Education Week – Recruiting Asian American School Leaders: Tips From Educators

February 28, 2023

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up a tiny sliver of the share of public school principals—slightly more than 1 percent.

Yet a lot of the research looking at how to boost and retain school leaders of color—and to a broader extent educators of color—is rooted in what may attract those who are Black and Hispanic to the field.

But if the goal is to increase the number of leaders of color in K-12 as student enrollment becomes increasingly more diverse, how can states, schools, and district leaders recruit more Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to the profession and keep them? In 2021, Asian American students represented 5.4 percent of K-12 public school enrollment nationally.

Education Week spoke with fourAsian American school leaders about their career paths, what worked for them, and what recruiters should do if they want to attract Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, some of whom may not even be thinking about education as a career path.

A few things they made clear: the AAPI community is not a monolith, so a one-size-fits-all strategy won’t work, and some of the same approaches that work for other groups—financial incentives, better pay, on-the-job-supports, and alternative pathways—will also be effective.

Understand the cultural headwinds

Education may not be the first option for many first-generation AAPI students.

Amanda Tran, the principal of KIPP Vida Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, grew up in Columbus, Ind., and spent most of her youth thinking that she would go into medicine. Her parents, refugees from Vietnam, wanted stability and safety for their family, and nudged Tran and her sibling into professions that would provide that, she said.

Shara Hegde, the chief executive officer of Alpha Public Schools in San Jose, Calif., who is Indian American, said her parents wanted her to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer. In fact, she was pursuing law before taking a detour into education. And Hong Ha Hoang, a Vietnamese-American and an activities director at East Side Union High School District in San Jose, Calif., had already been accepted into medical school when she decided to take a spring break trip to teach on a Native American reservation.

Tran remembers the difficult conversations with her parents, who worried about whether she’d be able to support herself.

“‘Is that a stable pathway? Will you be making enough money to sustain yourself?’” she said. “I now know where a lot of fears came from, and it came from my own family’s experience, having given up everything they have ever known to provide safety and stability for their children. That was always top of mind. It also came from not having the knowledge and understanding [of the education profession]. No one in my family had forged this pathway, and so it felt scary for them.”

Shara Hegde

Understanding that many first-generation Asian Americans have to navigate that complicated dynamic is important. Schools can rely on other AAPI leaders who’ve forged that path to help would-be educators with the difficult—and sometimes years-long—discussions that may follow.

It took years for Hoang’s parents to understand why she chose education, she said.

“They respect my decision; they can see that I am happy where I am,” she said. “But it wasn’t in their minds before, and I think that can be a struggle for a lot of Asian educators. It’s the whole, ‘What does success look like in our family’s paradigm?’”

Read Full Article – EducationWeek


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