Lessons Learned: The Education Industry

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With 10,521 public schools (not counting charter or private schools), 115 community colleges, 23 Cal States, 10​ UCs and dozens of other private four-year universities, California depends on a steady pipeline of education professionals.

The Cal States have premier teacher preparation programs, training more of California's K-12 teachers than any other institution. However, its Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) programs are also key to training the educators, counselors, mental health professionals, superintendents and other administrators who serve the state's schools, community colleges and universities.​​

The Ed.D. program at California State University, Stanislaus is one shining example. Designed for professionals already working in the field, it tends to serve those at regional schools and hosts two tracks for its students: K-12 and Community Colle​ge (which includes a university focus).

“One of the problems we have in our educational system is we keep doing things exactly the same way," says Stanislaus State Ed.D. Program Director Debra Bukko, Ed.D. “We need leaders who are ready to question practices from a place of saying, 'Why are we doing this, is it effective and is it creating or removing barriers?' The need for this is even more apparent given the inequities becoming increasingly apparent during the COVID-19 reality."

It's the power to inspire positive change by thinking and working this way that she says most students glean from the program. Specifically, the program is helping them identify “institutional systems and barriers that are limiting opportunities for people, needs for changes in policies and programs to increase equity and [ways to] make sure that they are not creating barriers for individuals who are attempting to access higher education."

In this spirit, faculty and student research is driving change in local education, in area schools and its own Ed.D. program.

For example, Dr. Bukko and two CSU graduates studied how program participants think Stanislaus State's Ed.D. program can better support them, resulting in the introduction of structured mentorship, a leadership seminar and a stronger emphasis on students' social and emotional wellness.

To help the community, the Ed.D. program is working with local high schools and Modesto Junior College through the California Academic Partnership Program to ensure high schools better prepare their students to succeed in their first-year college math classes. The project is tied to Assembly Bill 705, which requires students to complete a transfer-level math and English class in their first year of community college.

In addition, the Stanislaus team partnered with local community and educational organizations on the countywide Cradle to Career initiative, which aims to understand the efficacy of local school districts' practices and how to improve them.

But Ed.D. students are also driving change. After receiving classroom training in equity audits, one assistant principal applied that learning to his school's policies, resulting in a revised handbook. A high school teacher also applied the audit to his grading practices, turning the work into his dissertation before teaching fellow educators to use the technique.

“If we're really going to have equity in our educational systems and are truly going to transform our educational systems, then we have to base it on research and data to tell us if our practices are working or not working," Bukko says. “The Ed.D. program goal is to prepare scholar-practitioners to do this critical work."

Explore the CSU's Ed.D. programs or teacher and educator degrees and credentials.