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Principal/Teacher Relationships: Is Race a Factor?

A recent study from the University of Missouri has found that "black teachers who work for a black principal are generally happier with their jobs," according to the Washington Times. In addition, black teachers "are more likely to receive 'supplemental pay,' such as extra money for coaching the high school basketball team, if the principal also is black."

The Times reports that more than 37,000 teachers and principals from 7,200 schools across the country were surveyed, and the results indicate that white principals appear more likely to select teachers of their own race to head clubs and to coach sports. The report also says that in schools with black principals, the supplementary salary rates are more balanced between races.

Lael Keiser, co-author of the report, told the Times that the findings emphasize the importance of "increasing the flow of minority teachers into the principal pipeline." Meanwhile, Judith Richardson, a former principal and director of diversity, equity and urban initiatives at the National Association of Secondary School Principals, pointed out that a minority teacher in a white school can often feel like an outsider, and that high teacher turnover rates can result if it appears as if a principal of any race is (consciously or not) practicing racial favoritism.

"This highlights the need for principals to know that they have to work especially hard to communicate when they're working with teachers who are not similar to them," said Keiser, an associate professor in the university's Truman School of Public Affairs. "I highly doubt that there are principals out there who are purposely doing this."

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