Lesley's Educational Leadership PhD program is really about changing schools. We expect that when people graduate from the program, they have the necessary scholarship and the knowledge to transform schools. There is a need to improve student learning. There is a need to improve our schools. The world is changing rapidly, and unless school leaders have the knowledge and skills and dispositions necessary, there is little hope of changes that are necessary coming about.
I want to explore how policy, educational policy, impacts English language learners in Massachusetts. I have a lot of passion for what community organizations do with children and with families and often in the classes at Lesley, I talk about those perspectives from various angles. As a teacher, as a practitioner, as a member of that community, I talk about the importance of community organizations in providing learning opportunities and educational settings for immigrants.
You know, I think the Educational Leadership PhD program is really different than the others in that it really is for practitioner scholars. We have people in the trenches who have practical experience, and very often they don't have the necessary scholarship to really make the thoughtful decisions. So this is a program that really seeks to find the balance between practice and scholarship.
The best features of the program, for me, have to be my cohort members. These are individuals just like me that come from a variety of walks of life and professions that I admire. Being connected to a cohort, a group of doctoral students like myself, throughout this experience, it's the most important factor. In other PhD programs, I think I would have been a little bit lost in terms of not having a community that I can count on.
The amount of support that is available throughout the program is really extraordinary. The support necessary for doing a dissertation is built into the coursework. In many other programs, people are pretty much left to their own devices when it comes to writing their dissertation.
I would definitely tell people that it's worth the investment, that it's a program that will allow you to challenge yourself academically and explore your ideas and your concepts about education. I would definitely tell the people that Lesley is a place where you will get the support that you need to understand doctoral level work.
Lesley's PhD program has really helped me as a school leader in many ways. There's a real focus on critical inquiry and reflection and collaborative leadership within the school setting. So that has really enhanced my ability to be a strong leader, appreciate those that support me in my leadership. I've been able to develop a leadership model for my staff to help empower them to take risks and make decisions and be more active members of the school operations.
The coursework really focused on how to become a powerful, engaging, impactful leader and how to get those you work with on a day to day basis to be as successful and productive as they are as well. And that really helped frame me personally, professionally, as a leader. I really would recommend Lesley's program for anybody who wants to get into leadership, but keep a focus on student learning. So if you go into a program with always the idea that your end goal is to make sure every single student has a learning environment where they can succeed, Lesley's program is designed around that. It's designed around those who are marginalized and making sure school leaders understand the dynamics of what goes into early childhood, early adolescent, adolescent learning.
[Speaking to Parents]
Our 10th graders are hitting MCAS out of the park. 97% of our kids are scoring a proficient or advanced, and these are kids who may not have scored that well in their eighth grade MCAS or seventh or sixth grade. Our SAT scores, our AP scores, Advanced Placement, 82% of our kids last year scored a three or higher on their AP scores, meaning they're already getting college credit before they're even stepping in the door. That's tremendous. We have a zero percent dropout rate for five years in a row.
[Speaking to Custodian]
That involves custodians. That involves the parking lot. That involves bus service. That involves food service. Every person in your organization impacts student learning and student outcomes. So as a school leader, you need to appreciate that and do what you need to do to understand successful practices and making sure that happens and Lesley's PhD program is central to that.
I am the principal at Austin T. Levy Elementary School in Rhode Island, and I'm currently in the Educational Leadership Program at Lesley University. Being a principal is so much fun. I love it every day here. I love coming to work. I have so much fun with the kids. I interact with them on a daily basis. And the faculty that I work with is fantastic. We have a great rapport with one another, and it's just a job that I never thought I would want, but I just love it with all my heart.
The Educational Leadership Program at Lesley has really helped me to be a much more critical and reflective leader. The many books that we've read, the many articles that we've read, the many discussions that we've read, have all helped to hone my educational leadership skills. And it really allows me to think much more thoughtfully and be more reflective on my own practice. Yes, I talk with members of my cohort on a very frequent basis about how to handle things in school, how to move forward with change as a leader, and work to make a difference with all teachers and students.
One of the things that really attracted me to the Lesley program was that it really has been created for the professional full time worker, and it's been wonderful because I've been able to apply everything I'm learning in the Lesley program to my work as a principal, and everything I'm learning as a principal, I can apply that to my work in the Lesley program. Lesley University is very current with public school issues. We look at data on a continual basis. We use data to inform instruction, so that the teachers understand the academic diversity of their classroom and to make informed decisions on where they need to go next. I was just recently named the Rhode Island Outstanding New Principal of the Year. And I think that a lot of the things that I learned in the Lesley program had a lot to do with that, with regards to my own practice and my thought process and my actions every day. So the program has really given me confidence to know that I can do this, that I can be a leader and move my faculty and my students to higher levels of achievement.