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Education administrators, also know as principals, lead teachers and other members of school staff. They manage the day-to-day operations of elementary, middle, and high schools. They set goals and objectives and evaluate their school’s progress toward meeting them. Education administrators work in public and private schools. Generally, they work full time, and many work summers when school is not in session.
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Education administrators manage the overall operation of schools, including building maintenance and cafeteria services. In addition, they set and oversee academic standards and ensure that teachers have the tools and resources, such as training, necessary to meet these standards. Education administrators typically do the following:
Principals establish the school as a resource to students and their families, by ensuring schools have strong counseling, a special education program, and before- and after-school child care programs. Principals serve as the public face of their school. They meet with superintendents, legislators, and members of the community to ensure the school has the resources it needs to serve its students. They are also responsible for responding to the concerns of parents and members of the community.
The job duties of principals vary by the size of the school and the school district. In larger schools and districts, principals have more resources and staff to help them achieve goals and meet standards. For example, large school districts may have instructional coordinators who help with data analysis and with teachers' professional development. However, principals in large districts may have less flexibility and may need to follow rules and guidelines set at the district level. Those in small school districts need to do all of these duties themselves and may have more flexibility to try new ideas.
Many schools have assistant principals, also known as vice principals, that help principals with school administration. Assistant principals often take the lead on student safety and discipline. They may interact with the students more than the principal does. In addition, assistant principals may administer student activities, help coordinate buses, and supervise building and grounds maintenance. Larger schools may have several assistant principals.
Most schools require education administrators to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. Most principals also have experience as teachers. In public schools, principals often must have a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. These programs prepare future principals to lead teachers and other instructional staff, prepare and manage budgets, set goals and carry out plans to meet them, and work with parents and the community. Education leadership or administration programs require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in education, school counseling, or a related field to enter the program. Principals often gain experience in education by working as a teacher before entering a master’s program or applying for a job as a school principal. Principals in private schools do not have to be licensed as school administrators. An assistant principal can advance to become a principal. Some principals advance to become superintendents. Others become instructional coordinators.
Principals need good communication skills to explain the goals and vision of the school. They also need to be able to advocate on behalf of the school to their community. Principals need to analyze data from students’ tests and evaluate trends in the data to determine how best to meet students' needs and where the school needs to improve. Principals are responsible for students, staff members, and matters that affect the school community. They make decisions often, sometimes quickly, and must be able to consider many factors. Principals set educational goals and establish policies and procedures for the school. They need to be able to motivate and inspire teachers and other staff members to improve their skills and do their best work. Principals work with many different members of the community, as well as teachers, students, and parents. They need to be able to develop good working relationships with all groups. Teachers, students, and other staff members bring problems to the attention of the principal. Principals need to be able to think creatively to develop solutions.
Education administrators are employed in public and private schools. Some work in public magnet and charter schools. Others work in private religious and secular schools.