Chelsea Ranks Among Top School Districts For Gender Parity in K-12 Education

A study released last week by the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy and the Women’s Power Gap Initiative of the Eos Foundation reveals never-before-seen data on racial and gender inequities in Massachusetts education leadership. The report, The Power Gap in Massachusetts K-12 Education, highlights a multitude of barriers that keep women and people of color from the superintendency. Among the 180 school districts analyzed, Chelsea was found among the top ten who are leading the way for gender parity in the superintendency and other leadership positions.

However, findings show that 80% of the Commonwealth’s largest 180 school districts have never had a superintendent of color. And, despite the fact that young people of color make up nearly half of the Commonwealth’s student body, statewide only 5% of superintendents are people of color.

Meanwhile, although women comprise 76% of the Commonwealth’s teaching force and—as a whole—out-qualify men when it comes to credentialing and experience, they only hold 39% of superintendencies. Of the 180 largest districts, 31 have never had a female superintendent.

“White-dominant and patriarchal norms are deeply ingrained in ideas of leadership, even in education in Massachusetts. We found that men are often chosen to become superintendents based on personal attributes, while women are often hired for professional qualifications. Many female leaders we spoke with, especially women of color, expressed needing to work twice as hard and be twice as qualified to be considered for leadership positions,” said Annelise Eaton, the Rennie Center’s Research Director and coauthor of the report.

Researchers also detail the career paths of prospective superintendents, finding that men progress to leadership positions faster and at a much higher rate than women.

“After years of Women’s Power Gap research, we are shocked at the results unveiled in this report, exposing a persistent glass ceiling that women are facing in Massachusetts K-12 education leadership,” said Andrea Silbert, President of the Eos Foundation. “We see that women hold the majority (59%) of superintendent licenses but are still drastically underrepresented compared to their male peers. They want the job, they are getting the licenses, but why can’t they make it to the top? Now is the time to change the system and diversify Massachusetts education leadership. We need to push for a more equitable future and break the male-dominant landscape we are seeing.”

According to the report, people of color are severely underrepresented at every level of public education in Massachusetts. Educators of color report that racism and discrimination in the workplace make it difficult to progress through into leadership in the education system. 

The report includes recommendations to help diversify education leadership like investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion training for school committee members who hire superintendents, creating more transparent systems for assessing leadership, and building pathways to the superintendency for elementary school principals.

The Power Gap in Massachusetts K-12 Education was released at a virtual event this morning that featured remarks from current and former superintendents as well as researchers.

The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy’s mission is to improve public education through well-informed decision-making based on deep knowledge and evidence of effective policymaking and practice. As Massachusetts’ preeminent voice in public education reform, we create open spaces for educators and policymakers to consider evidence, discuss cutting-edge issues, and develop new approaches to advance student learning and achievement. Through our staunch commitment to independent, non-partisan research and constructive conversations, we work to promote an education system that provides every child with the opportunity to be successful in school and in life. For more information, please visit www.renniecenter.org.

About the Women’s Power Gap Initiative of the Eos Foundation: The Women’s Power Gap Initiative aims to dramatically increase the number of women from diverse backgrounds among CEO and C-suite leaders nationally. We conduct and commission actionable research on prominent sectors of the economy and measure the extent of the power and pay gaps at the company or institutional level to highlight those making fast progress, and those falling behind.

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