Leading a school in the 21st century can be challenging, especially given the many responsibilities a school principal is required to perform. While the principal’s role can be very public, there is a lot of work going on behind closed doors as well. Still, many might wonder: what do school principals do?
The school principal is the administrative director of state education policy, a building manager, an advocate for school change, and the protector of bureaucratic stability. They also assume the roles of employer, supervisor, professional figurehead, and inspirational leader. In addition, school principals act as the connection between a large bureaucratic system and the individual daily experiences of a large number of children and adults.*
Elementary, middle, and high school principals require legal, financial, data, and personnel management knowledge to meet the daily challenges of school administration. They also need educational and instructional leadership skills required to improve student outcomes. A Master of Science in Education degree with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) can add to an aspiring principal’s core training as a classroom teacher and prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead.
In addition to their administrative responsibilities, school principals are also in the important position of inspiring their staff, teachers, and students. Together, school principals and teachers have the duty and honor to shape young lives by motivating and engaging students. And when it comes to math, students across America seem to need some extra motivation. For years, students in the U.S. have paced well behind their international counterparts. The most recent results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) place the U.S. at an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math. Among the 35 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math.†
However, there is some good news:
- Americans rank math as one of the most important skills children need today to get ahead. According to the Pew Research Center, 79% of adults said math is one of the most important skills needed for youth to get ahead. Though slightly lower than communication and reading, math is on par with teamwork. ‡
- U.S. students are more proficient in math than they were 2 decades ago. A report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed about 40% of fourth-graders and 33% of eighth-graders scored as “proficient” or “advanced” in math in 2015, while only 13% of fourth-graders and 15% of eighth-graders were rated at or above proficient in 1990.‡
- Math is popular among many students, with close to half describing it as one of their favorite subjects. NAEP data revealed that nearly half of eighth grade students in the U.S. strongly agree (21%) or agree (26%) with the statement, “Math is one of my favorite subjects.” Almost two-thirds (64%) of students say they like math in general, and most students also describe math as something fun and a subject that they would not like to give up.‡
- More degrees are being awarded in mathematics and statistics. According to data from the Department of Education, about 22,000 of the 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees awarded in the U.S. in 2014–2015 were earned in mathematics and statistics. Though overall college degrees awarded since 2010–2011 grew 10%, the number of degrees awarded in mathematics and statistics has risen nearly 30% in the same time period.‡
Although there remains much more work to be done in America’s schools, school principals who are prepared with the management, leadership, and advanced instructional skills needed to become an educational leader will have more success at recruiting, hiring, and inspiring school personnel committed to improving student achievement. One great choice for aspiring school principals is an online master’s degree from Walden University, an accredited institution offering online education programs, including the MS in Education. Walden’s MSEd program has 17 specializations, including an Educational Leadership and Administration (Principal Licensure Preparation) option, so students can focus their learning in an area that matches their personal interests and goals.
*K. Rousemaniere, The Principal: The Most Misunderstood Person in All of Education, The Atlantic, on the internet at www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/11/the-principal-the-most-misunderstood-person-in-all-of-education/281223.
†D. Desilver, U.S. Students’ Academic Achievement Still Lags That of Their Peers in Many Other Countries, Pew Research Center, on the internet at www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science.
‡M. Anderson, For Pi Day, Key Figures on Math and Education in the U.S., Pew Research Center, on the internet at
Walden offers both state-approved educator licensure programs as well as programs and courses that do not lead to licensure or endorsements.
Prospective students must review their state licensure requirements prior to enrolling. For more information, please refer to www.WaldenU.edu/educlicensure.
Prospective Alabama students: Contact the Teacher Education and Certification Division of the Alabama State Department of Education at 1-334-242-9935 or www.alsde.edu to verify that these programs qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits.
Note to all Washington residents: This program is not intended to lead to teacher certification. Teachers are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.