New Penn State online program prepares teachers for leadership roles

The graduate program in educational leadership–teacher leadership option will enable educators to acquire the knowledge and skills they need in a convenient online format

University Park, Pa. — Educational leadership in the preK–12 arena is no longer solely the responsibility of school principals and superintendents. Today, teacher leaders are needed in the classroom and in other roles to help students keep pace with academic achievement goals. Growth in enrollment of school-aged children coupled with teacher retirements will create 13 percent employment growth for teachers through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To help teachers who want to become leaders, Penn State has a new master of education in educational leadership–teacher leadership option delivered entirely online.

"The demands on teachers' time are intense," said Nona A. Prestine, professor of education and lead professor for the new College of Education master's degree program. "The rise of the standards and accountability movement, specifically the No Child Left Behind legislation, has placed enormous pressure on schools and districts to meet ever-rising yearly progress expectations for student achievement. Today, the leadership of teachers is acknowledged as a vibrant and essential feature of any significant and sustainable school improvement effort."

In response to these demands, Penn State Educational Leadership Program faculty developed the teacher leadership option for online delivery through Penn State's World Campus. The master of education in educational leadership–teacher leadership option provides opportunities and experiences for teachers to develop their leadership potential; deepen their knowledge of schools, teachers and student learning; and renew a passion for their work on behalf of public education in a democratic society.

Penn State's 30-credit program is organized around five strands of leadership -- the exercise of responsible influence; understanding the internal organization of schools and connections with parents and the community; support of ongoing professional growth and development; support of curriculum, instruction and assessment practices; and practice-based inquiry grounded in reflection and action research -- that thread through and connect all parts of the program.

Patricia Best developed the How Schools Work course specifically for the teacher leadership option. She spent more than 30 years in education, including 10 years as superintendent of the State College Area School District, before retiring in 2009 and joining the College of Education as adjunct associate professor of education.

"I believe that the three processes of examination, reflection and application result in robust learning and teaching," Best said. "It is that focus that I am bringing to this course. Those who aspire to educational leadership in the classroom need to be both successful learners themselves, as well as having experienced the effort and challenges of learning that many of their students will experience. Effective teacher leaders play a pivotal role in student learning and well being, not only in their classrooms but also in their school systems."

Courses are Act 48 approved for Pennsylvania teachers. The College of Education's reciprocity agreements with other states make Penn State credits acceptable for teacher professional development.

Applications are now being accepted for the master of education in educational leadership–teacher leadership option program, which begins in fall 2011.

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Last Updated June 14, 2011