New Report Shows the Need for Diverse School Leaders in New York State

Press Release

While New York is one of the most diverse states in the nation, a new report released today by the New York Equity Coalition shows school level leadership does not represent the racial and ethnic diversity of the student population in New York State public schools. The analysis reveals more than half of students attend a school without any school leaders of color.    

School leader diversity benefits students from all backgrounds and is an important factor affecting students’ success in schools. Attending a school with a principal of color has positive impacts on academic outcomes for students of color — including improved attendance, fewer disciplinary referrals, increased placement in gifted programs and improved academic outcomes. Principals set the tone for high expectations in classroom instruction, school climate, and teacher hiring and retention, which supports the growth of historically underserved students.  

“When students of color see themselves reflected in their school leaders, there can be positive influences on their future aspirations and identity development,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “We also know that having a leader of color is beneficial for all students – regardless of race. Their presence disrupts harmful stereotypes and builds community across lines of difference.” 

As New York works to improve teacher diversity with the “Grow your own” initiatives legislation recently signed into law, the report shows the teaching workforce doesn’t represent the diversity of students, and the state is challenged to retain teachers of color. According to the analysis, New York State public schools with a principal of color have greater teacher diversity than schools with a White principal. School leaders of color can influence teacher diversity through their hiring and retention practices.  

The key findings in New York State included in the analysis:

  • 55% of all students are in a school without any school leaders of color; 
  • 38% of students of color are in a school without any school leaders of color; 
  • 59% of schools do not have any school leaders of color; 
  • 15% of schools where students of color represent 96%+ of students do not have any school leaders of color; 
  • If there is at least 1 school leader of color in a school, they are more likely to be an assistant principal than principal. 

“The New York Urban League holds strongly that diversity in school leadership leads to better educational outcomes for a diverse student body. Diversity in leadership also leads to higher retention of diverse teachers who see themselves reflected in the administration and feel a sense of community, support, and understanding that may not be found in schools that lack representation, “said Arva Rice, President & CEO of the New York Urban League. “Research shows that when the administration reflects the students with whom they engage, student performance, self-esteem, and aspirations increase. New York State must commit to giving NYS children and NYS employers access to the best community members and workforce possible by investing in and committing to diverse classrooms and systems.”  

“Principals and assistant principals of color not only serve as leaders but also as shining examples of possibility for our children,” said Samuel L. Radford, IIII, Director of Better Schools Better Neighborhoods, Community Action Organization of WNY and co-chairperson of We The Parents. “Our children deserve to see people who look like them leading both their classrooms and their schools at-large. Let’s work to ensure that our school leadership truly reflects the future we envision for New York’s children.” 

“When more teachers of color are in the classroom, all students thrive,” said Marielys Divanne, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-New York. “The research is clear – if we desire higher graduation rates and lower suspension rates, we need New York to closely examine this report and ensure school-level leadership better represents the diversity of its student population.” 


About The New York Equity Coalition  

The New York Equity Coalition includes Better Schools Better Neighborhoods, Brooklyn YWCA, the Buffalo Urban League, The Business Council of New York State, Business Council of Westchester, Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Democrats for Education Reform-NY, District-Parent Coordinating Council of Buffalo, The Education Trust–New York, Educators for Excellence, EPIC-Every Person Influences Children, Hispanic Federation, ImmSchools, INCLUDEnyc, National Center for Learning Disabilities, New York Urban League, Open Buffalo, Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, Public Policy Institute of New York State, Read Alliance, Turnaround for Children, UnidosUS, United Way of New York City, the Urban League of Long Island, the Urban League of Rochester, and the Urban League of Westchester County. Learn more at