ISA’s Women of Color Education Collaborative: Addressing a National Imperative

Achieving greater educator diversity in our nation’s schools is a priority, and many local, state, and national organizations are working to develop programs to do just that. In 2019, the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), with support from two national foundations, extended its work to the area of K-12 leadership diversity by creating the Women of Color Education Collaborative (WOCEC).

Decades of research show a multitude of benefits of educator leadership diversity on school climate and student outcomes; however, women of color comprise only 2.5 percent of all superintendents nationwide, and only 1.4 percent of district superintendents are Black women.

Goldman Sachs’s Black Womenomics research has revealed that one of the fastest ways to accelerate change is to listen to and invest in Black women. Through extensive research, Goldman Sachs found that Black women are foundational to their families, communities, and the U.S. economy but are underresourced, underpaid, and underfunded.

ISA’s WOCEC addresses these concerns. WOCEC was designed to bring to the forefront racial equity for women of color (WOC) educational leaders. The goal of WOCEC is to create a thriving network of WOC superintendents and senior leaders by providing a program designed to enhance their leadership skills and capabilities through executive coaching while also focusing on self-care and career development. The goal of WOCEC is to increase the number of WOC who advance to and thrive in K-12 district and system-level leadership positions.

On March 27, ISA initiated a discussion aimed at fostering state-level conversations about district-level leadership diversity at the Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA). The WOCEC session, “Collaborative Holistic Approaches to Supporting Women of Color District Leaders,” was presented by Dr. Constance Evelyn, WOCEC Executive Coach; Dr. Denise Lowe, WOCEC Executive Coach; and Dr. Danita Ishibashi, Assistant Superintendent, Ewing Township (NJ) Public Schools.

NJASA participants were invited to respond to a series of prompts throughout the session, and their responses highlighted the ways in which women of color superintendents often experience unique challenges in the job that affect them differently from their male and White peers and contribute to high turnover and attrition. For example, participants’ responses revealed:

  • feelings of loneliness, isolation, and being an outsider, stemming from being the only person of color in a leadership role or a predominantly White environment
  • experience with bias and stereotypes, such as being perceived as aggressive or unprofessional or being expected to have more experience or education than their male counterparts
  • the importance of community, support, networking, and self-care and the value of mentorship in their professional networks
  • awareness of the small number of Black women superintendents in New Jersey, gratitude for the introduction to WOCEC, and excitement at the prospect of joining WOCEC

The 5-year anticipated impact of WOCEC is 11,250,000 million children, 1.5 million teachers, and more than 3 million families. Currently, Cohort 2 of WOCEC includes 52 diverse district leaders – 40 in the United States and 12 in Canada. These leaders directly impact approximately 298,200 teachers and 2.25 million students. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the students impacted are minorities, 56% are economically disadvantaged, 15% have disabilities, and 10% are English learners.

Click here to learn more.

Coaching and PD Support for the 2023-24 School Year

As we approach the end of the academic year, we want to congratulate you on all that you have accomplished. We know that this work is critical and demanding, and as you think about next school year, can we help you with…

  • Support for your district’s own coaches, to explore additional strategies that can be used to expand the effectiveness of district and school priorities?
  • A work plan for next school year that partners with all general education teachers and paraprofessionals who provide instruction and related services to students with disabilities?
  • A school development or leadership coach for principals to support the implementation of school improvement plans?

Read more about what ISA can do here and then reach out to us at to talk about the above or other possible support. Together we can collaborate to help sustain your current success and to provide personalized professional development for educators in your district and schools.

From the Center on Reinventing Public Education: Student Mental Health and Well-being: A Review of Evidence and Emerging Solutions

The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has a new report out, called Student Mental Health and Well-being: A Review of Evidence and Emerging Solutions.

As CRPE wrote, in the summer of 2022, it “convened a panel of education and youth development experts to take stock of recent efforts to address students’ mental health and well-being and to reestablish core elements of social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools. CRPE initially convened a group of experts in 2021 to assess the pandemic’s impact on young people’s well-being, with a particular emphasis on the social impact of school closures. The panel has continuously reflected on what would be needed for recovery.

“The panelists arrived at three calls to action that reflect the challenges and opportunities young people are facing. Specifically, they call for policymakers and advocates to:

  1. Embrace technological innovations that can improve student well-being while still honoring the fundamental need for human relationships.
  2. Overcome turf wars and divisions; embrace ‘big tent’ thinking for social and emotional development and well-being support.
  3. Build new, integrated monitoring and response systems to address the urgent needs of young people.”

Click here to read the report.

What We’re Reading: Making Social and Emotional Learning an Intentional Focus in Your School

According to the research, incorporating social and emotional learning (SEL) strategies in your school can bring multiple benefits. Schools understand this as a national study conducted by Tyton Partners estimated that spending on SEL programs at school and district levels rose by approximately 45% between November 2019 and April 2021.

This 2022 article from K-12 Dive, 4 Strategies for Unlocking the Value of SEL by Stephanie Parry, shares four critical components of an overarching SEL approach, for schools, districts, and states. One, for example, is the need for schools to “incorporate and listen to the input of families, students, and community members on SEL programs.”