By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
One size most definitely does not fit all in Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies. Call it the Dissertation Decision.
The college recently started a new degree program — Education Specialist with an emphasis in K-12 leadership — that does not require a dissertation or residency. Dr. Michael Berger, the college’s associate dean, explained the purpose behind the degree this way: The pay scales at many school districts max out at a certain number of credits, generally half as many as in a doctoral program. The Ed.S. is offered only with the kindergarten through 12th grade emphasis.
“In many school districts in many states, you get additional pay based on extra education as well as on-the-job tenure. The extra-education pay often caps out at what is called ‘Master’s + 30,’” Berger said. “This program is not for people who want to be a superintendent. It’s for people who want to be as effective in the classroom as they can be. That’s why these Ed.S. (Education Specialist) programs are popular.”
It also helps learners learn how to manage people in the K-12 environment more efficiently. An example is Dawn Young, assistant principal at Western Harnett High School in Wilmington, N.C.
“It’s not necessarily about the dissertation,” she said. “It’s more that I’m looking at what my career goals are.”
Young, who has been at the school for 12 years, mostly in the classroom teaching marketing, after serving for eight years in the U.S. Army, aspires to be a principal and possibly advance from there to a district-level position. Young reached sergeant during her military career, spent mostly in South Korea.
The K-12 leadership program is designed to help her and other learners reach those goals. After foundational instruction in ethics, research and theory, its coursework focuses on educational policy development and decision making; staffing and organizational leadership; supervision of teaching and learning; instructional and curricular supervision; department and unit management; and other areas related to leadership at the individual school or district level.
Berger said that the “vast majority” of the coursework is from the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) program, and credits for some work that learners have done in the Ed.S. can be fully transferred if they decide to switch to the full Ed.D. in “Organizational Leadership: K-12 Emphasis” program. “They can do that with minimal difficulty,” he said.
Terrence Williams, a teacher for Catapult Learning and also a one-on-one tutor in Jacksonville, Fla., said he hasn’t yet decided whether to continue with the non-dissertation program or switch to one that requires the dissertation component, but there’s a reason why writing doesn’t concern him: He said he’s working on a novel about a principal at an elementary school for African-American children in the 1960s and how she dealt with pre-desegregation issues.
Williams, 54, is passionate about the state of education today.
“There are children who are achieving, but the biggest problem here in Florida is that you’re teaching a test instead of objectives,” he said. “When I started in 1982, we felt like the school systems were more concerned about what was being put in children’s heads. The principals knew how to run the schools.
“Now most principals have taught only three years or less – they went into education to be principals – and 27-year teachers are not considered valuable. They want to hire young teachers because they think they’re more innovative.”
Williams, who, like Young, has had aspirations to be a principal, also has a master’s degree in teaching and education edministration from GCU. Catapult Learning is a nationwide company dedicated to helping K-12 students, especially those who are struggling.
“This is very challenging compared to the master’s program,” Williams said.
Contact Rick Vacek at 639.8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.