds Damon.
CEF also invests in ongoing leadership development for all WCCUSD principals and a cohort of district leaders. As a result, all of the Fellows that Chamberlin is sponsoring in the Fellowship are currently working in schools that are led by principals who have participated in New Leaders leadership development programming. “That endorsement,” notes Damon “is very powerful for aspiring leaders when they are evaluating if a program is worth the investment.”
A recent Wallace Foundation report on the impact of principals concludes that it is “difficult to imagine an investment with a higher ceiling on its potential to return than a successful effort to improve principal leadership.” CEF and JPEF are two leading examples of the lasting power of this investment. Their commitment to providing scholarships to the Fellowship enables more equity-minded educators to gain the transformational leadership skills needed to lead our nation’s schools—and become powerful and positive forces for change.