Meyer Memorial Trust grant aims to increase diversity of educational leaders

The Meyer Memorial Trust has awarded the GSE $113,000 to fund Project LEAD (Leadership for Equity and Diversity), a two-year effort to increase diversity among Oregon’s school leaders. The project’s goal is to recruit and train school administrators of color, which will increase the pool of diverse school leaders in Oregon. Professors Deborah Peterson and Susan Carlile were instrumental in securing the grant and will lead this initiative in collaboration with colleagues in the Initial Administrator Licensure program. The project has the opportunity to change how the Graduate School of Education recruits and trains future educational leaders. The goals for the project are to recruit and mentor educators of color, to modify the existing program to prepare leadership for equity, and to influence policy and systems to benefit all students. The grant is part of the Trust’s Equitable Education Portfolio.

Over 36% of Oregon’s preK–12 student population are students of color. The Oregon Department of Education reports that only 10% of Oregon’s teachers and 11% of Oregon’s administrators are educators of color. To Carlile and Peterson, this disparity perpetuates a system of racism and inequity that benefits white students and harms bilingual and/or students of color who may never have a school leader reflecting their diversity.

In Oregon’s seven administrator preparation programs, only 9% of participants are educators of color. PSU intentionally recruits more bilingual future leaders and future leaders of color, which makes it a leader in the state. If successful, these efforts could more than double the overall number of Oregon administrators who are bilingual and/or leaders of color.

Project LEAD builds on previous work by faculty in the Educational Leadership and Policy department, which was originally funded by PSU’s Office of Global Diversity and Inclusion, the Oregon Department of Education, and the Chalkboard Project, and leverages the expertise of colleagues throughout the GSE.

Through this previous work and in collaboration with Solid Ground Consulting, the program has established an advisory council that is more representative of the diversity of Oregon’s school children. Led by the advisory council, this grant will increase partnerships among leaders of tribal nations, the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators, the Oregon Leadership Network, PSU’s Bilingual Teacher Pathway program, PSU’s American Indian Teacher Program, and the Chalkboard Project.

“This grant is the next step in our long-time work for our curriculum to be culturally responsive and our efforts to increase the diversity of school leaders in Oregon,” said Peterson. “With these funds, we will be able to convene educational leaders who reflect the diversity of our students to inform curricular changes, increase the capacity of districts to support bilingual and future leaders of color as they earn their administrative license, and support a mentoring program for first-year bilingual and/or leaders of color through professional development funds and experienced mentors.”

This work reflects a primary GSE guiding principle and is a top priority for education in the state. By developing leadership for equity, these new leaders could shrink the academic achievement gap, strengthen graduation rates, and ultimately bolster Oregon’s workforce.

Carlile, Peterson, and colleagues will focus on school districts that are identified with more than 50% of the children as students of color and few or none of the school leaders as bilingual and/or people of color. Frequently, these districts are in rural areas that have limited resources to recruit and train teachers and school leaders who more closely match their school’s demographics.

About the Initial Administrator Leadership (IAL) program

The IAL program, originated in 1985, prepares an average of 74 Oregon school administrators each year—more than any other institution in the state—and has a strong focus on leadership for equity. The IAL curriculum and methods of instruction are responsive to the needs of adult learners who work in complex settings, with projects specifically designed to ensure graduates of the program can effectively lead change efforts to reduce educational disparities. Participants assume much of the responsibility for their learning and cultivate within themselves the habit of reflection and the desire to grow personally and professionally throughout their lives. More than 27 GSE graduates have earned statewide honors as principals and superintendents of the year.

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