How can school leaders assure an equitable education for all students?

The Formation of Equity-Oriented District Leadership in Washington State

Katherine Rodela, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership, College of Education

Katherine C. Rodela is an assistant professor of education leadership at WSU Vancouver. She examines culture, leadership and equity in U.S. schools, particularly focused on Latino communities and families.

KatherineRodelaRodela is exploring the formation of “equity-oriented district leadership” knowledge, skills and dispositions among a cohort of students preparing to become superintendents. Equity-oriented district leadership strives to improve outcomes for all K-12 students by transforming educational systems, policies and practices.

Drawing on surveys, analysis of student work, in-depth interviews and site visits, the study represents a first step toward a groundbreaking longitudinal study of how leaders become equity-oriented, from certification program through district leadership.

Findings to date show that aspiring superintendent candidates build on their personal histories to inform their equity understandings and beliefs. In particular, significant personal encounters or experiences affect how participants understand equity issues related to poverty, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. Through in-depth interviews, research participants describe how their own experience of inequality, a relative’s, or those faced by former students early in their careers, influenced the way they make sense of equity discussions and policies as school leaders today.


Further research will continue to explore how understanding of equity impacts their work in schools and how they navigate Washington state’s changing educational policy environment, which has recently begun to focus specifically on equity related to graduation rates and disciplinary disparities.

With the preliminary data from her New Faculty Seed Grant, Rodela plans to apply for two grants as well as deepen her line of research related to community leadership. In addition, through her research with school leaders, she has observed that the role of parents is critical in how equity is pursued in school environments. She is working to build a parent leadership institute.

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