People typically picture teachers when they think about school employees. However, educational administrators play a vital role in the behind-the-scenes operations of every school. These leaders ensure students and teachers have the resources and support needed for success. They also oversee everything from hiring teachers to disciplining students.1
According to the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies, education administrators oversee “the daily operation of a school… including monitoring of teaching and learning outcomes, in order to inform ongoing practice and school improvement, leadership and accountability to students, parents, and the community.”2
Administrators use many skills and practices to handle these complex processes.
This article explores effective leadership principles that administrators can use to make a transformative impact in schools.
Roles and responsibilities of educational administrators
Educational administration is a broad field with many career paths. Common administrative positions include:
- School principal: Manages the daily operations of elementary, middle, and high schools1
- Superintendent: Oversees the school district and liaises between the school board, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders3
- School board: Elected by the community to handle strategic planning and educational policy development for a school district3
An educational administrator’s responsibilities vary depending on their position, experience, and school. However, common tasks include:1
- Lead and manage school staff and students
- Develop curricula
- Assess teacher performance
- Create and implement educational policies
- Counsel students
- Handle the school’s budget
- Purchase school supplies and other equipment
- Collaborate with teachers and staff
- Establish extracurricular activities
School governance and organizational structures
Educational institutions have varying organizational structures depending on their size, state, and other factors. There are several models of school governance, including:4
- Independent state superintendents: Publicly elected state superintendents oversee all schools in North Dakota and Wisconsin
- State boards of education: Governor-appointed or publicly elected state boards of education lead schools in Illinois, Iowa, and other states
- District-level administration: Local administrators manage school districts at the community level
Education leadership and management
Education leadership and educational management are often used interchangeably but are distinct concepts. Education leadership involves creating strategic plans and delegating responsibilities to help schools achieve goals.
By contrast, educational management refers to coordinating people and processes to help school systems operate smoothly.5
Administrators use many styles of educational leadership depending on their personalities and training. Here are two popular styles:5
- Transformational leadership: The use of intrinsic motivation to inspire others to complete tasks
- Transactional leadership: Offering external incentives to motivate people
Educational policy development
Administrators use educational policy development and strategic planning to guide their schools and districts. Policy development and strategic planning cover many aspects of education, such as curriculum development, assessment, and the creation of student support services.1
This process involves several steps, including:6
- Setting goals
- Developing a shared vision
- Creating policies that support the vision
- Executing specific steps to implement educational policies
- Collecting data to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategic plan
Human resources management in education
School systems typically hire human resource professionals to support teachers, administrators, and other staff. Their responsibilities often include these tasks:7
- Recruit and retain qualified educational staff
- Manage payroll operations and benefits administration
- Enforce policies and procedures
- Monitor and support staff professional development
- Maintain staff records
In addition, human resource specialists promote inclusive work environments by ensuring educational institutions comply with equal employment opportunity laws.7
Financial management and budgeting
Educational administration often involves budgeting and financial management. Leaders use financial resources to support student achievement and protect the long-term health of their institutions.8
The Government Finance Officers Association recommends that administrators follow these steps for effective financial planning:8
- Collaborate with key stakeholders to develop budgeting policies
- Determine priorities for spending based on the district’s strategic plan
- Analyze expenditures to identify areas to improve
- Allocate resources for instructional materials, facilities, and support services
- Focus on creating a sustainable financial plan
Developing public budgeting reports promotes financial accountability and transparency throughout this process.8
Student and family support services
Principals, superintendents, and other administrators promote the well-being of students and their families. These leaders can create and oversee programs like counseling, after-school daycare, and student clubs.1 These services can foster student engagement and improve work-life balance for parents.
In addition, administrators work directly with teachers, parents, family members, caretakers, community organizations, and other stakeholders to support students.1 For example, they may meet with teachers and school counselors to develop behavioral modification plans for students.
Educational policy and legal considerations
Numerous local, state, and federal laws and regulations govern educational institutions. For example, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires schools to provide early intervention and special education services for children with disabilities. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulates parental access to their children’s education records.9
Administrators must ensure that their policies and procedures comply with all applicable laws. They should also follow professional standards. For instance, the School Superintendents Association (AASA) requires members to follow a code of ethics, which includes:10
- Prioritizing student well-being in decision-making
- Avoiding conflicts of interest
- Acting with honesty and integrity
Professional development and continuous learning
Educational administration continually evolves as new policies, technologies, and theories emerge. Administrators can keep up with these advancements by engaging in professional development throughout their careers.
The AASA and other professional associations provide many opportunities for administrators to stay updated on best practices, including annual conferences, leadership summits, and webinars. Professionals can use these activities to network and continuously improve their skills.11
Educational Leadership: A closer look
Educational leadership is a dynamic and multifaceted aspect of educational administration that plays a pivotal role in shaping the success of schools. While educational administrators manage the daily operations, it's the leadership element that drives transformative change and fosters an engaging and inspiring way of learning.
Understanding educational leadership is essential for administrators aiming to make a significant impact on student learning outcomes and overall school improvement.
Educational leadership preparation programs
To equip educational leaders with the necessary skills and perspectives, educational leadership preparation programs play a crucial role. These programs cover diverse historical and contemporary aspects of educational leadership today.
This area of expertise doesn’t just have to be locally focused. International scholars in the field explore broadly critical perspectives, offering a comprehensive stance on the challenges and opportunities within educational organizations. World-leading contributors draw on their experiences to provide insights that prepare future leaders for the complexities of the educational system. By expanding their areas of focus and collaborating with leaders from all over the globe, educational leaders can gain extensive experience and perspectives that can help enrich the educational lives of students at both the international and regional levels.
Student achievement as an area of focus for educational leaders
At the core of educational leadership is a focus on student achievement.
Educational leaders, including school administrators, school officials, and school board members, strive to create environments that promote student success. Through strategic planning and effective leadership, they work towards enhancing student progress and ensuring that every student reaches their full potential.
Educational administrators, in various roles such as school principals and superintendents, use their leadership skills to develop and implement initiatives that positively impact student learning. By employing engaging educational policies and practices, administrators contribute to the overall success of the educational institutions they serve.
The intersection of educational leadership, legal responsibilities, and financial management is where effective educational administration encompasses a holistic approach. Educational leaders navigate this landscape with a commitment to student success, constantly evolving through professional development, and staying informed on best practices. By doing so, they contribute to the continuous improvement and growth of the educational system.
Drive change as a leader in educational management
Schools need strong leaders to help students and teachers thrive and navigate the complex world of education.
Whether you want your career focus to be in the area of educational administration or educational leadership, The University of Kansas’ online master’s in educational leadership and policy studies programs can help you develop the skills and knowledge required to help transform educational institutions.
As a KU online master’s student, you’ll learn about the latest best practices as you complete courses like Data-Driven Leadership, Education Law, and Special Education Leadership. You’ll also receive personal guidance from prestigious faculty with years of experience in school systems. Students can complete this program in as little as two years and fast-track their career advancement.
Schedule a call with a KU admissions outreach advisor to get started.
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm?view_full#tab-2
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from inee.org/eie-glossary/school-administration-and-monitoring
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from ohioschoolboards.org/relationships-board-and-superintendent-partnership
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from csg.org/2023/02/03/states-use-different-models-to-govern-k-12-systems-and-these-structures-are-subject-to-change-based-in-part-on-the-will-of-legislatures/
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1741143217745880
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from unesco.org/en/education-policies
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from work.chron.com/human-resource-specialist-school-system-24282.html
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from gfoa.org/best-practices-in-school-budgeting
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10551
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from aasa.org/about-aasa/Code-of-Ethics
- Retrieved on December 11, 2023, from aasa.org/