America needs transformative leaders in preK-12 education, individuals whose passion for educational quality and equity is matched by a firsthand knowledge of learning and development, a firm grasp of public policy issues, and the organizational management skills to translate visionary ideas into real-world success. Graduates of the three-year, multidisciplinary Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program — taught by faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School, and the Harvard Kennedy School — are uniquely prepared for system-level leadership positions in national nonprofits and philanthropies, state and federal departments of education, mission-driven for-profits, and school systems.
The Ed.L.D. is a full-time, three-year program built on a cohort learning model. Cohorts consist of 25 students from diverse professional backgrounds — including entrepreneurs, nonprofit directors, principals, teachers, and policy researchers — who progress through the program together. All students receive a full tuition funding package plus stipends, work opportunities, and a paid third-year residency at a partner organization.
The first advantage of the Ed.L.D. program is the cohort itself. Your classmates represent some of the most passionate and accomplished educators in America. They are also eager to collaborate and learn from one another. Ed.L.D. students understand that the ambitious goal of transforming preK-12 education won’t be accomplished by any individual alone, but by a diverse movement of leaders in government, school systems, nonprofits, and educational for-profit ventures.
Another advantage of the Ed.L.D. program is the ability to tailor some program content to your individual strengths and career goals. Each Ed.L.D. student comes from a different professional background with a different balance of skills. In year one, in addition to completing a core curriculum, every student chooses an elective and receives one-on-one leadership coaching to help identify areas of improvement. In year two, students work with coaches and advisors to choose electives that deepen knowledge and fill gaps in experience or education. .
Practical Leadership Experience
The 10-month paid residency in year three of the program is much more than an externship or summer position. Our partner organizations hire Ed.L.D. students to lead high-priority projects. The residency offers a practical, hands-on opportunity for third-year students to hone their leadership skills in a supportive professional setting. Through a careful matching process, students work with organizations that support their professional goals, providing a foothold in the industry and a growing network of contacts.
The Ed.L.D. curriculum is a balance of multidisciplinary coursework and practice-based learning. Core courses and electives are taught by recognized leaders from across Harvard’s graduate programs in fields like data-based education reform, organizational change and innovation, and effective leadership strategies for urban schools. Students develop and test their leadership skills through team projects and an immersive third-year residency.
All 25 students in the cohort take the same classes in four core areas: learning and teaching, leadership and organizational change, politics and policy, and personal mastery (including one-on-one executive coaching). Sample units in the year one curriculum include:
Applying Cognitive Science to Learning and Teaching
Evidence-Based Leadership in Education
Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Learning
Leading Innovation and Change
Leading Through Difference
Strategic Management of Public Sector Organizations
The Challenge of Catalyzing Sector-Level Change
Thinking Strategically about Education Reform
Additionally, students choose one elective outside of the core courses.
Each cohort member works with program advisors to choose an individualized sequence of electives from any of the Harvard graduate schools. Samples of year two electives include:
Harvard Graduate School of Education
Harvard Business School
Harvard Kennedy School
Among the most innovative features of the Ed.L.D. Program is a paid residency during the third year at one of our partner organizations, which include school systems and departments of education, as well as some of the nation's most influential and dynamic nonprofit, mission-based for-profit, and philanthropic organizations.
Students will be intentionally pushed out of their comfort zones and be asked to work systemically and make a significant contribution to the partner organization. In addition, the residency will provide students with the professional mentoring, practical experiences, and network of connections they need to position themselves as future leaders in the education sector.
As part of the residency, each Ed.L.D. resident will define (with supervisors from their partner organization) a strategic project on which to focus. In the strategic project, the resident will have an opportunity to lead one or two major efforts on behalf of the organization, such as the creation or implementation of current initiatives. The project allows residents to practice and improve upon their leadership skills, add important value to the mission and strategy of the partner organization, work systemically, and hold high-level accountability.
During the residency period, all Ed.L.D. candidates will produce a written Capstone. The Capstone is a descriptive, analytic, and reflective account of the third-year student's leadership of and contributions to a strategic project within an Ed.L.D. partner organization. It is a demonstration of the student's ability to diagnose challenges, engage others, develop strategy to successfully address challenges, work towards a vision and goals, and learn from the results. The Capstone serves as an integral part of the third-year residency experience. Sample Capstone topics of recent Ed.L.D. graduates include:
Summaries of the following Capstones are available by clicking below:
In the third year, residents stay connected with their Ed.L.D. cohort and HGSE through technology and by returning to Harvard periodically for intensive workshops.
Students work closely with the program faculty during their second year to determine the best match with a partner organization for their third year residency. In matching, faculty take a number of factors into account, including each student's career goals and geographic preferences. The program expects that the current list of partners will continue to evolve based on organizational and student interest, and as the Ed.L.D. alumni network continues to grow.
Ed.L.D. students learn with renowned faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Kennedy School. Faculty from the three schools share their individual expertise in the Ed.L.D. program and work collaboratively to provide a challenging and coherent experience for students. Faculty who teach in the Ed.L.D. core curriculum and advise Ed.L.D. students include:
The Ed.L.D. program has partnered with organizations that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in American preK-12 education. The partners are school systems, nonprofit organizations, mission-based for-profit organizations, and government agencies, all pursuing a common goal of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential. Ed.L.D. students work directly with partner organizations in the third-yera residency and have some exposure to partner representatives in the first two years of the program. Ed.L.D. students capture their work with partner organizations in Capstones, which are descriptive, analytic, and reflective accounts of the resident's leadership of and contributions to a strategic project. Summaries of Capstones by several members of the first cohort of Ed.L.D. graduates are available in the curriculum section.
The following partner organizations are hosting an Ed.L.D. resident for the 2014-15 academic year:
How do I know if this program is a good fit for me?
To determine whether the Ed.L.D. program is a good fit for you and your interests, it may help to begin by thinking about your career goals. Do you wish to pursue a career as a system-level leader who will contribute to transforming preK-12 education in the United States?
In addition, consider the program's curriculum. Will a deep understanding of the following help you achieve your career goals?
Lastly, take a look at the types of organizations with which HGSE is partnering; these school systems, nonprofit organizations, mission-based for-profit organizations, and government agencies are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in preK-12 education. Do you see yourself working in these types of organizations or even creating your own? If the program meets your needs and interests, you are encouraged to apply.
For what types of positions will the Ed.L.D. program prepare me?
The Ed.L.D. program is designed to prepare graduates for a variety of system-level leadership responsibilities in organizations such as school systems, state departments of education, U.S. Department of Education, national policy organizations, national nonprofits or mission-based for-profits, and foundations/funders. Ed.L.D. graduates will be well positioned to assume roles such as chief academic officer, chief executive officer, chief of staff, superintendent (head, assistant, deputy, or area), commissioner, executive director, advisor to the deputy secretary, program director, or program officer.
I am interested in becoming a superintendent for urban school districts. Should I apply to the Ed.L.D. or the Ph.D. program?
If you are interested in a career as a superintendent or district leader, you should apply to the Ed.L.D. program. For 20 years, HGSE has prepared students to lead urban school districts through the Urban Superintendents Program (USP). USP admitted its final cohort in fall 2009.
The Ed.L.D. program prepares graduates for preK-12 system-level leadership roles but, like USP, it is not a licensure program. As requirements for licensure vary from state to state, students ultimately seeking certification for superintendent or cabinet level roles requiring licensure are advised to work with state departments of education to confirm prerequisites and available options to meet state-specific requirements. Links to state licensing offices can be found here.
What types of positions do Ed.L.D. graduates hold?
Recent Ed.L.D. alumni hold positions such as:
Is this program suitable for someone with interests in international education or higher education?
At this time, the program's focus is on preparing graduates who will transform the American preK-12 education system. If this meets your interests and needs, you are welcome to apply. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply for admission to the Ed.L.D. program.
As part of the Ed.L.D. program, the Harvard Graduate School of Education will draw on the knowledge and successes of other countries and may partner with some international organizations in the future.
Our Masters of Education (Ed.M.) and Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) programs continue to serve students who would like to work in international or higher education. We encourage you to explore all of the HGSE degree programs to determine which may be the best fit with your personal interests and career goals.
How does the Ed.L.D. advising system work? Will I stay with the same advisor throughout their three years?
Students are assigned a faculty advisor upon admission to the Ed.L.D. program. Assignments are made based on the background, experience, and interests of the student and the faculty member. Requests to change advisors are accepted at any time after the first semester of study.
How is the third year residency determined? Will I get to choose where I go and for whom I work?
Students will work closely with Ed.L.D. program faculty during their second year to determine the best partner organization match for their third year residency. In ascertaining a match, faculty take a number of factors into account, including students’ career goals and geographic preferences. The program expects that the current list of partners will continue to grow based on organizational and student interest.
What is the Ed.L.D. Capstone?
The Capstone is a descriptive, analytic, and reflective account of the third-year student’s leadership of and contributions to a strategic project within an Ed.L.D. partner organization. It is a demonstration of the student’s ability to diagnose challenges, engage others, develop strategy to successfully address the challenges, work towards a vision and goals, and learn from the results. The Capstone serves as an integral part of the third-year residency experience.
What types of topics do students choose for their Ed.L.D. Capstones?
Sample Capstone topics of recent Ed.L.D. graduates include:
For summaries of a few recent Capstones, see the Curriculum section above.
When does the program start? How long does the Ed.L.D. program take to complete?
Each Ed.L.D. cohort will begin the program in late August. A new cohort is selected once per year for fall-entry only. The program takes three years to complete.
Can the Ed.L.D. program be done part-time, online, or by distance education?
No. The Ed.L.D. program requires that students attend full-time in residence at Harvard, due to the intensive cohort-based nature of the program.
Is the Ed.L.D. a joint degree program?
The Ed.L.D. is based solely at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; it is not a joint degree program. However, the program is taught by faculty from HGSE, the Harvard Business School, and the Kennedy School of Government, who work collaboratively to provide a challenging and coherent experience for students.
Does the Ed.L.D. program accept transfer credits from other Harvard programs or universities?
No, the Ed.L.D. program does not accept transfer credits from other Harvard programs or universities. This program is designed as a comprehensive, full-time, three-year experience.
How much does the Ed.L.D. program cost? Is funding available?
If accepted, you will receive a full tuition funding package, which includes stipend/work opportunity support in years one and two, as well as a paid residency in year three. The stipend/work opportunity funding is expected to cover HGSE's estimate of living expenses.
For more information, please visit the Financial Aid website.
Learn more about the unique benefits of the Ed.L.D. program at Harvard — including full tuition funding — by visitng the admissions section of the website, contacting HGSE admissions, or attending an admissions event.
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