How MPA graduates can oversee education initiatives

Education is one of society’s primary driving forces. Dedicated individuals can help shape its direction for the greatest possible benefit even if they don’t wish to work as teachers in the conventional sense. Public service positions in government departments or nonprofit organizations provide numerous opportunities for those with such interests. That said, when choosing an educational path to learn what’s necessary for the aforementioned roles, it’s vital to embark on one offering skills applicable across multiple disciplines. Doing so facilitates preparation for life’s unpredictable shifts.

Those motivated to work on and change education policy can thus benefit greatly from obtaining a Master of Public Administration: MPA curricula for all graduate programs accredited by The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration cover everything from political processes and ethics to managerial economics and finance, which are all important to hashing out education’s rules and regulations.

Today, we’ll examine some of the paths that MPA students can take after their studies to aid the betterment of learning:

A broad array of nonprofit choices

According to the charitable organization database GuideStar, more than 59,000 nonprofits currently provide assistance for elementary and secondary education institutions alone, with another 5,000-plus working alongside colleges and universities. An additional 6,651 groups help serve the needs of adult, technical, and vocational education programs.

Simply put, students attending MPA programs can have no shortage of possibilities when they begin searching for work after graduation.

On-the-ground education organizations

Some individuals who are driven to work in education administration don’t find fulfillment in the halls of executive governance and legislation, but instead work directly in their communities, particularly in metropolitan areas affected by poor economic prospects and societal distress. The Corporation for National and Community Service, a nonprofit backed by the U.S. government, is a prominent landing spot for those with such strong beliefs in direct action. While the CNCS and its affiliates ultimately constitute a small sampling of America’s nonprofit opportunities, they stand out due to their mission to affect education in places that formal policy measures can overlook.

Founded in 1993, the group—largely through its AmeriCorps subsidiary—has since united many disparate organizations with similar priorities under one banner, such as Teach For America and City Year. All told, approximately 12,000 U.S. schools benefit from the work of AmeriCorps and CNCS. This purview extends to 1 in 10 American charter schools and 1 in every 4 low-performing public schools, among many others.

Instead of standard classroom experiences, AmeriCorps educational staffers provide teacher support, mentoring, tutoring, family engagement initiatives, and programs for students to tackle community-service responsibilities in school and elsewhere. Whether they become involved directly as instructors and coordinators or work within the administrative hierarchy, MPA online degree program graduates can find fulfilling work within these organizations.

Literacy- and literary-focused nonprofits

For all the societal advantages that residents of the U.S. possess, literacy in America remains below what some might expect. According to statistics collected by the multidisciplinary advocacy organization, 25 percent of all children in the U.S. will grow up without learning to read. The prospects for these youngsters becoming readers later in their lives are uncertain—32 million American adults are functionally illiterate, a share that accounts for 14 percent of the country’s non-child population, according to the Department of Education’s National Institute of Literacy. Per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, conducted by the DOE once each decade, there was no improvement of this metric between 1992 and 2003. Even more alarming, pointed out that about 66 percent of students who can’t read by the end of 4th grade are likely to end up imprisoned or living in poverty.

As it is virtually impossible for education to have real impact without literacy, MPA graduates interested in the former would do well to consider a career in organizations centered around the latter. Such initiatives may have a need for individuals skilled in the administrative duties necessary for nonprofits to function. This way, core staff can focus on teaching, tutoring, and advocacy, without having to handle budgeting and broad planning tasks.

Some notable nonprofit groups in the U.S. with the primary purpose of promoting reading and writing skills among youth include:

  • 826 National: Founded by acclaimed writer Dave Eggers, 826 provides tutoring, reading, and writing workshops for K-12 students in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit. Chapters are disguised by quirky names reflecting 826′s eccentrically jubilant nature: Boston’s center is called the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute.
  • Room to Read: While prominently focused on girls’ education in the interest of correcting gender disparities, Room to Read supports literacy among all elementary-school children.
  • National Center for Family Literacy: NCFL tackles literacy deficits through programs designed to get families reading together.

Education administration in local and state government

As explained by the DOE, the federal government has little monetary or executive control over public education in the U.S., ceding most of that responsibility to the states. This jurisdiction also extends to funding: About 92 percent of the American education budget comes from state, local, and private sources, with federal monies comprising the remaining 8 percent or so. Thus, MPA students with aspirations of shaping American schooling via government roles will want to look at jobs available in their cities and towns or with the state.

At the local level, district offices oversee U.S. public education institutions, with approximately 14,000 of these currently operating in the U.S. Those who have earned their MPAs would thus look to pursue roles in these districts, supervising budgeting, curriculum administration, scheduling, general operations,. and more. Upon gaining a reasonable amount experience at entry- and assistant-level positions, these professionals may want to consider running for seats on the district’s school board, where they will likely have more opportunities to directly influence the direction of education policy.

While MPA skills will be helpful in the campaigning process, experience as an educator may carry significant weight: Students may want to consider a dual concentration for their master’s—education alongside public administration. Regardless of the path taken, school-board members can eventually run for positions with even more control over policy, such as superintendent or deputy superintendent. (Specific titles may vary between districts.)

Local board members or leaders can affect only how a particular public school curriculum is implemented,. Anyone seeking to directly shape that curricula must attain jobs in their state’s education department. Often these agencies are similar to district boards but with greater power. In addition to curricula creation, state boards supervise implementation of Common Core standards, ensure compliance with regulations stipulated by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, determine students’ graduation requirements, and allocate funding to specific districts according to need, among other responsibilities.

Overall, education-focused MPA graduates have many options if they want to work in government or as part of a nonprofit to pursue their ideals. Crafting policy and leading advocacy efforts allows these individuals to advocate for thousands or millions of students, teachers, and other educational professionals.

Learn More

The School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University-Newark, provider of the online Master of Public Administration, is accredited by the NASPAA. Before a program becomes eligible for accreditation by the NASPAA, its parent school must be recognized by a regional, national or international agency. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education and is a member of the Association of American Universities.


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