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Why Principals Should Understand Educational Policy

There is no question that principals and assistant principals bear an enormous amount of responsibility every day as leaders of their schools. However, due to widespread understaffing, these administrators take on many different roles in the day-to-day management of the schools and their staff.

In addition to management, principals also serve as district representatives and public liaisons for their schools. They must understand and manage legal issues concerning their communities. Principals must be able to guide their schools on implementing and following all local, state and federal procedures and secure privacy and other personal needs on a student-to-student basis. Ensuring full compliance requires remembering and applying a tremendous deal of information and knowledge.

Earn an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

A graduate program such as the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program from The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) helps elevate educators into principal and assistant principal roles and provides them with a dynamic understanding of school leadership and how it relates to legal policy. This online, non-thesis certification program is for classroom teachers who want to advance in K-12 education. It aligns with the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) standards and the Texas Administrative Code.

Graduates of the program will receive training from which they can build upon their experience in classroom settings and boost student achievement, teachers' instructional strategies and organizational effectiveness. They will also receive the necessary knowledge and skills to keep schools on the leading edge of areas like law and policy.

Required coursework includes an emphasis on the legal foundation of public education and political theory to apply those political skills in practice. Students also receive an overview of the laws and policies that determine school governance at the federal, state and local levels and how those shape their role as principals.

Current Educational Policy Issues for Principals

The legal landscape for schools always involves a host of issues, such as privacy and liability. Given the numerous "ins and outs" of these issues, principals must keep a working knowledge of best practices.

As this article from Education Week explains, schools are facing unprecedented challenges regarding liability insurance following the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the changes to schools and their operations have forced many principals to adapt their responsibilities and roles in their districts.

Education Week notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has birthed a host of new large-scale legal and health questions. For instance, are liability waivers — the same kind that parents might sign for a field trip — a way for students to attend class in exchange for a promise not to sue the district over potential exposure to COVID-19? Additionally, whether liability insurance will cover certain COVID-19-related claims has become complicated.

Although the pandemic did create new legal concerns for schools, principals have always confronted the continual reinvention or arrival of new standards. As this op-ed from the National Association of Secondary Principals argues, one of the best things principals can do is to be assertive and make their voices heard. They are "at the crossroads of policy and practice" and "work on behalf of many constituents, including students and families, staff and district leadership, school boards, and departments of education."

Especially in the face of so many new challenges, effective school leaders must be able to assert the needs of their community and not simply react. UTA's online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program offers students a dynamic set of skills to be effective principals and strong leaders within today's policy landscape.

Learn more about UTA's online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.

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