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AN ANALYSIS OF

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE
PUBLIC SCHOOL
SUPERINTENDENCY
A Dissertation Defense
By Gary D. Bates
Committee: William Allan Kritsonis, PhD
Ben C. DeSpain, EdD
Douglas Hermond, PhD
David Herrington, PhD
Camille Gibson, PhD
PhD Program in Educational Leadership
Prairie View A&M University
February 2007

Dissertation Defense Format
I.
Purpose of Study
II.
Significance of the Study
III. Quantitative Research Questions
IV. Quantitative Research Design
V. Quantitative Major Findings &
Review of Literature
VI. Qualitative Research Questions
VII. Qualitative Research Design
VIII. Qualitative Major Findings
IX. Conclusions
X. Recommendations

Purpose of the Study
The primary purpose of
this investigation was to
study what factors
contributed to an African
American becoming a
school superintendent
and retaining that
position.

Purpose of the Study (Cont.)
This study also sought to
discern whether African
American superintendents
perceive race as a barrier
in obtaining the
superintendency

Purpose of the Study (Cont.)
A secondary purpose of this
study was to discover if there
is a difference in perceptions
between African American
superintendents,
superintendents who
participated in the 2000
AASA study, and African
American superintendents
that participated in Williams’
study of 1984.

Purpose of the Study (Cont.)
The third purpose of this
study was to create a
profile of a successful
African American school
superintendent to assist
potential African
American superintendents
in their endeavor of
becoming a leader in
education.

Significance of the Study
This study described
aspects of the African
American school
superintendency from
past to present and adds
to the limited but growing
body of research
concerning African
American school
superintendents.

Quantitative Data

Research Questions
Quantitative
1. What are the personal
characteristics of
currently employed
African American school
superintendents?

Research Questions
Quantitative
2. Is there a significant
difference in the
frequencies of the top five
ranked factors that inhibit
effectiveness of all
superintendents in the
2000 AASA study and the
responses of African
American superintendents
in 2006?

Null Hypothesis
H01-There will be no
statistically significant
difference in the
frequencies of the top five
ranked factors that inhibit
effectiveness of all
superintendents in the 2000
AASA study and the
responses of African
American superintendents
in 2006.

Research Questions
Quantitative
3. Is there a significant
difference in the
frequencies of the factors
encountered en route to
the superintendency by
African American
superintendents in the
early 1980’s and African
American
superintendents in 2006?

Null Hypothesis
H02-There will be no statistical
significant difference in the
frequencies of the factors
encountered en route to the
superintendency by African
American superintendents
in early 1980’s and African
American superintendents
in 2006.

Research Design
Quantitative
Instrument
Survey-Three Question Types
– Ranking
– Likert Type
– Descriptive/Explanatory

Research Design
Quantitative

Pilot Study - Survey
A pilot study was conducted
using simple random sample
of size 30.
The pilot participants were not a
part of the actual study.
An item analysis was applied on
the data and a Cronbach’s
alpha coefficient of .84 was
obtained.

Research Design
Quantitative

Survey
Target Population
– African American Public
School Superintendents
– 50 States
Sample
– Simple Random Sample
– 61 Participants
– Return rate of 37%

Research Design
Descriptive Statistics
Demographics





Age
Gender
Educational details
Yrs Experience
Career details
Ethnicity of students

Research Design
Hypothesi
s

Stat Method

Ind. Variable

Dep.
Variable

H01

Chi-Square

significance of
each challenge

frequency

H02

Chi-Square

factors
encountered en
route

frequency

Factor for Both Tests: Year of Study

Major Findings
Research Question 1

Quantitative
What are the personal characteristics
of currently employed African
American school superintendents?
• 67.2% (n=41) male and
32.8% (n=20) female
• Median age was in the 55–59
group

Major Findings
Research Question 1

Quantitative

0% (n=0)
bachelors degree
14.8% (n=9) masters degree
16.4% (n=10) working on doctoral
coursework
68.8% (n=42) doctorate
• Employed as a superintendent mean of 5.29 years
• 61.1% (n=36) districts lead by the
sample have a majority (over 50%) of
black students

Research Question 1 Literature
Review
Williams
(1984) found that African
Quantitative
American superintendents typically
had an African American population
slightly over 70% of the total
district enrollment.
In 2000, the average respondent had
served an average of 8.75 years as
superintendent according to the
American Association of School
Administrators 2000 study (Glass et
al. 2000). Williams (1984) found
that Black superintendents served
an average of 5.8 years.

Research Question 1 Literature
Review
• Superintendents
Quantitative that held a
doctorate degree comprised 45% of
all superintendents (Glass et al.
2000).
• In 1984, Williams (1984) found that
62.7% of African American
superintendents held a doctorate
degree.
• 2000 study, Glass reported that the
median age group was 51-55 (Glass
et al. 2000).
• Williams (1984) found that the
median age group was 45-49.

Research Question 1 Literature
Review
The
2000 American Association of
Quantitative
School Administrators study
reported that male
superintendents comprised
86.8% of the respondents while
13.2% were female (Glass et al.
2000).
Williams (1984) found in 1984 that
88.5% of his respondents were
male while 11.5% were female.

Major Findings
Research Question 2

Quantitative
Is there a statistically significant
difference in the frequencies
of the top five ranked factors
that inhibit effectiveness of all
superintendents in the 2000
AASA study and the responses
of African American
superintendents in 2006?

Major Findings
Research Question 2
H01 There will be no statistically
significant difference between
the frequencies of the top five
ranked factors that inhibited
effectiveness between all
superintendents in the 2000 AASA
study and the responses of
African American superintendents
in 2006.

Major Findings
Research Question 2

Quantitative
Respondents were asked to rank
18 factors that inhibit
effectiveness in order of
importance.
After completing a Chi Square it
was found that the null
hypothesis was rejected based
on an alpha of p ≤ .05.

Major Findings
Research Question 2

Quantitative
The top five ranked factors in 2006
were:
1. Accountability/Creditability
2. Compliance with State and
Federal Mandates
3. Assessing Education Outcomes
4. Financing Schools
5. Teacher Recruitment/Selection

Major Findings
Research Question 3

Quantitative
Is there a statistically
significant difference
between the frequencies of
the factors encountered en
route to the superintendency
by African American
superintendents in early
1980’s and African American
superintendents in 2006?

Major Findings
Research Question 3

H02 There will be no
statistically significant
difference between the
frequencies of the factors
encountered en route to the
superintendency by African
American superintendents in
the early 1980’s and African
American superintendents in
2006.

Major Findings
Research Question 3

Quantitative
African American public school
superintendents were given a
list of 16 factors encountered en
route to the superintendency to
rate on a Likert-type scale from
1 – 4 (1 meaning none to 4
meaning great).
These frequencies were compared
with the 1984 data.

Major Findings
Research Question 3

Quantitative
Eight out of sixteen of the
identified factors encountered
en route to the
superintendency had a
significance of p<.05, thus
rejecting H02.

Major Findings
Research Question 3

Quantitative
In 13 out 16 cases, the
percentages of the factors
affecting them decreased.
The findings show that the
feelings of the African American
superintendents have changed
significantly from 1984.

Qualitative Data

Research Questions
Qualitative
1. What are the problems in
leading a school district
identified by African
American school
superintendents? Is race
a factor?

Research Questions
Qualitative
2. What are the barriers to
career advancement for
African Americans in the
superintendency?

Research Questions
Qualitative
3. What qualities or
characteristics are vital
to the success of an
African American school
superintendent?

Research Design – Qualitative
Interviews
Target Population
– African American Public
School Superintendents
– 50 States
Sample
– Simple Random Sample
– 28 Participants

Research Design - Qualitative
Interviews
Pilot Study
The interview questions and
guided conversation approach
was piloted to establish that
the questions were clearly
worded and for the interviewer
to practice the techniques of
the interview process. A pilot
study was conducted using 5
African American
superintendents.

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative
1. What would you define as
the challenges public school
superintendents face,
particularly the ones of
African American descent?
In your opinion do all
superintendents face these
issues? In your opinion do
you believe that race plays
a major role in these issues?

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative

2. What qualities or
characteristics do you think
a successful African
American superintendent
should possess? Would you
say that these traits are
needed by all
superintendents? What
traits would be most
important for African
American superintendents?

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative

3. Describe the type of
networking that occurs in
your state that assists in
the advancement of
superintendents? Does this
network assist African
American superintendents?
Do you believe that there is
a need for an upward
mobility network to assist
African Americans in
becoming superintendents?

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative

4. What is the ethnic
breakdown of your district?
If the majority population is
African American, is
working in this district your
choice? If you had the
choice of working in a
district comprised of a
majority African American
population or a more
diverse population which
would you choose? Why?

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative

5. What advice were you
given as a first year
superintendent that helped
you the most?

Research Design
Interview – Qualitative

6. What advice would you
give a first year
superintendent?

Research Design
Data Analysis – Qualitative
• Emergent category
designation
• Peer Debriefing
• Triangulation

Research Design
Emergent category designation
involves taking the data and
sorting them into categories of
ideas. This allows themes of
ideas to exist intuitively based
on the data given. Qualitative
data coded accordingly to
common themes were
analyzed for recurring and
emergent themes.

Major Findings
Research Question 4
Qualitative
What are the problems in leading a
school district identified by African
American school superintendents?
Is race a factor?

Major Findings
Research Question 4

Qualitative
Emergent themes regarding the
challenges facing public school
superintendents, particularly
the ones of African American
descent were funding,
accountability, achievement
gaps, low social economic
status, low perception, and
challenging districts.

Major Findings
Research Question 4

Qualitative
A majority of African American
superintendents thought that
race plays a role but it takes a
backseat to the role of the
economic status of their
students.

Major Findings
Research Question 5

Qualitative
What are the barriers to career
advancement for African
Americans in the
superintendency?

Major Findings
Research Question 5

Qualitative
One major barrier to career
advancement is considered to
be the lack of upward mobility
associations for
superintendents in general
but especially for African
American public school
superintendents.

Major Findings
Research Question 5

Qualitative
The main barrier for many African
American public school
superintendents was the lack of
available districts to which they
felt were open for them to
apply.

Major Findings
Research Question 6

Qualitative
What qualities or characteristics
are vital to the success of an
African American
superintendent?

Major Findings
Research Question 6

Qualitative
Emergent themes regarding
qualities or characteristics that
a successful African American
superintendent should possess
were integrity, curriculum and
instruction, communication,
politics, working with people,
personable, financial
knowledge, leadership,
statistics/research, and passion.

Recommendations
• A formal organization be
established in each state to
assist African Americans
specifically in the pursuit of
the superintendency.
• A formal organization be
established nationally by
district demographics for all
superintendents to gain
multiple perspectives on
educational and social issues.

Recommendations
• For African Americans in the
pursuit of the superintendency,
create relationships with other
African American
administrators and possibly
find a mentor that is currently
an African American
superintendent.

Recommendations
• For African Americans in the
pursuit of the superintendency
it is suggested that additional
educational training should be
pursued in the areas of public
speaking, governance, and
written communication.

Recommendations for Further
Study

• A national study to compare
African American
superintendents with similar
size districts to determine if
the perceptions of challenges
and barriers are similar.

Recommendations for Further
Study
• A national study to
compare African American
superintendents by
national geographic
regions to determine if
the perceptions of
challenges and barriers
are similar.

Recommendations for Further
Study

• A national study of both
African American
superintendents and their
school boards using surveys
and interviews to determine
the perceptions of the
expectations of an African
American superintendent.

Recommendations for Further
Study
• A national longevity study
over a period of five to ten
years, tracking the number
of African American
superintendents and the
mobility of African American
superintendents to verify
that the actual number of
African American
superintendent is growing
or declining.

Recommendations for Further
Study
• A national study of
African American
ex/retired
superintendents to
determine their reasons
for vacating the
superintendency.

Conclusions
• Aspiring African American
superintendents must possess
great communication skills both
written and oral, high morals,
the ability to influence
individuals, and they must be
well versed in all aspects of
running a school district.

Conclusions
• A great significance in change
of perceptions of African
American superintendents
between 1984 and now was
found using a Chi Square.
Superintendents currently feel
that discrimination does not
play a major role in the daily
operations of leading a school
district.

Conclusions
• The major challenge faced was
not their race, but that a
majority of their districts
contained a high percentage of
low socioeconomic students.
• The perceptions among African
American superintendents is
that their race prevents them
from being selected for a
majority of available
superintendent positions.

Conclusions
• African American
superintendents in 2006 had
different perceptions than the
superintendents surveyed in
2000 and African American
superintendents surveyed in
1984.

AN ANALYSIS OF
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE
PUBLIC SCHOOL
SUPERINTENDENCY
Gary D. Bates
Prairie View A&M University
February 2007