State approves new Leadership Academy program


While the spirit, values and goals of MCLA's Leadership Academy will remain the same, a new program approved last week by Mitchell D. Chester, commissioner of elementary and secondary education at the Massachusetts Board of Education (BOE), brings an added emphasis on the practical skills that school and district leaders need to support improved outcomes for their students.

"It's a really big deal for our campus and the education department," said Howard Jacob (Jake) Eberwein III, Ed.D., MCLA's dean of graduate and continuing education.

Work on the program was completed by MCLA over the 2012-13 academic year, in response to new state requirements and regulations for the licensing of school and district administrators. The new criteria required all programs in the state of Massachusetts that were approved for licensure to recreate their programs of study, and then reapply to the state for program approval.

"This was a very large body of work in which we had to recreate quite a bit of curriculum, and write new course syllabi, create new field experiences and a different set of assessments and approaches to help prepare students to step into their roles as principals, superintendents and other school and district leaders," Eberwein said.

An added emphasis is placed on specific practices that lead to improved outcomes for young students.

"For example, understanding how to provide feedback to a classroom instructor who provides coaching around instructional practices," Eberwein said. "That's a very technical skill. There are things that teachers can do to help students learn at a higher rate."

The changes also include an increased number of required field hours, which went up from 300 to 500.

"We have a very intensive set of expectations in which students are asked to have field experiences in all the standards and indicators. Then, we have a college supervisor who visits them at their school or district site where they work. That happens during the school year, between the two summer residencies. In addition to that, students take online courses during the academic year when they're back in their home districts, working."

The licensure program, which takes between 16 and 18 hours to complete, depending on the license, is challenging, but effective, Eberwein said.

"Most students are working full time while in the leadership program. But we think that it makes it much more valuable, because they're often implementing and experimenting with things they're discussing in classes and in their field experiences."

Also new to the program was a return last fall to MCLA by the students, who spent a weekend in November with their cohorts to do some team and community building, and attend a workshop on public school finance.

"They also heard from a couple of guest speakers. We really tried to grab a slice of what they do in the summer and use that November residency to keep them connected," Eberwein said.

MCLA's Leadership Academy - delivered in a "low-residency" format in which students are brought to the campus for two weeks during the summer to live and study with other students and learn from professors from across the nation, then complete field work and online courses during the academic year - also incorporates the arts and cultural resources available in Berkshire County in an environment that promotes discussion on sustainability and social justice

For more information, go to leadershipacademy.