Education Specialist in K-12 Leadership

Becoming an educational leader takes time and experience. Many teachers agree that administrators should spend some time in the classroom before they venture into leadership positions. This provides them the insight to understand how classroom decisions are made, what teachers are doing and the struggles they face in educating. Most states and school systems require that, prior to becoming an educational leader a candidate must show at least one year of classroom experience.

Therefore, students in educational leadership classes tend to be teachers who have been working at least a year in their respective positions and are returning to school for a master’s degree. Most systems require teachers to have a master’s degree before applying for administrative jobs, although some schools do promote teachers from within to positions such as department heads or organizational directors. However, students may find that they are better served in seeking a six-year or specialist degree in leadership, which is a higher level than a master’s.

What Do Educational Leaders Do?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, elementary and high school principals typically have the following job duties:

  • Supervise teachers and staff, including counselors and librarians
  • Observe teachers and give feedback on classroom work
  • Assist teachers in monitoring their level of performance and improvement
  • Arrange professional development programs
  • Procure materials and resources for teachers
  • Provide student discipline
  • Review data and test scores to assess school progress
  • Manage school budgets
  • Review and implement safety procedures

Other educational leaders may have duties that involve county, regional or state levels of responsibility. These county-wide or state-wide administrators often work at a central office and make decisions for a large number of schools. Their duties can include:

  • Purchasing decisions about curriculum and materials
  • Supervision of use of inter-school resources
  • Management of personnel, salaries, and benefits
  • Decision-making about school plants and facilities
  • Grant writing to secure funding for school projects
  • Management of county-wide or state-wide test data

What Is an Educational Leadership Degree?

Educational leadership is most often a master’s degree conferred through an educational department of a college. It usually consists of between 27 and 36 semester hours of credit in classes such as educational law, leadership skills, and educational theory. Many educational leaders who want to secure promotions go back to school to pursue a higher degree in education. For a six-year or specialist degree, this includes an additional 27 hours of coursework with a capstone project. This is often the highest degree an educational leader attains. However, a few also go on to take a doctoral degree. This involves approximately 54 additional hours of class work along with an original dissertation project.

Candidates for these degrees are most often teachers, although some with bachelor’s degrees in other fields do come into these programs in order to move from some other field into educational leadership.

Before securing employment in an educational leadership position, most states require candidates to pass an additional certification exam that tests their knowledge of educational leadership skills. Candidates must have this certificate to be considered for most leadership jobs. Like a teaching certificate, an educational leadership certificate must be renewed periodically with proof of professional development, further testing, or both.

What Is The Job Outlook for Educational Leaders in K-12?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be a ten percent job growth for administrators and principals in K through 12 schools between 2010 and 2020. The states with the highest levels of employment are Texas, California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Vermont and West Virginia have the highest ratio of administrators to students, while New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have the highest pay grades.

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Leaving the Classroom for Leadership?

Teachers must weigh the decision carefully to become a leader in the educational field. Some teachers simply do not desire the extra responsibility or feel they can make more difference in the classroom. These teachers may actually function in leadership roles as group or department leaders without the additional education or pay.

On the other hand, there are advantages to becoming an educational leader. This degree entitles recipients to jobs that carry more responsibility and higher pay. There is also a better opportunity to move up in the educational system for those who are educational leaders than for classroom teachers.

Becoming an educational leader takes time and hard work, but the rewards can be great for those who want to pursue the high calling of education with the promise of good salary, benefits, and job promotion possibilities.

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