Act by Friday: Will your voice be heard on Leadership Policy?

Will the Council of Chief State School Officers ignore educational equity, inequality, race, class, gender, ability, language, special status, marginalization, and social justice? I recently received several letters from leaders in the field that are suggesting that this may be the case.

The following letter came via email from Professor John Roberts at Penn State:

Dear Colleagues and Fellow Educational, Parent, and Community Leaders:

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is in the final stages of updating the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards, and the public comment period closes on the 29th of May. These highly influential policy standards shape the practice, professional development, and evaluation of school leaders across the country.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 11.58.51 AMWe want you to know that in the current draft, none of the seven core standards themselves make explicit reference to educational equity, inequality, race, class, gender, ability, language, special status, marginalization, or social justice. You may access the seven draft standards in a press release by the CCSSO here.

This omission is dismaying since a previous draft of these standards included specific language around educational equity and racial inequities. The findings of research and the voices of practitioners are very important for influencing the development of the language in the standards. We believe it is critical that the educational research community, school leaders, and local communities speak again on this issue.

At this time, we are inviting you to support an open letter addressed to the CCSSO, which is available at the following link:

Your signature in support of the letter will include your institution or organization name, which is for identification purposes only and is not intended to imply an endorsement or support from your institution. Your name, should you choose to sign in support, will appear in an attachment to the letter that we will present to the CCSSO Trustees and leadership team.  If you do not wish to sign in support of the letter, please forward this email to your colleagues and contact the CCSSO directly if you share the perspective that equity and equitable schools are a critical part of developing standards for future school leaders.

Thank you for considering this request.


Ann M. Ishimaru, Assistant Professor, University of Washington

John E. Roberts, Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State University

Bradley W. Davis, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington

Mollie K. Galloway, Chair, Department of Educational Leadership, Lewis & Clark

Mark A. Gooden, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin

Michael E. Dantley, Dean, College of Education, Health and Society, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Bradley Davis, faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington also relayed the following,

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.00.01 PMIn September of 2014, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a draft revision of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards. Last updated in 2008, these highly-influential policy standards shape the practice, professional development, and evaluation of school leaders in 45 states and in our nation’s capital. The most apparent change in the September 2014 draft was an expansion in the total number of standards from six to eleven. Chief amongst these additions was standard 10, which dealt with equity and cultural responsiveness, imploring school leaders to ensure “the development of an equitable and culturally responsive school” (CCSSO, 2014, p. 20). Further, function D of standard 10 explained that an ideal school leader “attacks issues of student marginalization; deficit-based schooling; and limiting assumptions about gender, race, class, and special status” (CCSSO, 2014, p. 20). These additions were viewed by many -particularly educational administration scholars- as a sign of progress, as some of these scholars have been critical of the ISLLC standards’ failure to adequately acknowledge important social and cultural contexts of schooling such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, ability, language, etc.

Earlier this month, CCSSO announced their latest draft revision of the standards, which brought the total number of standards down from eleven to seven. A casualty of this revision was the standard focused upon equity and cultural responsiveness. Standard four is the closest that the newly proposed draft gets to such issues. It calls upon school leaders to “cultivate a caring and inclusive school community dedicated to student learning, academic success and personal well-being of every student” (CCSSO, 2015, p. 16). While this is a noble goal of school leadership, the verbiage of this standard and its component functions fails to challenge school leaders’ thinking about what differences define students as individuals, and how knowledge and competence of these differences can actually contribute to achieving an inclusive school community.

Silenced Voices

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.01.04 PMThe initial revision of the standards released in September was driven by the volunteer work of more than 70 individuals from academia, policy, and K-12 schools (CCSSO, 2014). By trimming the total number of standards and removing entire areas of focus, CCSSO has undermined the hard work of these volunteers and thwarted the standards’ potential to have a substantive impact on leadership practice. This profound change of direction in the revision process is particularly interesting given that the latest update is supposedly influenced by focus group and survey data from more than 1,000 practitioners in K-12 and higher education (CCSSO, 2015). It is hard to imagine that our nation’s school leaders and those charged with their preparation have deemed issues of race, class, and gender to be irrelevant to school leadership. Therefore, the question arises: What exactly happened in this latest revision? CCSSO must hold itself to a higher standard. The development process must be more transparent, as there is an ethical duty to remain responsive to the efforts and voices of the volunteers whom have committed so much of their personal and professional time and efforts to fuel the revision process.

Facing Reality

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.05.39 PMThe report accompanying the latest draft of the standards asserts that school leaders must be up to a common challenge: to “transform public schools to increase student learning and achievement” (CCSSO, 2015, p. 3). Again, this is a noble cause and one that will find universal support. But how realistic are the chances of rising to this challenge when the very standards driving the profession cannot own up to the challenges facing schools? It is well established that schooling is much more than curriculum, instruction, and assessment. There are many factors beyond traditional notions of teaching and learning that must be accounted for. The very things that form our commonality as humans yet shape our identities as individuals: race, ethnicity, sexuality, language, culture, heritage, and the like. Yet, if school leaders are not tasked with, at the very least, acknowledging these factors, why should there be an expectation that school would be places that do so? What chances are being afforded to students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and minoritized populations, to find in their schools a place where they are loved, valued, appreciated, and supported if we cannot see them for who they truly are?

One need only glance at the evening news or daily newspaper to be reminded that race is as compelling a matter in our society as ever. The same is true with regards to race in our schools, as the literature has established that children of color have exceedingly greater probabilities than their White peers of having a novice teacher (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2005; Scafidi, Sjoquist, & Stinebrickner, 2007), serving a suspension/getting expelled (Office for Civil Rights, 2014), or being identified for special education services (Office for Civil Rights, 2006, 2015; Obiakor & Utley, 2004). And these disparities are but a small part of a much larger, tragic reality. The latest ISLLC revision proclaims that the standards “clarify the most important work and responsibilities of learning-focused leaders operating in today’s education context” (CCSSO, 2015, p. 3). Given the removal of race-conscious language from the standards juxtaposed against the myriad race-based inequities in schooling, it could be argued that CCSSO’s proclamation is, at best, a product of willful ignorance, and at worst, an act of intellectual dishonesty.

It has been well-established for some time now that school leadership is a significant, measurable contributor to student learning and achievement. If those charged with administering the care of our nation’s youth are allowed be ignorant of the most fundamental social and cultural contexts of schooling, then what hope is there of successfully closing achievement and opportunity gaps?

Releasing Voices

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 12.03.02 PMCCSSO and the greater school leadership policy landscape are at a crossroads. CCSSO can seize the opportunity to take courageous leadership in redefining what constitutes necessary, modern-day leadership for student learning and school improvement, or it can sit idly by and allow critical elements to be whitewashed into the ether. One would hope to find support in the belief that our system of schooling can no longer afford to operate under a colorblind, culturally-irrelevant ideology that fails to recognize students and societal structures for what they really are. Quality school leadership is about more than content. It is also about context. Educators, policymakers, and community members need to let CCSSO know what they think of this latest deviation in the ISLLC standards refresh process. The public comment period on this latest draft of the standards ends Friday, May 29th. Will your voice be heard?

Bradley W. Davis, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, The University of Texas at Arlington.

Correspondence concerning this writing should be addressed to Bradley Davis, E-mail:

The proposed leadership standards and portal for providing commentary can be viewed here: Please weigh in if you are so inclined.


Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. (2005). Who teaches whom? Race and the distribution of novice teachers. Economics of Education Review, 24(4), 377–392. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2004.06.008

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2014). 2014 ISLLC standards: Draft for public comment. Retrieved from

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2015). ISLLC 2015: Model policy standards for educational leaders. Retrieved from

Obiakor, F. E., & Utley, C. A. (2004). Educating culturally diverse learners with exceptionalities: A critical analysis of the Brown case. Peabody Journal of Education, 79(2), 141–156. doi:10.1207/s15327930pje7902_10

Office for Civil Rights. (2006). 2006 national and state estimations. US Department of Education. Retrieved from

Office for Civil Rights (2014). Civil rights data collection – Data snapshot: School Discipline. US Department of Education. Retrieved from

Office for Civil Rights (2015). Protecting civil rights, advancing equity: Report to the President and Secretary of Education. US Department of Education. Retrieved from

Scafidi, B., Sjoquist, D. L., & Stinebrickner, T. R. (2007). Race, poverty, and teacher mobility. Economics of Education Review, 26(2), 145–159.


  • Thank you so much for this Alarm and Alert. Already, I have signed the letter and am forwarding this to my colleagues and students. As a former Educational Leadership Faculty member at UT – Arlington and as a Music Education-Teacher Credential graduate of Cal State Long Beach, I am especially heartened by the informative, enlightening, eloquent and impassioned commentary by Professors Bradley W. Davis and Juan Vasquez Heilig. Your young voices are encouraging to this retired, but still active school administrator, educational leadership professor, and teacher trainer. From Phillis Wheatley to Frederick Douglass to Carter G. Woodson and Charles Hamilton Houston to Edgar Epps and Paulo Freire to Ron Edmonds and Asa G. Hilliard, we have been hearing the same clarion calls about inequity, especially in education. It is good hear your current day voices added to that lineage.
    As we say in the McNeil Educational Foundation for Ecumenical Leadership, “Equity in Excellence for All” means something tangible to us. Of course, the socio-political-economic forces govern socio-cultural themes of American Schooling and its Leadership. However, we have always had school leaders who navigated and escorted students, teachers, parents, and socially conscious allies through this hostile educational environment. It is institutional. We have our own Texas Education Agency approved School Principal Certification Program to address directly address and practice applying Principal Competencies in an equitable manner. Please keep me involved in your network and I will follow your Cloaking Inequity blog. Our contact information is,


  • Excellent info. I’m forwarding.


  • Isn’t CCSSO a corporate developed entity financed by the leading testing and testing support organizations? How do their proclamations and standards have any real cache. People like the never was a teacher Jeb Bush acolyte, Hana Scandera is a director. Isn’t this just another Gates financed anti-public education institution pushing CC$$?


    • Your first question is a very good one. The standards’ impact flows through their influence on the ELCC standards, which in turn guide the content and accreditation of leadership preparation programs across the country. It could be argued that the ISLLC standards determine what is taught to aspiring leaders.


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