Discrimination in schools: Blacks, women less likely to be promoted to principal

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Despite progress in recent decades, racial and gender discrimination in job hiring and promotion practices remains prevalent in the United States and abroad. Previous research points to gaps in promotions for education leadership positions (such as superintendent). Now, a new study reveals that these gaps are also present earlier on, particularly at the principal level.

Researchers examined the likelihood of promotion and number of years to promotion among 4,689 assistant principals in Texas from 2001 to 2017. All assistant principals in the study had a master’s degree and principal’s license, both of which are required for promotion to principal in Texas.

Significant divide between principals, assistants

Researchers say that Black assistant principals are 18% less likely to be promoted, compared to White candidates with the same qualifications. That’s after controlling for education, work experience, school location, and school grade level. Moreover, among those who are promoted, it takes 0.6 years longer for Black candidates to be promoted compared to White candidates.

The study also reveals gender gaps at the high school level. The authors write that women are 5% to 17% less likely to be promoted to high school principal compared to men with the same qualifications. Moreover, as women remain in their position as assistant principal, their odds of promotion actually decreases compared to men. High school principal promotions also take 0.68 years longer among women compared to men.

The study further suggests that inequities begin even earlier, revealing that women and Black candidates have more experience even before becoming assistant principals. On average, male assistant principals have 1.25 years less experience than women at the high school level. Similarly, they have 1.62 years less experience at the elementary and middle school level.

“At every point of promotion, the pool of candidates is whiter and more male, especially compared to the teacher workforce,” says co-author Sarah Guthery in a media release. “We find that diversity exists in the pipeline, but the pipeline tends to squeeze out women and Blacks much earlier than studies of school leadership usually capture.”

The study is published in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed, open access journal of the American Educational Research Association.

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