Jason A. Grissom, Emily C. Kern, Luis A. Rodriguez
Apr 1, 2015
Bureaucratic representation—the idea that a governmental organization is better situated to serve its clients when its employee composition reflects that of its client population—has received considerable scholarly attention in the study of public institutions in the fields of political science and public administration. In a wide variety of settings, this research has demonstrated important connections between the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the public sector workforce and how different groups—particularly traditionally underserved groups—interact with street-level bureaucrats and benefit from public services. Although scholars in those fields long ago recognized that the public school system is a large bureaucracy with diverse street-level bureaucrats (teachers) and clients (students and parents) and thus began studying bureaucratic representation in the context of schools, the concept and the causal mechanisms it hypothesizes remain largely unfamiliar to education researchers. This article synthesizes the main ideas from the bureaucratic representation literature and demonstrates their applicability to schooling outcomes—including discipline, gifted assignment, special education, and student achievement—with the goal of opening up new avenues for education research into the mechanisms linking demographic similarity among educators and students to schooling outputs and outcomes.