Preparing and Developing Culturally Responsive School Leaders


Standard 3 of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) reads, “Effective educational leaders strive for equity of educational opportunity and culturally responsive practices to promote each student’s academic success and well-being.” How do we take this important aspiration and realize it through our practices and actions?

In June, our school’s administrative team hosted a two-day Climate Summit for our entire staff. The aim was to collaborate around our school’s newly defined core values; clarify our common practices around creating a safe and positive school climate; articulate our social-emotional learning plans for the upcoming year; and standardize our discipline practices to ensure consistency, fairness, and, most importantly, increase opportunities for our students to be in class, rather than excluded.

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The Leadership Imperative

During my tenure as the Washington Principal Ambassador Fellow, I have found myself frequently reminded of a hard truth: teachers do not quit students or schools, they quit leaders. Teacher shortages are a national concern within the educational landscape. According to the Learning Policy Institute report, 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia, reported teacher shortages in mathematics, science and special education.  Another study suggests ”school leadership… [is] independently associated with corresponding reductions in teacher turnover.”

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Principals at ED: Educator Voices Matter

Last week, I had the unique opportunity of being invited back to the U.S. Department of Education for “Principals at ED,” along with ten other principals.  We spent the day at the Department, fondly known as “ED,” meeting with Secretary Betsy DeVos, interacting with senior career leaders, including former interim Secretary Phil Rosenfelt and Acting Deputy Secretary Joe Conaty, and learning from policy and communications staff.

I was honored to serve as the Principal Ambassador Fellow in 2015-16. Now, as a principal, I again face the day-to-day realities of the students who keep me up at night and the overwhelming task of ensuring that all of our children succeed. The ability to take a step back and look at education from “3,000 feet high” helps ground the day-to-day work in which all school leaders are engaged.

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