Many experienced educators at the elementary, middle and high school levels seek advancement opportunities in school leadership. Some informal positions at the building level, such as team leaders and mentors, require only the desire to lead and the know-how to improve the educational experience for teachers, staff and students.

To become a building principal, however, dedicated educators must earn an advanced degree that includes coursework in human resources, legal issues and ethics of leadership, research, building management and the unique responsibilities of building leaders. The online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Leadership program from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) offers in-depth studies in these areas, preparing graduates to qualify for and excel in school leadership positions.

School Leadership in Michigan

In 2020, Michigan’s State Board of Education updated and approved the most recent iteration of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan. The vision of this strategic plan is as follows: “Every learner in Michigan’s public schools will have an inspiring, engaging, and caring learning environment that fosters creative and critical thinkers who believe in their ability to positively influence Michigan and the world beyond.”

The plan includes six guiding principles and eight strategic goals, covering areas like expanding early childhood learning opportunities, increasing graduation rates, improving literacy achievement and addressing certified teacher shortages. Annual reports use specific metrics to measure success and progress toward achieving the plan’s goals. In addition, as part of the plan, the Michigan Department of Education partnered with the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators to promote innovation and collaboration in the sharing of promising practices.

Progress toward realizing the plan’s goals and increasing collaboration relies on the entire educational community. School leaders play an integral role in strategy development, implementation, support, and community engagement. Leadership also provides guidance and empowers teachers to align classroom practices with plan principles, working together to achieve shared goals.

School Administrator Requirements in Michigan

Acquiring the skills to provide exceptional leadership and meet these goals requires rigorous training and preparation. According to the Michigan Department of Education, requirements for the “traditional” pathway toward receiving a school administrator certificate include:

  • A master’s degree or higher in educational leadership or administration from a regionally accredited college or university
  • Completion of an approved administrator preparation program

Program Requirements

The National Policy Board for Education Administration (NPBEA) approved the National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) standards, which help “guide program design, accreditation review, and state program approval.” These standards, formerly known as the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) standards, align with the NPBEA-approved Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL). NELP program recognition at the building level maintains, “Candidates who successfully complete a building-level educational leadership program understand and demonstrate the capacity to promote” goal components of the following eight standards:

  • Mission, Vision and Improvement
  • Ethics and Professional Norms
  • Equity, Inclusiveness, and Cultural Responsiveness
  • Learning and Instruction
  • Community and External Leadership
  • Operations and Management
  • Building Professional Capacity
  • Internship

When selecting a master’s degree program for advancement into educational leadership, it is vital to choose a program like the one offered by EMU. This 100% online program aligns with NELP standards and will qualify graduates for the building-level principal license in Michigan.

Educational Leadership Program Details

Working in today’s educational field requires creativity, passion, knowledge and commitment. An administrative position in the field adds additional responsibilities, such as leadership and research skills and the ability to manage people, projects and facilities.

The online M.A. in Educational Leadership program from EMU provides educators with the necessary training to become a successful building leader, principal or assistant principal.

In the area of leadership skills, coursework includes topics like:

  • Leadership in a pluralistic society, examining the sociopolitical context of schools and group dynamics
  • Supervising instructional programs and professional growth
  • Legal and ethical issues, as well as professionalism in educational leadership

Several courses strengthen these research and data-use skills:

  • Contemporary educational research
  • The role of principalship in research-driven decisions and data-driven instructions

These management skills are outlined and discussed in several classes:

  • Managing and motivating staff members and handling conflict
  • Working within the parameters of a larger bureaucracy
  • Economics of schools in the public education system, including fiscal responsibility, tax structures, state and federal aid issues, and responsible budgeting practices
  • Understanding the complexities of human resources
  • Creating a strong learning environment by leading with integrity

Educators seeking to make important changes to the state of education can do so by becoming exceptional school leaders. Through earning an M.A. in Educational Leadership degree, these educators can develop the professional leadership, research and management proficiencies needed to excel as school leaders and improve culture and achievement at their schools.

Learn more about the EMU online M.A. in Educational Leadership program.