News + Ideas

Unrealized Impact: New Study on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Education

Today, I’m thrilled to announce a new study, “Unrealized Impact.” But before we discuss that, I have to go back in time. A year ago, I had an idea for a project. I wanted to see comprehensive data on the state of diversity in education. Sure, there was a lot of talk about the need for greater diversity…and I experienced it first hand in every educational setting. Whether walking into a school, attending a conference or partnering with a nonprofit, the lack of diversity was hard to miss. I knew it anecdotally, but I didn’t have the data.

In my role at NewSchools, I co-lead the Diverse Leaders strategy. And, as one might imagine, I get a great deal of feedback from entrepreneurs, funders, education leaders…and skeptics. While many support the concept of advancing Black and Latino leadership in education, there are many leaders who wonder:

  • Are our goals ambitious enough? Are they too ambitious?
  • How do you know that diverse leadership will yield better results for students?
  • I want to hold myself and others accountable to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, but what benchmarks can I use?

The lack of diversity-related data in education kept coming up and I feared it would limit our progress as a field. This was especially troubling to me because I thought the case for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in education was compelling, obvious and clear. Numerous studies have shown diverse, equitable and inclusive organizations are more innovative, make better decisions and have higher levels of staff satisfaction. And education studies have shown Black and Latino students taught by teachers who share their racial background have improved academic results, benefit from a culture of higher expectations and fewer discipline referrals. But, I needed more data to make my case.

So, I started making plans to do a study, but also recognized that this was an opportunity to influence the field. It was high stakes; we needed to get it right and I didn’t have all the answers. I reached out to funders who were committed to advancing DEI to hear their ideas for what was needed. I learned that Bellwether talent leaders – Xiomara Padamsee and Becky Crowe – were doing diversity-related projects, so I reached out to them to learn more.

We put our heads together, and that culminated in “Unrealized Impact” – a groundbreaking study on the state of DEI in the PreK-12 education sector – a year’s worth of work with more than 50 education leaders contributing to the design, 200+ organizations responding to the survey and nearly 5,000 individual staff members sharing their perspectives. While it was hard to coordinate a group of this size, the results have made it all worthwhile. We now have solid data that represents a collective, field-wide commitment to prioritize DEI and take action.

So, what did we learn?

The study indicates that, as a whole, the education sector is not yet as diverse, equitable or inclusive as it should be:

  • The percent of Black and Latino leaders in education, when compared to the percent of Black and Latino students in the nation’s schools remains unbalanced. This is especially troubling as the percent of children of color served by our public school system continues to climb. The underrepresentation is particularly pronounced for Latino leaders;
    • Whites represent 24 percent of students, 49 percent of staff, 64 percent of leadership and 74 percent of CEOs.
    • African-Americans represent 21 percent of students, 16 percent of staff, 16 percent of leadership and 9 percent of CEOs.
    • Latinos represent 40 percent of students, 25 percent of staff, 8 percent of leadership and 8 percent of CEOs.
  • Organizations with strong performance on both diversity and inclusion experience the greatest impact on staff recruitment, retention and overall favorability, regardless of race. Focusing on diversity, equity AND inclusion is a talent best practice. Staff of all races are three times more likely to recommend organizations that are diverse, equitable and inclusive to a friend.
  • Twenty-four percent of all survey respondents report experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Staff of color were 50 percent more likely to report such an experience.

The DEI gaps that exist across the field show we are leaving impact on the table when it comes to supporting positive outcomes for students. By highlighting this unclaimed impact, we hope to encourage education leaders to prioritize and invest in DEI practices as a powerful lever for change.

We have the data now. So, what’s next? I invite you to do something about it. Steep yourself in the insights and develop a plan for change. Our students are counting on you.

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