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How Education Leaders Impact Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Schools


The leaders of any organization set the tone; they play a critical role in shaping the experience of their employees and customers. A school setting isn’t any different. 

Just like in the business world, schools are made up of individuals from various backgrounds and cultural experiences. Also similar to the business world, it is the responsibility of a school’s leadership team to spearhead diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to ensure everyone—from students and families to teachers and staff members—feels valued and heard. Diversity in schools is an important component to make a learning environment truly thrive.

Here are five strategies principals and administrators can use to support their school’s DEI efforts. 

1: Show That Representation Matters

As educational leaders recruit and hire for open positions, they should keep in mind not only the emotional benefits of diverse representation but the academic benefits as well. A study by John Hopkins University found that Black students who’d had just one Black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college; those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely.

Equitable representation in education is beneficial to all students. Research consistently shows that students who learn in a diverse environment are more likely to outperform those who don’t. 

2: Listen to Students and Staff

To make impactful change, educational leaders need to be able to listen to those who are most affected. It can be easy to dismiss complaints, but transformative leaders lean in and truly listen to the experiences of their students and faculty. In order to properly address issues of racism, sexism, ableism, and more, it’s important to understand where someone is coming from and recognize the inequalities that exist in the first place. Then, you are able to take steps toward improvement.    

3: Incorporate DEI Leadership into Teacher Training

It is the administrator’s responsibility to guide teachers on the path of DEI. They must lead the charge. There are several ways to encourage teachers to adopt DEI practices in the classroom as well as support them along the way.

Some options include:

  • Offering and supporting professional development opportunities with a DEI emphasis 
  • Creating a resource library for teachers to easily access
  • Become active DEI trainers and continue to improve their own cultural understanding
  • Encourage and support the use of inclusive teaching methods in the classroom

4: Promote and Model an Environment That Values Cultural Diversity

The principal of a school plays a key role in developing the culture. Establishing an atmosphere that values diversity is done when leadership models respectful behaviors and makes a genuine, honest effort to positively include all students. 

One primary example is using inclusive language. According to the American Psychological Association, “Inclusive language is more than just avoiding the use of a few antiquated or offensive terms and phrases. It is about embracing communication that acknowledges the power differentials and dynamics of our society and their deleterious effects.”

Education leaders need to keep in mind that when communicating with students, families, teachers, and staff, they must be adaptive. A key example is to use gender-neutral terms (saying “good morning, students” vs. “good morning, boys and girls”). This fosters an environment where students of all gender identities feel accepted. 

5: Build Community Relationships 

A principal’s or administrator’s role goes beyond the four walls of the school. After all, students’ families and other community members are an integral part of their well-being and success. To truly be champions of DEI efforts, administrators need to establish clear lines of communication with community members, especially in regard to forming plans of action to help students. 

When it comes to leading a school community, principals and administrators need to be prepared to do so from a place that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. 


To develop the necessary skills to lead your school community from a place of DEI, learn more about our online Master of Educational Leadership program today. 

 

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