November 2, 2023

New Brief: Trends in State Superintendent Selection by Governors & Boards

New Brief: Trends in State Superintendent Selection by Governors & Boards

The modern chief state school officer or state superintendent of education plays a powerful role in shaping not just state education systems and policies, but also how districts operate, and how students learn.  

ILO Group’s latest research brief takes a look at who governors and state boards of education are choosing for these top jobs and the trends that have emerged in the types of backgrounds appointees for these positions possess. Thirty-nine states (and DC) currently have governors or state boards of education with partisan affiliations who are responsible for state superintendent appointments. ILO researchers analyzed the last two state superintendents nominated by these 39 governors or elected boards from each state.  

Emergent trends from the analysis include:

  • Democratic-led states are choosing a district leader for the top education job more than half of the time.
  • Republicans are most likely to choose State Education Agency (SEA) administrators, but frequently also choose district leaders and individuals with political backgrounds for the top job.
  • Candidates with political backgrounds are increasingly being selected for top jobs and Republicans more frequently appoint leaders with political experience who are aligned with their policy priorities.
  • Over half of the last two state superintendents in each state were school district or state education agency leaders.

ILO Group, a women-founded national education strategy and policy firm, is a leader in research on gender and pay within the nation’s educational leadership, including the only publicly-available comprehensive analysis of who is leading the nation’s school districts and states, the Superintendent Research Project. ILO’s latest update from September builds on prior research which identified gender leadership gaps and gender pay gaps in educational leadership. 

In exploring trends in leadership selection and turnover, ILO is also examining selection practices at both the state and district leadership levels to determine what informs selection and changes in leadership.

View the full brief here.  

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