New director training program aims to increase number of leaders of color

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A new partnership between Morehouse College, Clark University in Atlanta – two historically black institutions – and principal preparation organization New Leaders aims to increase the number of principals of color and those who are committed for equity working in schools across the country.

The scholarship for aspiring directors, launched as a pilot project earlier this year, includes two online tracks: a one-year program that leads to director certification and a one-year, 15-month program that culminates in master’s degree.

The partnership, which was announced on Wednesday, had taken more than a year to prepare. This was triggered in part by data illuminating the gap between the race of students in classrooms and those leading schools and the experiences of communities of color during the pandemic, said Jean Desravines, the chief executive of New Leaders, in an interview.

While more than half of public school students nationwide are students of color, nearly 80 percent of principals are white.

“It is recognized that for too long we have not fully maximized opportunities to ensure the success of all of our students,” Desravines said. “While COVID has been so unfortunate for so many reasons, if we don’t use it as a chance to reimagine what K-12 looks like and help reshape K-12 education in a way that benefits all of our students, especially our marginalized students, that would be a missed opportunity.

The program also comes at a time when some surveys and polls predict an exodus of directors over the next few years after the stress of the pandemic and the political and social pressures of recent years.

“We believe this is a unique opportunity to reflect on how we will rebuild the pipeline and build one that has much greater representation than before,” added Desravines.

Fill a need

New Leaders has prepared principals and aspiring principals for 20 years to work primarily in urban districts and schools with large numbers of students of color. The program, subject to independent reviews by the RAND Corporation and Mathematica, has been recognized for its rigorous selection process and the production of principals who have guided academic improvements in their schools.

The quality of online college prep programs has not been thoroughly studied, and even some of the university-based ones have been criticized for having many shortcomings.including a mismatch between the curriculum and the work graduates will do as school leaders.

The new scholarship will build on the current New Leaders curriculum, with the curriculum shaped, in part, by Morehouse and Clark Atlanta.

The two institutions, which both have educator preparation programs, will also help select professors for the new school leadership scholarship, although their professors are not expected to be instructors, Desravines said.

The key instructors will be practitioners who have not only been successful school leaders, but also have experience helping other school leaders transform their schools, Desravines said. They will also hold doctorates, he said.

Students will each have a coach throughout the program and participate in workplace residencies.

The program was launched as a pilot project in January with 35 applicants, from district and charter schools, Desravines said.

The objective is to have between 300 and 500 candidates per year. The senior certificate program has tuition fees of around $15,000 per year, while the master’s program costs $25,000 per year.

New Leaders uses more than $12.5 million in direct grants from foundations and donors to provide $5,000 scholarships to each student.

“We are very ambitious because we know the need is there,” Desravines said. “We know there is a tremendous level of demand, and we believe, given our track record, given these two prominent historically black colleges, that we are uniquely positioned to fill that void.”

Officials at Clark Atlanta and Morehouse acknowledged the role their institutions have played in nurturing leaders of color throughout their history.

“Equity in the education of students of color must be an urgent national priority,” David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College, said in a statement announcing the program.

“Our children need guidance and support from principals who understand the unique cultural experiences, proud heritage and sometimes difficult socio-economic circumstances that affect learning opportunities for young black students and those from other minority groups.”

George T. French, president of Clark University in Atlanta, noted that the school was “founded in the beliefs that all people are disenfranchised, especially people of color, [should] have access to higher education and better opportunities.

The new program, said French, “will equip CAU scholars with the knowledge, skills, and tools to become principals and leaders in schools across our country and diversify the pool of higher education leaders.”

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