Cell divisions generating daughter cells different in size, shape, identity, and function are indispensable for many developmental processes including fate specification, tissue patterning, and self-renewal. In animals and yeast, perturbations in factors required for well-described asymmetric cell divisions generally yield cells of equal fate. Here we report on SCHIZORIZA (SCZ), a single nuclear factor with homology to heat-shock transcription factors that controls the separation of cell fate in a set of stem cells generating different root tissues: root cap, epidermis, cortex, and endodermis. Loss-of-function, expression, and reconstitution experiments indicate that SCZ acts mainly from within its cortical expression domain in the stem cell niche, exerting both autonomous and nonautonomous effects to specify cortex identity and control the separation of cell fates in surrounding layers. Thus, SCZ defines a novel pathway for asymmetric cell division in plants.