The ‘Mockingbird’ Effect

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, Leadership Development, School Administrator Magazine

September 01, 2023

What’s behind the paucity of Black superintendents, and what can be done to raise their representation in public school leadership?

I am Black and chose to leave the superintendency to pursue a career in higher education to research Black superintendents, the impact of Black school leadership, and issues of governance. Often I’m asked, “Why are there so few Black superintendents?”

As the co-director of the AASA/Howard University Urban Superintendent Academy and a senior associate for the executive search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, I have met many outstanding Black, Latinx and Asian superintendent candidates who have the skills, dispositions and experiences to be excellent superintendents. Yet, according to various surveys (including those conducted by AASA) and research studies, Black educators currently hold just 3.4 percent of the nation’s school superintendencies, while 2.5 percent are Latinx and 0.2 percent identify as Asian. This contrasts starkly to the 91.3 percent of superintendents who are white.

The decennial studies conducted by AASA show the needle has moved little over time. In 2000, 2.2 percent of superintendents were Black. In 2010, the figure was 2.0 percent.

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AASA Cohorts Diversify the Profession

Diversifying the talent pool of school system leaders is a major goal of several academies and professional cohorts run by AASA’s Learning Network. More details at

Aspiring Superintendent Academy® for Female Leaders and the National Women’s Leadership Consortium elevate the role of women and other underrepresented leaders in education.

Aspiring Superintendents Academy® for Latino and Latina Leaders is an interactive yearlong program providing real-world skills for a new generation of Latino and Latina superintendents.

Aspiring Superintendents Academy® combines in-person and virtual meetings plus connections with experienced superintendent mentors and a culminating capstone project.

Leadership Academy for Black Educators brings together transformative professionals at different stages of their careers to discuss strategies for leading future-driven schools.

Urban Superintendents Academy prepares educators of color, with partners Howard and University of Southern California, for leading urban schools.