By Kristina Campa-Gruca,
Director of Partnerships, EdFuel
EdFuel Leaders of Color Peer Learning Community (PLC)
Leaders are the most significant determinants of transformational change in education organizations. In education, these leaders manage schools, networks of schools, and central offices. In Detroit, about 80% of education leaders identify as people of color. To achieve a high quality education for all of our students, we must ensure we have the supports and structures in place to develop and retain our leaders of color.
According to a 2016 U.S. Department of Education study, there is a significant mismatch between the percentage of school leaders of color (20%) and non-white students in K-12 education (49%). We see a similar mismatch between leaders of school systems, central offices, and ed-support nonprofits. The benefit of having leaders of color is indisputable. According to the Center for American Progress, “teachers and leaders of color are more likely to work and remain in high-poverty, hard-to-staff urban schools and districts than their white counterparts; in fact, they often consider it an important duty to do so…they also serve as powerful role models for all students and prove that teaching can be a viable career for people of color.”
In Detroit, education leaders more closely represent the student population. According to CEPI, Detroit students are 98% non-white, and 81% of administrators identify as leaders of color. While this number is encouraging, we know that representation is one part of the equation.
To develop high quality leaders of color, we must address the high rates of turnover that plague schools, central offices, and nonprofits throughout the city. In EdFuel’s 2015 report, Hidden in Plain Sight, education leaders reported finding career advancement opportunities outside the organization, and lack of opportunities to grow and develop as the top reasons why they leave organizations. For many leaders of color, these reasons are exacerbated by feelings of inadequacy (imposter syndrome) and isolation (having smaller networks to leverage for mentorship and support). Without addressing these challenges, we risk undermining our efforts to strengthen and stabilize our schools.
To make our leadership more effective and to sustain ourselves in our work, leaders of color — indeed, all leaders – must curate professional and personal support networks, intentionally and regularly reflect on their practice, and build and refine their skillset for current and future leadership roles.
EdFuel’s Peer Learning Communities (PLCs) are one strategy for individuals to develop their leadership skillset and build a community of support. This year we are offering a Leaders of Color PLC to connect education and nonprofit leaders of color across the city. We’ll build fellowship, address common challenges, connect with senior leaders of color, and build our leadership capacity. @EdFuelOrg #EducationLeaders #Edu_Post