Addressing the brown paradox: social justice principals leading high performing, Latino and economically disadvantaged high schools
Although the Latino population is the fastest growing minority group, their numbers are disproportionately underrepresented in high school and college graduation rates. They also experience the lowest academic achievement and standardized assessment scores when compared to their White and Black counterparts. Education is the vehicle by which minorities have an increased opportunity in both social and economic avenues. Thus, equity paradigms of education are important mechanisms that address inequalities contributing to the alarming trends experienced by Latinos. The purpose of this qualitative, multiple case study was to investigate how three social justice principals of Latino and economically disadvantaged majority high schools led their respective high performing campus. The study sought to address a gap in literature by exploring concrete examples used by each participant as they work to narrow the achievement gap at their campus and thus begin to address the Brown Paradox. These leaders are critical to the future of public education, thus the goal was to highlight how these principals use their beliefs and practices to lead their campuses. Social justice leadership theory guided the investigative process of the study. Purposeful sampling was used to select the participants with specific criteria. The primary source of data collection was through heuristic, semi-structured interviews. Each participant was interviewed once for a time span of three to four hours. A reflective journal and public documents were also used to collect data. A within case analysis in first cycle coding and a cross case analysis in second cycle coding were conducted to reveal key findings and implications. The Heart of Social Justice Leadership conceptual model was developed to illustrate the three themes: Passionate Leadership, Inclusive Leadership, and Instructional Leadership. The sub-themes were included in the model to demonstrate the interconnectedness among all components of the social justice leader. Within these tenants of Social Justice Leadership were implications for practice and policy that contribute to the implementation of equity praxis. Although the findings of this study are not generalizable, there is much to learn from social justice principals leading schools where Latino and economically disadvantaged students are thriving.