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Colleges respond to K-12 changes with revamped master's program


Carmen K. Sisson



Parents and students are used to seeing student teachers in the classroom. 


Through revamped master's degree programs, they also will get used to seeing student administrators. Mississippi University for Women is partnering with school districts to offer K-12 administration master's degree candidates internships at local schools. 


Four years ago, MUW began offering a master's program to K-12 teachers interested in making the leap from the classroom to administration.  


Now, The W is taking the program to the next level in making changes to attract leaders who not only love to teach but also want to make a difference through leadership.  


Monday afternoon, college officials met with local school superintendents to announce the redesign of the educational leadership program and outline a proposal that Dr. Sue Jolly-Smith, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, called "a win-win" for everyone involved.  


Beginning this summer, the redesigned program will focus on strengthening partnerships with school districts, providing real-world internship experiences and using technology to provide master's degree candidates with experience in problem-based learning.  


Changes mandated by the Mississippi Department of Education require all institutions offering educational leadership degrees for K-12 administrator licensure to revamp their programs. 


The changes are designed to improve the quality of graduates and incorporate best practices, along with intensifying the internship component and making sure certain programs are rooted firmly in practice, not just theory, Jolly-Smith said. 


"School leadership is a challenging role out there today," she said. "They want to know that those coming out of the prep programs are ready to step into the challenge." 


MUW's proposal was approved by the Mississippi Department of Education Licensure Certification Commission earlier this month and will go before the Mississippi Board of Education for final approval in February.  


Mississippi State University has submitted its redesign proposal, but it has not yet been approved, said Dr. Frankie Williams, head of the leadership and foundations department. 


A major component of the program is the belief that principals are instructional leaders within a school, Jolly-Smith said. Strong, supportive principals benefit their schools in a number of ways, including less teacher turnover, she said.  


Under the new proposal, The W will work with local districts to prepare teachers to become school leaders through internships and other collaborations. Once those teachers become administrators, they will then return to their districts and offer support for future teachers and administrators.  


Dr. Martha Liddell, interim superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District, and Dr. Gearl Loden, superintendent of the Amory School District in Monroe County, were both on hand Monday to show their support for the new initiatives.  


Liddell said the city schools are fortunate to have the partnership with MUW. 


"Much has changed on the educational landscape, and new national and state leadership standards are now moving universities and school districts toward becoming a collaborative learning community focused on student learning," she said. "This new program is a major achievement for MUW and addresses the demand for highly qualified educational leaders."


Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.



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