How has being a person of color affected the ways in which successful charter school leaders built schools where students, families, and staff learn, grow, and thrive? We profiled eight such leaders to find out, in a three-part series written by Public Impact’s Daniela Doyle, Juli Kim, Shonaka Ellison, and Ismael Hernandez-Cruz in partnership with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Identity and Charter School Leadership—Profiles of Leaders of Color:
“The stories profiled in this series highlight that our identities—including our racial and ethnic identities—shape how we understand and respond to the world. While many aspects of great leadership are universal, the leaders profiled in this series draw on their experiences as people of color to create innovative models, contextualize learning for students in new ways, and ultimately consider what students, families, and staff need from a different perspective,” said Daniela Doyle, vice president for policy and management research at Public Impact. “All leaders, regardless of their race or ethnicity, would be wise to learn from and adopt such examples.”
The charter school leaders we interviewed for this series lead schools across the country that include a mix of academic models, including college preparatory programs, schools that are “diverse by design,” and dual-language programs. The schools predominantly serve students of color and students from low-income families, though not always.
The reports highlight three common themes from the eight leaders we profiled, all related to their experiences as people of color:
- Addressing holes and creating opportunities based on personal experience. Based on holes in their own academic experiences as a person of color or as a child from a low-income family, many of the school leaders in this series have taken nontraditional steps to address those same challenges in their own schools.
- Emphasizing value over deficits. Many of the leaders in this series emphasized the value that students and their families offer rather than seeing their primary roles as compensating for or working around perceived deficits.
- Providing an equitable educational experience to produce equitable student outcomes. The leaders of color included in this series all work hard to give students an educational experience like that of their more advantaged peers—an experience full of art, sports, travel, and extracurriculars—as well as opportunities to learn from their mistakes. In some cases, they have even built their schools around themes and curricula seldom available in low-income schools and districts.
“As a black student from a low-income background, my experiences outside of school were limited. Other students could afford the trips and activities that exposed them to the world beyond our small town, while I had to rely on books for exposure,” said Shonaka Ellison, a senior consultant at Public Impact. “It has been truly inspiring to speak with leaders of color who had a similar experience in school and now work tirelessly to ensure that their students have different, broader experiences, which will lead to their success in the future.” [Read more…]