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MLK Day Post: A Rooney Rule for Public Education?

In 2003, the National Football League instituted the Rooney Rule which dictates that all professional football teams must interview at least one minority candidate for an open head coaching position or any open senior football operations position.  The rule came about because Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, lamented the lack of minority head coaches throughout the history of the league.

There has been much discussion about the efficacy of the rule, especially lately.  And, there’s no way to attribute causality, but currently, 6 of the 32 teams have African-American head coaches (and, as of the writing of this post) there are rumors that Leslie Frazier may become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills).  That’s progress, but there is still disproportionality in a league where a little more than 3/4 of the players are African-American.

In education, as of 2007, approximately 45% of all public school students were categorized as a race other than Caucasian (SOURCE). As of 2007-08, approximately 16.9% of all public school teachers were categorized as a race other than Caucasian (SOURCE). Furthermore, as of that same year, 19.1% of all public school principals were categorized as a race other than Caucasian (SOURCE). Looking specifically at African-American students and educators, 15.3% of the students are African-American, 7% of the teachers are African-American and 9.6% of the principals are African-American.  We’re quickly approaching a day when the public schools in the United States serve more minority students than Caucasian students.  Yet, we’re nowhere near that with respect to teachers and especially leaders.

At the highest levels of school leadership, the numbers are even more disproportionate.  Reliable statistics on the superintendency are even harder to come by, but one estimate holds that 2% of all superintendents in the United States are of African descent.  Another estimate puts that at 5%.

I don’t want to go too much further here as my intent is to be mostly descriptive so as to raise questions.  I will, though, gladly point you to work done by colleagues of mine.  The paper to which I link here is based on a series of studies including the dissertation by the lead author.  Drs. Jackson and Shakeshaft reach some interesting conclusions, including discrediting the myth that there are too few African-American candidates in the pool or pipeline for superintendent positions.  I also note the conclusions about African-American superintendents in predominantly Caucasian districts. Their conclusion is essentially that African-Americans, especially males, need not apply. How many of YOU know an African-American superintendent leading a school system that serves mostly Caucasian students?

I urge you to read the Jackson/Shakeshaft paper, and even the small body of literature to which they offer citations.

So, what do you think? Do we need a Rooney Rule in public education?

[NOTE: don’t bother with any legal mumbo jumbo about the current jurisprudence on affirmative action and/or equal protection. I know where we stand there. I’m just raising some issues here…I think.]

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