Washington, DC — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (National Alliance), in partnership with Public Impact, released “Identity and Charter School Leadership: Profiles of Leaders of Color Building a Strong School Culture.” This final report in a three-part series examines how the experiences of leaders of color influenced them to build a school environment where students learn, grow and thrive.
“This latest report supports the idea that an optimal school environment and culture do not just appear on their own. To the contrary, school leaders must take intentional steps to build a community where students believe in their potential and have the confidence to take the risks necessary to fulfill it,” said Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance. “It was also clear that the profiled leaders take advantage of the autonomy provided by charter schools, which are all public schools, to introduce programs and practices that both expand students’ notion of what they can be and promote an inclusive school culture.”
The leaders stand out for the thoughtful and deliberate ways they designed their schools:
Kathleen “Kathy” Wang, principal at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, MA, and her team use language to bring together students from diverse backgrounds and communities to create a common ground that cultivates respect and inclusion.
Maurice Thomas, founder and executive director of Milwaukee Excellence Charter School in Milwaukee, WI, provides students with opportunities to follow their dreams and achieve beyond society’s expectations for them as Black students by learning to code, traveling, and exposure to a wide array of extra-curricular activities.
“A common thread across the profiles in this report is the importance of strong teacher-relationships in building a robust school culture,” said Daniela Doyle, vice president for policy and management research at Public Impact. “From creating safe spaces for students to bond with other students and teachers to designing a culture and curriculum that seeks to bridge socioeconomic gaps among students —we find that both charter school leaders of color use creative approaches to build the kind of positive school environment they see as largely missing elsewhere.”
The report also highlights three common themes across all eight leaders profiled in this series, all related to their experiences as people of color:
Addressing holes 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, the school leaders of color in this series often take 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 that 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 of color included in this series work hard to give students an educational experience like that of their more advantaged peers—an experience full of art, sports, 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.
The full report is now available online at: https://www.publiccharters.org/our-work/publications/identity-and-charter-school-leadership-building-strong-school-culture.
To speak with the report’s authors, the profiled school leaders of color or for more information about the National Alliance and Public Impact, please contact: Shaelyn@publiccharters.org.