Educational Leadership and Administration: A Focus on Equity, Social Justice, and Improvement

November 9, 2023

illustration of principal seated behind desk meeting with adult and student in office

When it comes to educational leadership, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest that followed has laid bare the inequities in our system. Teachers and administrators alike have been asked to rethink their approach to education, how they can deploy their leadership skills more effectively, and how they can create an environment that is aligned with values of equity and social justice. And in the face of a new generation that is clamoring for increased diversity in school culture and reducing classroom disparities, educational leaders are on the verge of a major paradigm shift.

As challenging as it may be to be an educator in these times, it’s also the perfect opportunity to drive positive change. Shares Dr. Leslie Trimmer, assistant professor of practice in the Educational Leadership and Administration program at the George Washington University (GW), “One of the reasons we have gone to an equity-focused format for all our courses is because we know that if we are thinking about the needs of all children and all stakeholders in education, that is what really makes a difference.” She emphasizes that it’s an opportunity to unite everyone under a common understanding and a core set of knowledge. It is a chance to make meaningful connections with teachers, staff, students, and parents. 

illustration by pch.vector on Freepik of three professionals putting together large puzzle pieces

At its very core, leading for school improvement is about identifying the needs of every student and ensuring teachers have the learning and the resources they need to support them in ensuring students reach high academic and learning outcomes.

It is in this way — where identity, access, and voice come together — that educators are able to unlock a student’s true potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, etc. 

For those who are driven to become more effective change agents, there are few pathways as beneficial as pursuing an advanced degree in education. In such an environment, learning is centered around initiating academic success for all students — and understanding that what constitutes success for one may not apply to another. “The focus now, which is a change from 20 years ago, is ‘How do we do this work as leaders who build shared leadership, culture, and expectations to dismantle systems of inequity that have perpetuated our schools?’ — and that's not work that any one individual can do on their own,” said Dr. Rebecca Thessin, associate professor of Educational Administration at GW.

Students at GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development are taught solutions-based approaches that value equity, social justice, and school improvement, while recognizing the unique needs of each student. And embedded within the Educational Leadership and Administration master’s, education specialist, and post-master’s certificate programs are internship experiences that ask program participants to apply theoretical, conceptual, and empirical knowledge to real-world problems of practice. 

Shares program alumna Dr. Tynika Young-Aleibar, who currently serves as director of the Wallace Initiative for the District of Columbia Public Schools, “It was really beneficial for me to begin to understand a lot of the background workings it took to run a school, specifically thinking about school improvement plans or school law and school finance. The internship gave me the groundwork to do it, while also providing mentorship, coaching and someone who could give me feedback… so I can further hone my skills.”

Whether you desire to become an assistant principal, principal, central office administrator, or educational leader outside the traditional K-12 system, graduates of GW’s Educational Leadership and Administration programs are well-prepared to improve student learning and achievement on the local, state, or national level. They are advocates for and facilitators of educational change, fostering diversity, inclusion, and equity in their schools. And they are prepared to engage the entire community, respond to students' needs, and disrupt practices that perpetuate inequities. 

illustration by pch.vector on Freepik of leader helping professional and student up colored blocks

Nick Ojeda, an educational leadership program graduate said, “Being an equity-centered leader to me means having a calculated focus on how to serve all members of your community with a focus on the students who are furthest from opportunity. It's everything from the types of decisions that you make in hiring to how you analyze your student's performance and keeping an eye on your students in various subgroups on how they're performing. That's having an emphasis on anti-racism and social justice and the professional development that you offer your teachers and the curriculum that you offer your students.”

At GW, we prepare our graduates to lead from a place of collaboration, social justice, and equity. Our program participants are eager to learn what will best serve all students and teachers  — and they are ready to problem solve and innovate. If you’re looking to elevate your experience and education to transform the K-12 experience, consider pursuing a master’s, Ed.S., post-master’s certificate or doctoral degree.