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Massachusetts Moves Equity to Forefront of Aspiring Superintendent Program

Massachusetts plans to grow its own cohort of equity-minded district leaders through a training program designed to increase the ranks of racially and ethnically diverse district leaders. 

Currently, 4 percent of the state's superintendents—12 people—are minorities. In contrast, the state's student body is 40 percent students of color. The state is partnering with the New York City Leadership Academy to train participants, all currently school principals or central office administrators. The goal is to eventually place 100 educational professionals through the program, who will then be prepared to become superintendents within the next five years.

"Massachusetts has experienced a lot of really strong outcomes for students. But when we look at our data more closely, we're not serving the needs of all of our students," said Ventura Rodriguez, a senior associate commissioner overseeing strategic initiatives for the state's department of education. 

Part of the state's work is supporting research-based programs that can best serve black students, Latino students, students with disabilities, and English-language learners, Rodriguez said. "There's a strong evidence base for diversifying the workforce," he said. 

In addition to the fellowship program, Massachusetts is also going back to the fellows' home districts and offering them support for locally-based equity initiatives. These two efforts are the core of the state's "Influence 100" project. 

"We recognize that it's a shared wealth between the district and the fellow," said Stacy Scott, a former superintendent of Framingham schools and the director of the Influence 100 project. 

Carole Learned-Miller, who is the chief of staff for the NYC Leadership Academy and designs its curriculum, said the goal is to produce leaders who are capable of implementing systemwide change. And as part of their work, the aspiring district leaders will identify an area of inequity in their own systems. During their two years in the development program, they'll have the support of their cohort and the leadership academy to help "problem solve all the distractions and political problems as they pursue their action research," Learned-Miller said.

"We're hoping, as an organization, that this will be the first of many states who are making this effort," she added.

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