Academic journal article Educational Leadership and Administration

Developing Leadership for Equity: What Is the Role of Leadership Preparation Programs?

Academic journal article Educational Leadership and Administration

Developing Leadership for Equity: What Is the Role of Leadership Preparation Programs?

Article excerpt

Abstract: Historically, educational administration programs have prepared graduates in a "universal, one-size-fits-all" approach. As the K-12 student population becomes increasingly diverse, this approach is no longer viable since it seldom takes into account the urgency implied by the achievement gap. This article reports on a "transformative colloquium" comprised of educational leadership faculty from CSU East Bay, San Jose State, and Fresno State who studied a "leading for equity" approach. Responses were gathered from the Spring 2006 CAPEA conference attendees regarding ways that administrator preparation programs can promote and emphasize leading for equity.

Introduction

"We are closing the achievement gap! We are working at closing the achievement gap!" Such is the daily rhetoric across the State of California from educational leaders who are working diligently to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, a population who continues to exhibit less than mastery on statewide assessments. The intent of this paper is to stimulate discussion and action on the part of CAPEA members and institutions and to examine closely their leadership preparation programs in light of the continuing inequity of achievement in California schools.

The demographic and socioeconomic make up of California schools is rapidly undergoing profound changes as the number of students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, second-language learners, and students of color continue to increase, the very subgroups that are least likely to meet standards on various state measures (Smith, 2005). Educational leaders are being called upon to improve learning opportunities and academic achievement for minority children whose lives and cultures California educators too often do not understand. Under the directives of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2001), educational leaders are implementing various intervention programs and educational partnerships in attempts to improve the learning and teaching that takes place in schools; however, the same groups of students continue to underachieve.

The question then remains, why is it that in spite of these best efforts the achievement gap stubbornly persists? What more can professors of educational administration do to develop new leaders who have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to close the achievement gap and who are capable of leading successful efforts to meet the challenges in today's schools?

Who Are the Students in California's Schools?

California schools are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse. In 2004-2005, students who were identified as White made up less than one-third of the state's students.

Yet, White students are much more likely to be successful in school as demonstrated in standardized test scores and high school graduation rates. Stated another way, the large majority of California's students--about two-thirds of them--identified as other than White, are not experiencing the successes of their White counterparts (Smith, 2005). In the 2005 volume of this same journal, Smith's article, School Factors that Contribute to the Underachievement of Students of Color and What Culturally Competent School Leaders Can Do (p. 21-32) chronicled a variety of factors that may impact the achievement of students of color. Two of the tables from her article are reproduced here to demonstrate the underachievement of students of color in California Schools. While there are many explanations for these disparities, the fact remains that the current school system does not work well for the majority of California's students.

According to the California Legislative Analysts Office (2005), of all students entering ninth grade, 30% will not graduate from high school. While White students make up only 31.3% of the school population, 41.2% of White students graduate from high school. In 2003-2004 the number of Hispanic dropouts alone totaled 32,925. …

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