Today’s school systems are operating in a time of fast-changing resources, responsibilities and expectations. The educators who aspire to leadership positions – faculty at Michigan State University argue – need a different set of skills.
As they lead efforts to improve teaching and learning, superintendents and other district leaders should embrace the power of schools to reshape communities.
“One of our biggest failures is we don’t teach our leaders how to engage multiple stakeholders in solving problems,” said Professor Susan Printy, who coordinates the K-12 Educational Administration programs at MSU.
That’s one reason she and her colleagues will begin offering a newly designed degree program, a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, or Ed.D., this fall. Shorter and more structured than the traditional Ph.D., the three-year program was created to help Michigan prepare a new generation of advanced system-level administrators.
Educational leaders who know how to bring people together, create consensus about issues and take action.
“It’s actually an old idea, that schools should be an epicenter for community life and development,” said Professor David Arsen. “We’re aiming to develop skills for people who are committed to that mission.”
Over time, faculty members say the Ed.D. has real potential to influence thinking about educational change throughout the state. Each year, students will facilitate intensive summer forums on campus with stakeholders such as policymakers, parents and teachers. Instead of individual dissertations, they will work on group capstone projects intended to address a significant problem facing Michigan schools and communities.
The program is now in final stages of approval, and recruitment is underway.
“We need people who are bold, willing to step out when needed – to speak up,” said Printy. “School leaders can be powerful agents in a community. Teaching students how do that will be an important part of our program.”
A next step for educators with school-level leadership experience, the Ed.D. is oriented toward Michigan’s Central Office Administrator (COA) standards. The Department of Educational Administration will seek program approval for the credential in the fall. Courses will cover core knowledge of leadership for school operations, finance, curriculum, instruction and data analysis.
A national trend
MSU continues to offer the Ph.D. in Educational Administration, which is being redesigned to focus more intensively on research. The university previously offered an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in K-12 Educational Administration, but that program was discontinued in 2009.
There has been a resurgence of Ed.D. programs across the nation as prestigious schools of education– especially those involved with the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate – strive to strengthen how they prepare leading practitioners as well as leading scholars, which is typically the focus for Ph.D. programs.
Although Ed.D. students will share some courses with Ph.D. students at MSU, their program will follow a distinct design focused on civic engagement and practical applications. Up to 20 students will be enrolled in each cohort, with most expected to be working professionals attending part time.