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School Leadership in a Diverse Society: Helping Schools Prepare All Students for Success

reviewed by Whitney Sherman Newcomb - December 21, 2014

coverTitle: School Leadership in a Diverse Society: Helping Schools Prepare All Students for Success
Author(s): Carlos R. McCray & Floyd D. Beachum
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623965292, Pages: 168, Year: 2013
Search for book at Amazon.com

The influence of leadership behavior on school inequity and the crucial relationship between the politics of education and the politics of oppression (Adams, 2000) has gained increasing attention. An equity orientation to leadership education scholarship and practice addresses “how institutionalized theories, norms, and practice in schools and society lead to social, economic, and educational inequities” (Dantley & Tillman, 2006). In addition, according to Brown (2004), we need to "retool teaching and courses to address issues of power and privilege—to weave social justice into the fabric of educational leadership curriculum, pedagogy, programs, and policies" (p. 78). This is no easy feat: being moved to take action for equity and social justice requires taking a critical, systematic, and, most importantly, action-oriented approach toward dismantling structural barriers that facilitate inequity in education (Bogotch, 2005; Dantley & Tillman, 2006; Milner, 2007). In short,

The work of educational leadership for social justice requires hard work, imagination, and courage. It is work that engages the heart, mind, and body in ways that are exhilarating, yet highly stressful and physically exhausting. So much needs to be accomplished to transform schools into compassionate and just learning communities. (Shapiro, 2010)

For the contemporary school leader, this is all in a day's work.

In their book, McCray and Beachum tackle the above by taking a practical "out of the box" approach to creating equitable school environments by marrying notions of diversity and multicultural education with leadership development. According to McCray and Beachum, "If school leadership and diversity were integrated, there would be more evidence of equitable and social justice realities in and out of schools" (p. xiii). Furthermore, the authors maintain that there are "plentiful resources to diversity with regard to curriculum and pedagogy, but little information regarding diversity and school leadership" (p. xv). To alleviate this disconnect, McCray and Beachum structured their book to include a combination of diversity theory, how it applies to educational leadership practice, and case studies that illustrate authentic examples of diversity concepts in school settings.

We know that leaders are shaped by the contexts in which they lead; however, the reverse is also true—shouldn't the process be symbiotic? If it is important for leaders to collaboratively shape school environments by engaging with communities and setting the tone for equitable outcomes, then leadership preparation and development becomes crucial. As our school contexts continue to diversify, schools and leaders must evolve to embrace new perspectives and leadership techniques. In their book, McCray and Beachum advocate for multicultural education because they believe it enhances the sense of self not only for students of color, but for all students. The authors maintain that,

Just as school leaders can offer professional development dealing with teaching and learning, they should also offer training to faculty on how to ensure that the classroom is free from racial and class hostility, and on cultivating a climate conducive to empowering all students. (p. 21)

McCray and Beachum offer readers a detailed history of the origin of multicultural education. They outline how the development of alternative capital in students is vital for the development of equitable environments that recognize the gifts of all students, and how the empowerment of self development helps organizations maintain a competitive edge in a global environment. Throughout the book, the authors work to build bridges between their readers and themselves, between theory and practice, and between schools and their surrounding communities. For school leaders to form stronger relationships with students and communities, they encourage principals to be reflective in serving their communities, establish community networks, engage the community, lead action research in their settings with equity as the ongoing mindset, and become risk takers to meet the needs of students and communities (pp. 57–58).

According to the authors, leaders might begin the task of creating equitable school environments in which all students can succeed by leading from the perspective of a pedagogy of self development to include strategies of both self-realization and self-assertion. McCray and Beachum define self-realization as familiar capital in the form of content integration, resistant capital in the form of knowledge construction, and linguistic capital in the form of equity pedagogy. They define self-assertion as aspirational capital, social capital, and navigational capital (p. 17). According to Beachum and McCray, these strategies can be used to enhance all students, including students of color and other marginalized students.

Furthermore, the authors advocate for the practice of culturally relevant leadership. Culturally relevant leadership embraces three tenets: liberatory consciousness (raising awareness of equity issues); pluralistic insight (the examination of attitudes and biases to understand how a leader's attitudes toward students are important components of the educational process to ensure ethical decision making that is best for all students); and reflexive practice (ongoing reflection and action for increased student success). Philosophically, culturally relevant leadership is informed by culturally relevant pedagogy, where students must cultivate academic success, cultural competence, and critical consciousness in order to challenge the status quo (Ladson-Billings, 1994); advanced change theory, in which the change agent and current reality must align so that internal change will result in external change; and community uplift theory, or the valuing of and demand for individual and collective responsibility (Beachum, Obiakor, & McCray, 2007).

McCray and Beachum's approach of combining leadership development and action with multicultural education through the valuing and capitalizing of diverse voices is both innovative and practical. Their efforts to expand previous notions of multicultural education to include actual leadership preparation and practice demonstrate not only their passion for justice, but their progressive voice in shaping how equitable environments might actually take shape. They encourage, "a process of leadership that engages rather than ignores diversity, recognizes history and context, embeds significant knowledge in leaders so they may act with confidence, and promotes the facilitation of new ideas or frameworks in practice" (pp. xxiii-xxiv).


Adams, M. (2000). Reading for diversity and social justice: A general introduction. In M. Adams, et al., (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice (pp. 1-4). New York: Routledge.

Beachum, F. D., Obiakor, F. E., & McCray, C. R. (2007). Community uplift theory for positive change of African Americans in urban schools. In M. C. Brown & R. D. Bartee (Eds.), Still not equal: Expanding educational opportunities in society (pp. 269-278). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Bogotch, I.E. (2005). Social justice as an educational construct: Problems and possibilities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the University Council of Education Administration, Nashville, TN. November.

Brown, K. M. (2004). Leadership for social justice and equity: Weaving a transformative framework and pedagogy. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40, 79-110.

Dantley, M.E., & Tillman, L.C. (2006). Social justice and moral transformative leadership. In C. Marshall, & M. Oliva, (Eds.), Leadership for social justice: Making revolutions in education (pp. 16-30), Pearson Education: Boston, MA.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African-American students. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Milner, H.R. (2007).  Race, narrative inquiry, and self-study in curriculum and teacher education.  Education and Urban Society 39(4), 584-609.

Shapiro, L. (2010). Releasing emotion: Artmaking and leadership for social justice. In C. Marshall and M. Oliva (Eds.), Leadership for Social Justice: Making Revolutions in Education, (2nd ed.). Pearson Education: Boston, MA.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: December 21, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17795, Date Accessed: 5/24/2022 6:32:54 PM

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About the Author
  • Whitney Newcomb
    Virginia Commonwealth University
    E-mail Author
    WHITNEY SHERMAN NEWCOMB is a professor and coordinator of the Ph.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She teaches courses including social justice and equity in leadership, ethical leadership, school communication, instructional leadership, and leadership presence. She is the author of over 50 published journal articles and book chapters and three books. Dr. Newcomb's research interests include: leadership preparation and mentoring; women in leadership; social justice in leadership; and ethical leadership. Dr. Newcomb received the 2011 Distinguished Scholarship Award for VCU's School of Education for her contribution to research and the 2012 Distinguished Teaching Award for excellence in teaching. She was presented with the Emerald Literati Award for Excellence for the Outstanding Special Issue of 2011 for her work as guest editor of "Globalization: Expanding Horizons in Women's Leadership," a special issue of the Journal of Educational Administration. Dr. Newcomb also received the 2011 Social Justice Teaching Award from the Leadership for Social Justice SIG of the American Educational Research Association "for work that represents exemplary commitment to teaching that promotes social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the field of educational administration." She serves on the editorial boards of Educational Administration Quarterly and the Journal of School Leadership. Dr. Newcomb is also a co-editor for a book series on educational leadership for social justice published by Information Age.
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