New GW Research Explores How Principals Can Disrupt Inequitable Practices in K-12 Schools

September 16, 2022

Combating social inequality and injustice in society starts in the classroom. But, doing so isn’t just about creating more equitable policies in K-12 schools; it’s about putting those ideas into practice. New research from the George Washington University finds school principals not only need to look inside to assess their own implicit biases and subjectivity, but they also need the sustainable support of a peer network in order to find solutions for enacting equity. 

The research was led by Dr. Jennifer Clayton, an associate professor of Educational Leadership and Administration at GW, and focused on a group of K-12 principals in Southeastern Virginia.

Several lessons emerged out of Clayton’s study, including:

  • Power of the Personal Journey: School leaders need to reflect on their own stories and subjectivity to learn how they can lead their school communities. 
  • Building a Network of Support: School leaders cited isolation and lack of collaboration as a barrier to breaking down inequality structures in their schools. 

“Every school has their own equity story and each of them will have a particular group that they may be serving better than others and that’s how we frame the question. ‘Who are you best serving right now?’ When you ask the question in that way, you’re able to potentially unearth groups of students that are not being served as well,” Dr. Clayton says. “When a principal is able to identify their school’s equity story, it allows them to take action on it in ways that help all students move forward.”

The study, “Leading for Equity: How Principals Experience Professional Learning,” was published in September. If you’d like to speak with Dr. Clayton, please contact the GW Media Relations Team at [email protected].

[video: width:560 height:315 align:center lightbox_title:3 Questions with Dr. Jennifer Clayton]