Graduate Programs in Education Redesigned to Incorporate Teacher Leader Endorsement

Phil Rogers speaks at news conference

In an effort to build leadership capacity in P-12 schools, Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Education has redesigned several of its Master of Arts in Education programs to incorporate the teacher leader endorsement.

The objective is to prepare “an expert educator who, working with all stakeholders to ensure success for every learner, provides leadership in educational environments,” said Dr. Dorie Combs, chair of EKU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “The central goal of the program is to create powerful, effective change agents in classrooms, schools and districts.

“The program focuses on practical, action research,” Combs added, “with an emphasis on improving school and educational climate, classroom practice, and student achievement. It also fosters an educational culture that is informed by research and data collection and analysis while embracing the EKU themes of knowledge, dispositions, diversity, technology and pedagogy.”

The redesigned programs, which correspond to Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board and Kentucky administrative regulations, were developed in close collaboration with teachers and administrators from schools throughout the region and with colleagues from across the University, especially from the College of Arts and Sciences. The program encompasses almost all the academic disciplines within the College of Education: Elementary Education, Gifted and Talented Education, Instructional Leadership, Library Science, Middle Grades Education, Reading/Writing (literacy), Secondary Education, and Special Education.

Students can choose from two options in Instructional Leadership: Leadership for Student Learning, and Safety and Facilities Management in Educational Settings. (EKU is the first institution in Kentucky to incorporate School Safety into a teacher leader program.) Three options are available in Special Education: Learning and Behavior Disorders, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education.

Each program is structured around a 15-hour teacher core that “cuts across all the programs” and is focused on designing and implementing instruction that prepares the candidate to impact student learning through classroom research and leadership. Courses and experiences include professional learning communities, field and clinical experiences, and action research.

“I envision individuals choosing the degree path that best aligns with their professional and career goals,” Combs said.

Because most students in the program pursue the degree while employed as a teacher, their research will be conducted in collaboration with the school where they teach. “This practical research will be very applicable to their work and their school,” said Dr. Margaret Moore, the first graduate of EKU’s new doctoral degree program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and now a faculty member in EKU’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“We’re now looking to teachers to understand and use data in ways they haven’t used before to make decisions,” Moore added. “For example, how does a teacher know when students are improving, how do they know when to change strategies, how do they decide on curriculum materials.”

“We see this as job-embedded professional development,” Combs added. “We want their coursework to help them teach.”

At the same time, students in the program are encouraged to develop professional learning communities in their own schools.

For the convenience of schoolteachers, all core classes are available online, and the entire programs in library science and school safety are available online.

Some students will enter the master’s program immediately after earning their baccalaureate degree.

“We want to attract both populations,” Moore said. “This provides the opportunity for students not yet teaching to start working with schools and districts that might later employ them.”

The five core classes in the program are: Leadership Skills for Teachers, Leading Achievement Change, Research for Teacher Leaders, Curriculum for Leaders in Education and the Capstone Seminar. Additional coursework addresses specific content for each program area, literacy, and needs of diverse students. Faculty in the Departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and Special Education collaborated on the design of the programs and will collaborate in teaching the core classes. Candidates will complete common key assessments across all programs that will help in the evaluation of candidate progress as well as program quality.

Throughout the programs, candidates will gain the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to serve in a variety of teacher leadership positions, have the opportunity to earn additional professional certificates and specializations, and meet their individual professional improvement goals.  By completing the program, the candidate will earn the Rank II and Teacher Leader Master’s designation as well as the Teacher Leader Endorsement. The endorsement will allow candidates to serve as instructional leaders, teacher mentors, literacy or math coaches, instructional facilitators, department chairs, and/or team leaders. The programs will also prepare individuals who wish to continue their education to earn school and/or district supervisor certifications while completing advance study in their area of certification. Some programs will lead to additional certificates/endorsements, including English as a Second Language (P-12), Gifted Education (P-12), Literacy/Reading Specialist (P-12), School Media Librarian (P-12), Special Education (P-12), and School Safety (P-12).

Also, the 15-hour teacher leader core is also available on a “stand-alone” basis and can be made part of a Rank I certification.

For more information about EKU’s Master of Arts in Education with Teacher Leader Endorsement, call 859-622-2154 or e-mail For more information about graduate school requirements at EKU, visit

Published on June 16, 2011

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