Spotting problems and identifying obstacles in education is easy. Knowing what to do about them and turning a plan into action is much more difficult. In addition to the small, daily opportunities to be a problem solver, education leaders see the bigger picture and, as agents of change, take action to achieve results.
How Important Are School Leaders?
The National Institute for School Leadership has conducted extensive research on the importance of school leadership. Some of their findings include empirical evidence linking strong principals to positive student, teacher and school outcomes. They also found that effective leadership can actually turn around persistently low-performing schools. A principal's knowledge, disposition and actions can directly influence everything from retaining highly-qualified teachers to successful implementation of programs that improve school performance and learning.
School leaders shape school culture, which impacts every aspect of education. When leadership creates a positive climate, teachers, students, parents and the community all benefit and contribute to the successful implementation of change.
What Makes a School Leader Effective?
REL Mid-Atlantic published a fact sheet describing the characteristics of effective school leaders. To accomplish goals, effect change and bring visions to life, they cultivate leadership in others. They establish and communicate a clear vision to faculty, staff, students, parents and administrators, which encourages buy-in and provides support for improvement and change.
Effective school leaders are not only leaders of change for others, but they are also able to adapt to change and make adjustments themselves. In some cases, it may even be necessary to scrap a plan entirely and start over. A good leader recognizes that.
What is An Agent of Change?
Members of the Chicago Education Pioneers alumni board were asked recently to define what it means to be an agent of change in education. Among the definitions submitted, there was agreement that an agent of change is a transformational leader who identifies areas of need and takes action to address those needs. "This person is someone who listens to the people in the community where the issue exists and makes sure that they truly understand the root of the problem before implementing a new idea. This person is someone who is willing to take risks and doesn’t always claim to know the answer. They are willing to ask hard questions and help find creative solutions. An agent of change has the courage to think outside the box and makes an impact that is greater than themself."
A recent article from TeachThought provides some critical advice for education leaders ready to make a significant change within a school environment: Encourage faculty and staff to provide input. Cultivating a sense of ownership among teachers and staff will result in more successful change implementation.
People become more comfortable as change becomes a part of school culture. Starting with small changes is helpful. Dealing with setbacks is critical. And imposing or forcing change from a position of leadership when staff members are uncomfortable can doom any project from the beginning.
In short, education leaders and administrators can achieve and manage significant changes by:
- Learning how to build collaborative teams
- Seeking and incorporating input from others
- Being flexible and capable of adapting
Becoming an Effective School Leader
Even leaders with the best intentions and a clear vision need training and experience to become effective. Fitchburg State University offers a fully online program for professionals who want to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to lead collaboratively and manage effectively.
Fitchburg State's online Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Management program is designed to expand your competency as a leader, introducing you to a variety of managerial skills you will need to be successful in your career as an educational leader.
This 33-credit-hour program includes studies in promoting success for culturally and linguistically diverse learners, education law, strategies for effective administrators, using data to improve student learning, school-community partnerships, and leading the change process. Courses also cover managing human resources and budget development; curriculum, instruction and assessment; managing professional development; educational technology; and researching topics that are shaping education today.
Graduates of Fitchburg State's non-licensure M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Management online program are prepared for a broad range of administrative and leadership roles either in or outside of the classroom.
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