There can be no question that the education system in the US is facing significant challenges, from the continuing aftermath of the Covid pandemic to various funding issues, and a mental health crisis in many student populations. Yet it is also true that the best and most inspirational leaders thrive in difficult times, and fortunately, there is no shortage of such inspirational people in the educational field. In this article, we look at how one particular qualification, the Ed.D., is helping to prepare the next generation of leaders to build a brighter future in both public and private education. In addition, we also examine the kind of career options available to someone who completes a Doctorate of Education, as well as some of the best ways to drive change in the field of education.
The first step to leadership
The Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) is a postgraduate degree designed to provide educators with the highest possible level of leadership skills. Though this kind of course is open to all trained teachers, it is typically taken by experienced educators who would like to develop their knowledge and abilities further. An Ed.D. in Education and Leadership from Rockhurst University, for example, not only provides students with a thorough grounding in key strategies and theories related to modern education but it also gives them the opportunity to specialize in organizational leadership.
Graduates of this kind of course emerge with a deep knowledge of historical and modern educational frameworks as well as an improved understanding of the major issues shaping the modern educational landscape. In addition, students are also trained to become thought leaders who learn how to implement best practices based on sophisticated learning theory, while the course also looks at how to develop engaged teams and promote an innovative culture through unique leadership strategies. In addition, courses such as the one at Rockhurst are available 100% online, providing a high level of flexibility that makes them the ideal choice for students who have existing work or family commitments.
Plenty of options available
Ed.D. graduates can later go into a wide range of professions related to education, including in healthcare facilities, the corporate world, and higher education. At the same time, many will work in primary or secondary education and seek out leadership positions, such as a head of department or school principal, where they can put their knowledge to good use.
Leaders are, of course, essential for any institution that wants to drive change forward. If, for example, a particular school wants to improve its overall level of academic results or improve diversity in its staff profile, it takes far more than just setting the targets and watching it happen. In most cases, it is necessary to undergo a major exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system before identifying genuine, workable strategies for making improvements that will actually make a difference.
Then comes the hardest part – working to encourage buy-in at every level of the institution, from teachers and students to administrators, parents, and backroom staff, to ensure that the program is a success. Indeed, to achieve real change, every leader must first acknowledge and truly understand the complexity of the educational environment, where each stakeholder has different responsibilities and motivations that must be taken into account.
Sharing ideas to instigate change
The best leaders are involved at every stage of this process, not only coming up with their own suggestions and ideas but also having the patience and humility to listen to a wide range of viewpoints and the skill to develop various concepts into a consistent whole. They also have to be able not only to create the original plan in the first place but also to work hard to ensure its implementation, monitor outcomes, and make any eventual improvements.
In addition to becoming department heads or principals, some graduates might also go on to work as district administrators, where they are typically responsible for working on issues of policy, process development and evaluation systems across all of the schools in the given district. Although many of the skills and duties will be similar to those of a school principal, district administrators may have the opportunity to achieve more widespread policy reform by implementing change across a number of institutions.
Naturally, there are both drawbacks and advantages to working at this level. In many cases, it might be harder to introduce such changes as implementing more meaningful feedback for students, tackling issues of racism or discrimination, or promoting positive mental health when faced with several different schools and many different perspectives. At the same time, any change that is successfully implemented will be even more meaningful and may even spread to regional or national use.
The pathway to a better future
Whatever the specific role that an Ed.D. graduate takes on, it is likely to be highly engaging. As mentioned above, education is a multifaceted world, and to instigate real change, leaders need to be not only extremely driven and determined to make things happen but also to have the first-class communication skills required to convey the importance of any change, a sophisticated understanding of the strategies and theoretical background needed to steer the change in the right direction, and also the empathy to deal with the perspectives and viewpoints of an incredibly diverse range of people.
Fortunately, as well as having access to the kinds of higher educational courses that specifically teach and develop the kind of skills needed to thrive in a leadership position, the school leaders of the future also have access to a wealth of other information, with everything from webinars and online courses to leadership conferences and major professional associations within their grasp. From there, all they need to do is reach out and grab the opportunities that come their way. And judging by the number of people applying for leadership positions in schools and other institutes, that is exactly what is happening. In other words, the future of education in the US looks to be in good hands.