Leading with Excellence

Protecting our students protecting our democracy.

In today’s environment, schools and universities have become the epicenter of cultural and political conflict. Amid the chaos, it’s clear is that students of color need safer, culturally affirming, inclusive classrooms where they feel like they belong. Leaders of color are uniquely qualified to provide this support, as they know firsthand what it takes to thrive in environments fraught with racism, classism, and sexism — overcoming systemic barriers and challenges that many of their White peers do not endure. This lived experience fuels their work to meet their student’s academic and social-emotional needs and ensure that all students leave the P-12 school system with the tools to succeed in college and career. Research shows that having a racially and culturally diverse workforce in leadership positions is beneficial for all students, particularly for students of color, who often excel in environments with leaders, faculty, and teachers who look like them.

Representation in key leadership positions sends a powerful message that people from all backgrounds are valued and have equal opportunities to succeed. Having people of color in leadership helps break down barriers and challenges stereotypes, creating a more inclusive environment where everyone feels heard and respected and it. What’s more, having leaders from diverse backgrounds serve as role models for students and staff, inspiring confidence and motivation to pursue leadership roles themselves.

Our campaign, “Leading with Excellence” (#LeadingWithExcellence), highlights the important role that Black and Latino faculty, district leaders, principals, and teachers play in ensuring that all students have what they need to thrive. That type of excellence is what will propel this nation to protect our students and protect our democracy.

“Windows and mirrors … students should be able to see mirror images of themselves leading classrooms. But if they’re students of color, they just get windows and are constantly seeing other people.”

—High school principal, East coast

Leading with Excellence Video Series

Dr. Adrienne Battle, Superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, discusses the challenges and rewards of being a Black Woman Superintendent and what can be done to diversify the superintendency.


Dr. Christina Grant, State Superintendent of Education for Washington, DC, speaks on the importance of Black women leadership in education.

Dr. Dawn Williams, Dean, Howard University School of Education, speaks on why it is crucial to have a diverse educator workforce that is representative of the student population.

Dr. Avis Williams, Superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools, Louisiana, speaks on the impact diverse teachers and leaders have on students of color.


Dr. Usamah Rodgers, Superintendent of DeSoto ISD, Texas, discusses the importance of having a diverse educator workforce that is representative of the student population.

Dr. LaTanya D. McDade, Ed.D, Superintendent of Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia, speaks on the importance of Black women leadership in education.

Dr. Tonja Williams, Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools in New York, speaks on the importance of having a curriculum that engages students in a meaningful and rigorous way.

Educator and School Leadership Diversity

Today’s student body is more diverse than ever — and this trend will only continue. However, only 20% of teachers are people of color, and the number of leaders of color is in the single digits. Research shows that students of color benefit from having an educator who looks like them, but it also has a positive effect on all students, regardless of race or ethnicity. As advocates, we must highlight how educators of color are leading with excellence and how diversifying the educator workforce helps reflect students’ growing needs to learn in a culturally rich and academically rigorous setting.

Very Few Black Women Lead School Districts. These Superintendents Are Using the Power of Sisterhood to Change That

Illustration of a Black woman with a headline that reads leading with excellenceEd Trust and the School Superintendents Association (AASA) co-hosted the event, called “Black Women Superintendents Are Leading With Excellence,” that highlighted research on the experiences of Black women superintendents and the need to increase the share of Black women in the educator pipeline and in the upper ranks.

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Developing a High-Quality and Diverse Principal Pipeline

Principal and student sitting in a school office A good principal raises student outcomes, cultivates accepting communities, closes academic gaps that separate students of color from their peers, and ensures classrooms are staffed with strong teachers from diverse backgrounds. It is more important than ever that schools have exceptional leaders at the helm.

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5 Things State and District Leaders Can Do to Advance Strong and Diverse School Leadership

School leaders really matter. School leaders play a fundamental role in recruiting and supporting strong educators, driving rigorous instruction, creating school cultures that are inclusive and inviting, and working toward positive academic outcomes.

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Rethinking Layoff Policies to Protect Teacher Diversity

two teachers in a classroom

The “national teacher shortage” has dominated news headlines for months, with states and districts investing resources toward ensuring vacancies are filled. Many are using this opportunity to address long-standing shortages of teachers of color by investing in strategies to increase the diversity of the education workforce.

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Is Your State Prioritizing Teacher Diversity and Equity?

A teacher in front of a classroomAccess to a racially and culturally diverse teacher workforce is beneficial for all P-12 students, particularly for students of color, who often thrive in classrooms led by teachers who share their racial and cultural background.

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Educators of Color Make the Case for Teacher Diversity

African American male teacher helps African American male student on assignment

Research shows that all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, benefit socially, emotionally, and academically from a diverse teacher workforce. Yet, teachers of color are more likely to experience burnout and leave the profession at higher rates than their White peers.

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California Educator Diversity Road Map Briefs

Teacher of color assisting two girl students of color in a classroomThese briefs focus on empowering state leaders, local educational agencies, and educators with actionable insights and strategies informed by parents, students, and educators across California for recruiting and retaining the #TeachersWeNeed.

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“Faculty diversity and a sense of belonging are key components of student success, and studies demonstrate that overall graduation rates for students of color are positively affected by it.”

Source: American Council on Education, “The Importance of College Presidents Encouraging the Hiring of Diverse Candidates.”  American College President Study (ACPS) 2017.

Faculty Diversity

According to EdTrust’s research, all college students benefit from having diverse faculty. Black and Latino students are going to college in greater numbers and they are more likely to graduate when they have faculty who look like them and can serve as positive mentors and role models. White students who interact with faculty members from diverse backgrounds are more likely to develop deeper cross-cultural and critical-thinking skills and greater levels of empathy, which are essential for success in today’s multicultural world.

Faculty Diversity and Student Success Go Hand in Hand, So Why Are University Faculties So White?

A group of different colored chairs in a classroom.Faculty diversity plays a key role in college student completion and can have a major impact on students’ sense of belonging, retention rates, and persistence.

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The Difficult Pathway to Faculty Diversity, by the Numbers

Two males and a female talking with laptops openRecent studies show the benefits of academic faculty diversity for all students. Yet, the professoriate is still mostly White and bears little resemblance to the student population it serves.

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Faculty Diversity Plays a Central Role in College Completion

Students in the NY Posse meet with their mentor Professor Scott Lerner on a weekly basis to share and support one another. Students participate in an activity where they read a question aloud and take turns sharing their thoughts and opinions.The U.S. population is more diverse than ever, but college and university faculty are still overwhelmingly White. Faculty representation, hiring, and tenure equity at universities over time shows little to no progress has been made toward increasing faculty diversity in American higher education.

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Partner Resources

Our partners play a key role in showing how educators lead with excellence and the steps needed to diversify our nation’s educator workforce. Please check them out.

Black male teacher speaking to studentsOne Million Teachers of Color (1MToC)

Championing a Stronger, More Diverse Educator Workforce

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Male sixth-grade math teacher with textbookEducation Leaders of Color (EdLoc)

Break Barriers, Building Futures

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3 black teachersCenter for Black Educator Development

Through the Center’s teaching pathways, professional learning, and policy & advocacy, we are rebuilding the national Black teacher pipeline that was systemically dismantled.

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Male elementary school teacher and girl in class, close upNational Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

Policies to Increase Teacher Diversity

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Black Teacher helping students in the classroomBlack Teacher Collaborative

The Collaborative exists to create the conditions so that for every Black student, there will be challenging, affirming, and innovative learning environments staffed by a critical mass of high-quality Black educators equipped to maximize shared racial identity learning experiences over the course of their elementary and secondary education.

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Teacher Helping Male Pupil Studying At Desk In ClassroomNational Association of Black School Educators (NABSE)

The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE) is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization devoted to furthering the academic success for the nation’s children — particularly children of African descent.

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Black female teacher smiling at front of music classroomThe Aspire Alliance

Aspire Alliance works toward increasing the diversity of STEM faculty across the nation by engaging a growing network of partners to support systemic change in the STEM higher education system

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Male teacher in front of types of punctuation taped to wallWallace Foundation

A Culturally Responsive School Leadership Approach to Developing Equity-Centered Principals: Considerations for Principal Pipelines

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