Individuals who take on leadership roles in education play a critical role in building better, more equitable education systems. Both classroom teachers and school administrators provide this leadership, impacting student lives in different but equally important ways.

Professionals motivated to transform communities through better education systems can spark that change. Insightful leaders help create stronger school, family, and community partnerships, elevate equity and understanding, and inform best practices for instructional leadership of diverse learners.

Merrimack College offers online certificate courses that can expand the knowledge and elevate the skills of those aspiring to leadership roles in education.

The online Teacher Leadership Certificate is designed for teachers who want to remain in the classroom while becoming educational leaders as team leaders, department heads, instructional coaches, or curriculum coordinators. The online Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in Educational Leadership offers professional training for educational leaders, including principals, district-level administrators, and teachers. The CAGS certificate is open to students with a master’s degree and at least three years of teaching or administration

Leadership Outside the Classroom

For administrators, significant shifts have occurred in the past 20 years in policy and research. These changes include multiple-measure teacher evaluation systems and increased attention to educational equity. Expectations have altered for principals and other school leaders on what they “need to know, how they spend their time, and the outcomes they pursue,” according to recent research from the Wallace Foundation, a national philanthropic organization focusing on education.

Advances in data analytics now enable researchers to quantify better the impact of school leadership on student outcomes. For example, longitudinal datasets can track thousands of principals and their schools over long periods, establishing the relationship between leadership and school performance.

Research from the Wallace Foundation in 2021 finds that replacing a below-average with an above-average elementary school principal results in an additional 2.9 months of math learning and 2.7 months of reading education for students annually.

Along those same lines, research from the United Kingdom finds that sustained school improvements often involve principals who can clearly understand, diagnose, and articulate a school’s needs. Using a “layered” approach, they systematically communicate and embed educational values in the school’s work, culture, and achievements.

Leadership in the Classroom

Teacher leadership involves teachers, either individually or collectively, influencing peers and school administrators to improve teaching and learning practices. Because of its importance, there is a wealth of available research into teacher leadership.

For example, the School Leadership Counts report from the New Teacher’s Center finds that students do better in schools with the highest instructional and teacher leadership levels. Based on a survey of 900,000 teachers in 16 states, the report calls for schools to “include teachers on the school leadership team with a clear role in determining the content of professional development.”

While research shows the importance of leadership skills for teachers, it’s also beneficial to the teachers themselves. The U.S. Department of Education reports that teachers identifying as leaders typically stay in the profession longer and significantly impact student achievement.

Merrimack College Education Leadership Certificates

Merrimack College offers two educational leadership certificate programs to help prepare professionals inside and outside the classroom for leadership roles in education. Teachers and administrators delve into educators’ current issues in Massachusetts and across the country in both programs.

The 16-credit, four-course Teacher Leadership Certificate allows teachers to complete the program in as little as one summer. Merrimack College does not require a master’s degree to qualify for the program. There is no application fee for the program, with four different start dates per year. Courses include:

  • School, Family and Community Partnerships
  • Leadership Through a Vision of School Improvement
  • Education Law & Policy
  • Leadership in Observing, Assessing, and Supporting Teacher Effectiveness
  • Critical Issues in Education

Students earning the Teacher Leadership Certificate can apply to the M.Ed. program and complete an additional 20 credits to earn their master’s in curriculum & instruction.

All students in the program complete core courses taught in the Teacher Leadership Certificate program. Upon core completion, students can tailor their focus on counseling, teaching, curriculum, administration, or any other aspect of school leadership. Choices include:

  • Advanced Leadership & Policy in Education
  • Education Law & Policy
  • School Finance & Operations
  • Instructional Leadership for Diverse Learners

Both programs align with Massachusetts PAL tasks for students seeking administrative licensure. Merrimack College also offers online bachelor’s degree completion and graduate education programs. They include an online Master of Education degree, initial licensures, add-on licensures, endorsements, and certificates.