The National Center for Education Statistics reports that schools have become more socioeconomically and culturally diverse than ever before. However, the learning outcomes for students of different genders, ethnicities and economic backgrounds have not changed much. Therefore, a critical need exists for education systems to better serve diverse populations of students.
The Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in Educational Leadership online program from the University of Southern Maine (USM) prepares graduates for a wide range of social justice-oriented leadership positions. These roles are vital to creating a safe and inclusive school culture that fosters academic achievement for all students.
Why Is Social Justice Important in Education?
Social justice is the concept of fairness and equitable treatment across social institutions. ImpactTulsa defines equity in education specifically as “the provision of personalized resources needed for all individuals to reach common goals.” While goals might be the same for all students, “the supports needed to achieve those goals depends on the students’ needs.”
Equity in social institutions includes support and opportunities in housing, healthcare and employment for all people. In addition, general social justice aims to protect human rights regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or socioeconomic status.
Education Week reminds readers that the notion of social justice is crucial in educational settings. In the 19th century, education pioneer Horace Mann described education as humanity’s “great equalizer.” However, if access to education is not proportionate to all students or schools cannot meet the needs of all learners, then it cannot serve as the equalizer (or equitable force) we believe it to be.
To orient education toward equitable access and treatment, schools need leaders who are aware of the needs of their diverse communities and who can actively work toward transforming their schools to meet those needs.
What Does Social Justice Leadership Look Like in Schools?
In his 2007 study published in Educational Administration Quarterly, Dr. George Theoharis defines social justice leadership as a subgroup of school leaders guiding “their schools to transform the culture, curriculum, pedagogical practices, atmosphere, and schoolwide priorities to benefit marginalized students.”
To lead social justice changes in schools, school leaders must seek and discover solutions for problems that generate and reproduce societal disparities in their schools and districts. To accomplish this, school leaders must be well-versed in data analysis and organizational development. USM’s course, Research Methods and Techniques, prepares school leaders to utilize scientific inquiry to identify and solve problems in their schools.
USM also equips school leaders with knowledge and experience in organizational development to aid in solving problems identified through research. For instance, USM’s Organizational Behavior course provides future leaders with insights that will help them plan changes in their schools and districts.
Who Can Be a Social Justice Leader?
The face of school leadership has evolved. School leadership roles encompass everything from administrators to curriculum developers and teachers. Various positions offer unique approaches to social justice leadership based on their areas of expertise.
For example, some social justice school leaders work toward inclusive decision-making and policymaking processes. USM’s School Law course provides school leaders with a solid foundation in important court decisions that have shaped American education, with special emphasis on Maine school law.
USM’s program produces school leaders who tackle social justice from a variety of positions within schools. For example, teachers can become teacher leaders, moving beyond the classroom to train and mentor their peers in meeting the needs of diverse student bodies. According to the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, teacher leaders offer districts a “one-two punch,” improving student performance and developing future leaders internally.
USM prepares education professionals for a wide range of leadership positions through its MSEd in Educational Leadership online program. These certification strands are available:
- School Principal – Maine Building Administration Certification (040)
- Curriculum Coordinator – Curriculum Coordinator Certification (078)
- Special Education Director – Administrator of Special Education Certification (030) or Assistant Administrator of Special Education (035)
School leaders need to understand the issues affecting the communities they are seeking to transform. The University of Southern Maine’s Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership prepares future leaders to not only understand these issues but also to identify and address them by catalyzing change across their schools and districts.
Learn more about USM’s online MSEd in Educational Leadership program.