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Principals Are Mostly White, But Higher Percentages of Charter School Leaders Are People of Color

Charter schools continue to employ more racially-diverse school leaders—though still a small percentage—than traditional public schools, according to new federal education data released today. 

In the 2017-18 school year, for example, approximately 29 percent of charter school principals were black and Hispanic, with another 4.8 percent identifying as "other," a group that included Asians, Native Americans, and those of two or more races. Among traditional schools, only 10 percent of principals were black, while 8.6 percent were Hispanic of any race. 

Overall, public school leadership remained predominantly white—with about 78 percent of principals identifying as white (largely unchanged from the last data set on the 2015-16 school year)—and slightly more female. Fifty-four percent of public school leaders were female, according to the data from the National Center For Education Statistics.

The data provide a snapshot of who leads the nation's public and private schools—including demographics, tenure, professional development opportunities, and perceived spheres of influence.

It was the first year since 2011-12 that the NCES released data on private school principals. And those numbers showed, among other things, that private school principals are paid, on average, less than their counterparts leading public schools: $72,500 versus $98,300. But, at the same time, a higher percentage of private school principals stayed in their schools longer.

While public school principals reported 6.8 years of experience, private school principals had nearly three more years of experience on average. And private school principals were at their current schools for an average of 7 years—about three more than public school leaders. And while fewer than 13 percent of public school principals (both charters and traditional public schools) were at their current schools for 10 or more years, more than quarter of private school principals (26.2) were at their schools for a decade or more.

Where Are The Principals of Color?

A higher percentage of public school principals of color worked in high-poverty schools than in schools with lower poverty levels. Twenty-one percent of black principals and 16.5 percent of Hispanic principals led schools where more than three-quarters of the students were enrolled in the federal free and reduced lunch program. Only 3.8 percent of black and 4.1 percent of Hispanic principals worked in schools where fewer than 35 percent of the students qualified for the federal subsidized meal program. 

And those principals generally tended to be paid lower salaries, on average, with the gap starting at the beginning of their careers and continuing past their 10th anniversary in those positions. 

Principals in high-poverty schools were not only paid less, on average, than those leading schools with lower percentages of students in poverty, but they also had less experience and had spent least number of years at their current schools. About half of the principals in schools where 75 percent of students qualified for free and reduced meals had been at their schools for less than three years.

Here's What Principals Said About Evaluations and PD

The majority of principals were satisfied with their evaluations, and more public school principals said they had been evaluated the previous year than did private school principals. While more than three-quarters of public school principals said they had been evaluated in the last year, slightly more than half—51 percent—of private school principals said the same. School visits and conferences were popular types of professional development for principals.

Fewer than half of public school principals said they had a major influence in establishing curriculum—40 percent—though nearly 60 percent of charter school principals said they had a major influence in that area. Charter school leaders also appeared to have more autonomy when it came to professional development for teachers than their peers in traditional public schools, with a higher percentage of charter principals saying that they had a major influence in determining the content for in-service teacher professional development.

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