Educators do more than merely teach. They mold and shape the future, from the minds of students to the administrative policies that govern the concept of education. They achieve this through the development of leadership skills and knowledge to ultimately create innovative policies and forge improvements in established strategies. This level of leadership applies to all levels of education, and it often transcends the classroom, extending to administrative and departmental levels.
Properly refining this skill set is challenging, especially since each academic year brings a unique set of difficulties. This is why getting involved in one of the country’s national education leadership organizations can be critical for education professionals. These groups allow educators to immerse themselves in new ideas in education, both inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, several education leadership organizations for students are designed to cultivate leadership qualities in those who aspire to be agents of education change on an advanced level.
This guide aims to provide a comprehensive view of how those in the education field—from today’s teachers to the students poised to be tomorrow’s leaders—can get involved in education leadership. It also provides information on how to engage within these important groups.
Why Students and Teachers Should Get Involved in Education Leadership
The concept of education leadership is based on key strategies to promote student advocacy, communication, and an understanding of community and its associative cultural competencies. Education leaders create and enforce policies that aim to facilitate the delivery of a quality education to every student in equal measure.
Education leadership has historically been influenced by systematic changes that have had a profound impact on teachers, principals, administrators, and students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, No Child Left Behind in 2002, the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, and other federal actions resulted in changes that required educators to lead others in interpreting and understanding new and revised information and concepts.
Those who pursue a path of education leadership can stand out as trusted voices among their peers and guide their colleagues in specialized aspects of education, such as curriculum design and instruction. They can also serve as mentors for new teachers or as learning facilitators who provide strategies to identify and address insufficiencies in student learning. They may also be able to use their leadership knowledge to inspire changes in policies and operational motifs to improve the teacher and student experience.
Students can also reap the benefits of teachers’ involvement in education leadership associations. Studies indicate that effective leadership from the teacher, principal, and school administration enables students, families, and communities to feel a greater sense of empowerment. Ultimately, this is why education leadership is important. Being informed of policy platforms and changes can inspire educators to strive toward improved results, since they know that doing so can translate to success.
There are several sites and documents that offer a comprehensive look at the benefits of how education leadership can bring about effective change inside and outside the classroom. For example, the US Department of Education provides a detailed history of the federal programs shaped by education leadership. Tennessee’s State Collaborative on Reforming Education cites several key research studies that demonstrate the impact that education leadership has on a principal and on the administrative level.
Education Leadership Organizations and Associations for Teachers
For teachers looking to refine their leadership skills, taking the first step may initially be intimidating; however, there are several education leadership associations and education policy organizations that can assist teachers in honing the skills needed to make a visceral impact in their field. Here is a look at some of the national and international organizations for education leaders that are able to provide that help.
- National Education Association. Founded in 1857, this is one of the oldest education leadership organizations for teachers. NEA has 3 million national members, as well as affiliate organizations in all 50 states, and it can be found in more than 14,000 communities nationwide. Its primary purpose is to provide educators with essential tools and concepts to ensure all children have an equal chance at receiving a quality education.
- Association of American Educators. This association states it is the largest non-union group among national education leadership organizations. AAE strives to move the education field forward by deploying modern strategies for teacher and education-driven advocacy without slipping into partisanship.
- American Federation of Teachers. This professional organization, which was founded in 1916, has earned a reputation of being a strong agent of change in the education field. The AFT promotes civil and human rights in schools, and it also advocates for educators from a professional and collective bargaining standpoint.
- Association of Leadership Educators. This grassroots organization’s mission is to increase the acumen of education leaders. It aims to provide educators with the tools they need to put theories associated with education change into practice to transform students’ lives.
- Association of International Education Administrators. Like other international education leadership organizations, AIEA focuses on education from a global perspective by providing tools and resources for advanced-level educators. This strategy allows the organization to assist education professionals from around the world. It provides higher education leaders with the opportunity to collaborate with similar leaders on institution-based strategies and gain insight into public policy matters.
Education Leadership Organizations and Associations for Students
There are several leadership organizations for students that can help future educators lay a strong foundation of leadership qualities. This acumen can allow them to flourish as shapers of policy once they reach the professional level.
- American Council on Education. ACE nurtures leadership qualities through regional summits and online peer-to-peer discussions. The ACE Fellows Program uses real-world scenarios and data to prepare students to strategically meet and resolve the challenges and obstacles they may face in a leadership position.
- Career Education Colleges and Universities. This voluntary membership organization uses training, best practices, professional development, and advocacy-based strategies to prepare postsecondary students to excel in education leadership roles. CECU also offers an international membership program to help students shape education leadership with a global perspective.
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Since 1974, this membership association has offered tools and resources that help create synergy between institutions and their surrounding communities. CASE members can learn about how to work with alumni, donors, community leaders, parents, and foundation officers to foster education support and to encourage institutional growth.
- Council for Exceptional Children. The goals of this organization revolve around providing education leadership for college students interested in advocating for special education services and opportunities. CEC provides professional educators and students alike with research findings and policy updates pertaining to running various programs for special-needs students.
- American Association for School Administrators. This organization offers resources and support for students aspiring to land an advanced role in education, such as superintendent. It also offers certification programs and specialized collaborative networks designed to cultivate effective teaching strategies that lead to improved student outcomes.
American Association for School Administrators
American Federation of Teachers
ASCD, “Involvement or Engagement?”
ASCD, “Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders”
Association of American Educators
Association of International Education Administrators
Association of Leadership Educators
Career Education Colleges and Universities
Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Council for Exceptional Children
The Hechinger Report, “Why School Leadership Matters”
Learn.org, What Is Educational Leadership?
Masters in Education, Professional Teacher Organizations
National Education Association, About Us
State Collaborative on Reforming Education, “The Importance of Education Leadership: What Experience and Evidence Say”
US Department of Education, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)