Leadership Challenges in Addressing Changing Demographics in Schools

Jean Madsen, Reitumetse Mabokela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Principals who lead demographically diverse schools play an important role in changing the dynamics that often occur in these contexts. Consequently, principals must have the leadership skills to revolutionize teachers' belief systems. Their energies are consumed with reshaping teachers' instructional practices and focusing on improving student expectations. Teachers may oppose modification of their teaching practices due to fears of letting go of familiar ways of teaching. The inability to influence teachers will result in continual problems of low expectations, unfair discipline practices, and poor student performance.This study focused on (a) how principals perceived their leadership in responding to their schools' changing demographics, and (b) the challenges they experienced in attempting to mediate across school groups. Administrators often questioned their leadership capacity in how to mediate racial differences that occurred in their schools as their student demographics changed. Findings revealed that European American leaders forwarded their responsibilities to the teachers of color, which resulted in ongoing tensions surrounding students of color. African American leaders fell into stereotypical roles, in which they were perceived as being hired to be the disciplinarian and having to prove their expertise on instructional and curriculum issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-96
Number of pages22
JournalNASSP Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • intergroup conflict
  • leadership
  • teacher conflicts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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