Principal Diversity Affects Teacher Diversity

A new study focusing on Missouri and Tennessee shows that principals of color are more likely to hire and retain teachers of color. After five years, having a Black principal leads to a 5 percentage point increase in a school’s share of Black teachers. Findings not only demonstrate that principal diversity matters for increasing the exposure of students to racially diverse teachers, but also that increasing the number of principals of color may benefit students of color through other mechanisms. Black students made larger test score gains while attending a school led by a Black principal.

Results of this study may have implications for education policy. Findings suggest that a strategy for increasing the numbers of teachers of color in a school is to hire principals of color, who will be more likely to hire and retain those teachers. In the study data, increasing teacher diversity in schools with Black principals comes with no apparent loss with respect to measures of teacher quality. Although there may be a zero-sum concern that increased teacher diversity in one school comes at the cost of another, results suggest that policies to increase the number of Black principals may do more than simply shuffle teachers around. Hiring results show evidence of same-race hiring among teachers entering the profession, suggesting that diverse leadership could encourage more teachers of color to enter K–12 schools. Relatedly, the researchers show that teachers are less likely to exit the K–12 system when they have a same-race principal. Examining the transfer patterns of Black teachers, the study finds that transfers in both states tend to move to schools with larger representation gaps, which should serve to increase the overall exposure of Black students to Black teachers. Beyond this exposure, hiring Black principals appears to benefit outcomes for Black students.

For more, see