Examples of Effective Leadership in K-12 Education

K-12 leader in the classroom
K-12 leader in the classroom

Effective educational leaders move organizations forward—envisioning the future, charting the course and building teams to create solutions. Successful organizations are shaped by courageous leaders who think critically, solve problems and champion progress. Educational leadership applies these principles in advancing the goals of schools and educational systems.

Why Is Leadership in Education So Important?

Educators at all levels and in all kinds of schools are characteristically driven by a personal sense of mission—to impact the lives of students who will influence their communities and the world around them for good. Today’s educators encounter a host of challenges, however, in accomplishing their goals. A glance at the headlines presented by the National Education Association (NEA) gives insight into current issues that call for bold leadership. These are just a few:

  • Funding in public education
  • Classroom safety
  • Racial equity and justice
  • Compensation for educators
  • Academic success for all students

Educators with strong leadership skills are positioned to address these difficulties and make a lasting difference. A group of superintendents who recently formed the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance is one example.

Members of the Alliance are helping one another develop innovative approaches to education. One superintendent in the group, Dr. Laura Jacob, led the implementation of a rapidly growing program in her area that allows students to create an Individualized Learning Plan (ILP). Another superintendent, Dr. Brian White, is launching a center for workforce development by establishing connections with the business and manufacturing community in the area.

These educational leaders are not only effecting change in their school districts, but they are also multiplying effective programs across the region. Students, teachers and entire school communities benefit from this kind of skilled leadership in optimizing the success of their schools.

3 Ways K-12 Leaders Are Making a Difference

While today’s challenges in education loom large, effective leaders work to bring solutions. Whether implementing programs and policies, coaching other educators or strategizing for tomorrow, organizational leaders in education are making a difference.

1. Innovation in Learning

In an ever-changing and increasingly diverse society, educational structures and teaching methods must continually evolve to accommodate a wide range of learning needs. Effective educational leaders apply research best practices and methodologies in working toward outcomes.

In the state of Kentucky, educational leaders are coming together to envision and implement innovation in learning. The Kentucky Innovative Learning Network (KY ILN) unites local school districts and the state’s Department of Education for “creating vibrant learning experiences, accelerating innovation, and building a bold new future with communities.”

Networks such as the KY ILN require effective leadership in achieving the network’s goals and applying the concepts at the local level.

Innovation in learning calls for leaders with cutting-edge knowledge, high-level skill and evidence-based practice. Leadership in education impacts innovation at the systems level, which in turn equips teachers to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver instruction to students.

Learn More about Rockhurst University's Online Ed.D. in K-12 Leadership

2. Community Development

According to the NEA, more than 25 million students in public schools across the country live in “under-resourced households.” This means that these students struggle with food shortages, unstable housing or inadequate preventative health care. Leaders in “community schools” implement programs to holistically serve the needs of the children in their care.

The Baltimore City School Board, for example, has expanded its community schools model, more than doubling the number of participating schools in the last five years. Each school hires a Community School Coordinator (CSC) to lead the charge, developing the school into a “community hub” that connects families with resources.

At the beginning of 2023, the U.S. Department of Education announced $63 million in grants to support the extension of the community schools’ initiative in various parts of the country. The funds will be distributed to community agencies, non-profits, educational institutions and other organizations.

Further, all schools—not only those officially designated as community schools—have an impact on their communities. Effective leaders in education are building relationships and collaborating with families, local residents and neighborhood representatives to best serve the needs of students for the good of the whole community.

3. Building Future Educators

From pre-K to graduate-level university programs, the future of education depends on a strong workforce. As educators across the United States lament the shortage of teachers for today’s schools, people are looking to educational leaders to solve the problems.

In a recent extensive investigation by ABC News, at least 39 states reported educator shortages that continue, with some calling the situation a “crisis.” The problem is particularly acute in low-income, high-minority school districts and many urban or rural locations, furthering problems of equity in education.

Skillful K-12 leadership is necessary for executing complex strategies for teacher recruitment and retention. The ABC report identifies some cases where leaders are taking action:

  • New Mexico appointed National Guard members to fill teaching vacancies, while at the same time improving teacher salaries to get teachers back in classrooms. The initiatives led to a 34% reduction in the shortage of teachers and a public declaration of appreciation from the state’s teacher’s union.
  • The state of Texas instituted a Teacher Vacancy Task Force, leading to record numbers of new teachers. Building a robust pipeline of future educators will require effective leadership in university education programs, state school boards, local school systems and at the individual school level. It will be the work of executive leaders, administrators and visionary teacher-leaders who create educational systems that flourish.

Building a robust pipeline of future educators will require effective leadership in university education programs, state school boards, local school systems and at the individual school level. It will be the work of executive leaders, administrators and visionary teacher-leaders who create educational systems that flourish.

Learn More about Rockhurst University's Online Ed.D. Program

What Is the Pathway to Leadership in Education?

Effective leadership requires not only technical qualifications in a designated field but also professional qualities that inspire others and empower leaders to make positive changes in educational systems and policies. Advanced academic preparation, such as a Doctor of Education degree program, prepares professionals for the highest levels of K-12 leadership.

If you are considering an Ed.D in educational leadership online, you may be evaluating the differences in Ed.D. vs. Ph.D. pathways, and considering if an Ed.D. is worth it. In summary, a Ph.D. program is designed primarily for professionals pursuing scholarly roles, while an Ed.D. program is geared toward leadership practitioners.

Rockhurst University’s online Ed.D. in K-12 Leadership is a K-12 leadership program that equips future leaders to innovate in the rapidly changing field of education.

A program for socially conscious, innovative leaders, the program is rooted in these themes:

  • Educational Systems and Policy: Deepen your knowledge of historical and modern educational frameworks and the key issues shaping today’s K-12 landscape.
  • Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum: Draw upon learning theory to implement best practices in curriculum design, program assessment and outcomes measures.
  • Applied Research: Use vital tools to conduct quantitative and qualitative research to solve problems in your practice.

A quality doctoral education within reach, the online Ed.D. at Rockhurst can be completed in just two years and includes a doctoral research capstone project at the end of the program to synthesize students’ studies into a publishable article and poster presentation. There is no GRE requirement for admission. Graduate certificate options in DEI or STEAM are available at no additional cost.

Prepare to be an agent of change and bring a modern approach to the primary and secondary education sector through K-12 leadership. Start on your pathway at Rockhurst University today.

About Rockhurst University's Online Programs

In the heart of Kansas City since 1910, Rockhurst University is dedicated to learning, leadership and service in the Jesuit tradition, and today is the #1 Regional University in Kansas City (2021 U.S. News and World Report).

Rockhurst University’s online programs are delivered by the highly reputable Saint Luke’s ™ College of Nursing and Health Sciences and the School of Education. As an educational leader serving exceptional students in the field of health care and education, we are committed to preparing the workforce of tomorrow with our unique programs designed to prepare graduates to meet the needs of diverse populations and work in various organizations.

To learn more about our highly competitive online programs, please visit onlinedegrees.rockhurst.edu, or read more here: