There is nothing more compelling than hearing the stories of students and families whose lives have been changed by the passionate dedication of public school teachers and leaders. Across our country everyday, charter school leaders of color are making a positive difference in their communities.
At the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, we wondered if there were potent lessons to be learned from these leaders to recognize them for their work and also replicate in public schools across the country. In partnership with Public Impact, we aim to show some of the ways their experiences and perspectives shape how they lead schools with excellence and shed light on some of the unique values leaders of color bring to their schools. In so doing, we hope that these thoughtful and effective practices may be adopted by other school leaders regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Building on our initial collection of profiles focused on effective staffing, Identity and Charter School Leadership: Profiles of Leaders of Color Engaging Families addresses how the experiences of three different leaders of color influence how they interact with and invite families to participate in their children’s schools.
The leaders profiled in this report all stand out for the ways they engage families as genuine partners:
- Maquita Alexander, executive director and head of school for Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., looks to parents to play a leading role when she wants to create a more inviting campus for students of all backgrounds and income levels.
- Freddy Delgado, superintendent/principal at Amigos Por Vida Charter School in Houston, TX, builds on the school’s family-centered culture and resets expectations for parental involvement to focus on what students need to succeed.
- Kriste Dragon, CEO and co-founder of Citizens of the World Charter Schools, considers the systems and structures that make it more difficult for some families to engage at the same levels as others and adjusts how the schools involve parents.
The report also spotlights some of the unique challenges and opportunities of engaging diverse families. Two of the profiled leaders who serve students from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds found that all families are not equally positioned to learn about their schools or participate in the schools once they arrive. Thanks to their own experiences, the leaders at both schools have prioritized efforts to level the playing field.
Overall, we found three common themes so far that run across all six profiles in the report series to date related to leaders' experiences as people of color:
- Addressing and creating opportunities based on personal experience. Based on holes in their own academic experiences as a person of color or as a child from a low-income family, several school leaders reported taking nontraditional steps to address those same challenges in their own schools.
- Emphasizing value over deficits. Many of the leaders in this series emphasized the value students and their families offer rather than seeing their primary roles as compensating for or working around perceived deficits.
- Providing an equitable educational experience to produce equitable student outcomes. The leaders included in this series work hard to provide students an top-notch educational experience—an experience full of art, sport, travel, and extracurriculars, as well as opportunities to learn from their mistakes. In some cases, they have even built their schools around themes and curricula seldom available in low-income districts.
We will publish the third and final report in the series in December. We hope that school leaders will find the practices shared by these featured leaders of color—consistent with decades of research—helpful as they consider their own leadership practices in meeting the needs of students, families, and communities.
Nathan Barrett, Ph.D., is the senior director of research and evaluation at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Read the full report.