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School Leadership

In the School Leadership Program, you will learn how to harness the full potential of faculty, staff, students, and families to make schools work better for everyone.

America needs transformative leaders in our schools. We need school leaders who promote the learning and growth of all students by cultivating a strong culture of teaching and learning, setting ambitious goals, and ensuring that teachers have the resources, training, and support to achieve them. In the School Leadership Program (SLP), you will develop the critical leadership skills to make a real difference in the lives of learners. You will learn how to motivate and train excellent teachers, to manage the complex needs of students and parents, to measure the effectiveness of school programs, and to steer a large and complex institution toward greater social equity and maximum educational impact.

Within SLP, you can choose between the Principal Licensure strand, which prepares you to work in traditional public schools, or the School Developer strand, ideal for leading in charter and less traditional settings, or for launching your own start-up school.

Message from the Director

Thank you for your interest in the School Leadership Program (SLP). We believe that we have a rather unique, and rigorous, program that prepares high-quality school leaders.

It is designed for individuals committed to a variety of leadership roles in starting up, or dramatically transforming, schools to better serve the learning needs of all students, especially those whose needs are not currently being met by schools and school systems.  The SLP grounds students in the centrality of teaching and learning, and helps them understand and navigate the different structures and cultures of charter, pilot, and district schools, and the systems that support them.  The program focuses on the levers of improvement—how teachers, principals and school developers create conditions in start-up schools, or transform them in existing settings, to support high quality learning for all students (and for the adults who work with them).  At the same time, the program is intensely personal, focusing on the leadership development of each participant—his or her sense of purpose and commitment, skills in working effectively with other adults, and courage in tackling one of the biggest challenge we face—providing the knowledge, skills and social development all of our students need.

We seek to develop change agents from both within traditional and non-traditional settings, working with prospective principals as well as school developers. Our program consistently attracts bright, focused, experienced educators from public schools including charters, private and independent schools, and various external organizations who have deep commitment to improving educational opportunities for all students.

The program benefits from the superb world-recognized faculty of the HGSE as well as the significant resources available within Harvard University. Furthermore, we have developed extensive relationships with various schools and organizations with the greater Boston area, which serve as field-based learning sites.

Our graduates have been very successful in promoting educational improvement in urban and high needs settings throughout the country.  Most of our graduates are practicing school principals, assistant principals, deans and charter school directors; others are teacher leaders, department heads, curriculum coordinators, non-profit directors, and department of education officials. Our graduates consistently and frequently report back from the field that the School Leadership Program has prepared them well for school leadership positions.

Thank you for your interest in the School Leadership Program. Please review our website, and contact the program administrator, Rebecca Pyne, if you have further questions: 617-496-4816, rebecca_pyne@gse.harvard.edu.

Lee Teitel
Program Director, School Leadership Program
Lecturer on Education
Senior Associate for the Executive Leadership Program for Educators

Program Highlights

SLP is a full-time, one-year master’s program for experienced teachers and educators who want to make a broader impact in the lives of students as principals and school leaders.

Focus on excellence and equity – A recurring theme throughout SLP coursework and fieldwork is to build schools — and develop school leaders — that truly serve all students. You will leave here with a sharp awareness of the many ways in which schools can fail students of color, low-income students, English language learners, and students with physical or learning disabilities. But you will also leave here buoyed by the examples of strong and effective school leaders, and ready to put their best practices to work in your own schools.

Personal and professional development – Before you can close achievement gaps in your schools, you need to close the gaps between who you are and the leader you want to become. In SLP, we use both self-assessment and group assessment exercises to identify the biases, fears, and misconceptions that prevent us from becoming effective change agents. As a cohort, we then use professional development strategies learned in class to create customized workshops to improve our own leadership practice.

Year-long internship – Students in both the Principal Licensure and School Developer strand participate in a year-long practicum at schools in Cambridge, Boston, and surrounding areas. The matching process starts in June, so there is plenty of time to find an internship site that fits your professional goals. Working with a mentor, you will observe and provide instructional feedback to teachers, collaborate with a team of administrators and teachers on mission-critical projects, consult with school leaders on budgeting and operations, use data analysis to identify opportunities for improvement, and much more. Students in the School Developer strand can customize their practicum by finding settings and identifying mentors within those settings that align with their learning interests.

Community and collaboration – Effective leadership is not exercised in a vacuum. Your SLP learning experience will be greatly enriched by the diverse perspectives and experiences of your fellow cohort members. You are each experienced educators who bring unique gifts and talents to the table. By working in small teams, you will support, strengthen, and teach each other. Ultimately, your collaborative experience in SLP will serve as a model for effective team-based leadership in your schools and communities.

Curriculum

SLP is a full-time, one-year master’s program. When applying, you will need to choose between two curricular strands within SLP: Principal Licensure and School Developer. To graduate, all SLP students must complete 32 credits, including a year-long field practicum at a local school.

Core Course Requirements

All SLP students take three core seminars together to help identify critical school leadership skills, develop and practice those skills individually and within teams, and emerge with a clear vision of what a great school looks like: one that provides high-quality teaching and learning for all students.

  • A-310D: SLP Pre-practicum Module (summer, no-credit)
  • A-328: School Leadership Pro-Seminar (year-long, 8 credits)
  • T-330: School Instructional Leadership:  Seminar and Practicum (year-long, 8 credits)

Principal Licensure Strand

The Principal Licensure strand is designed for students who want to work as a principal or assistant principal in a traditional public preK-12 school. The heart of the program is a year-long placement in a Boston-area school where you will work closely with a principal mentor. Learn more about applying for licensure as a school principal or assistant principal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

School Developer Strand

School Developer strand students take several of the same core SLP courses and also conduct a year-long practicum to get fully grounded in the work of leading a school.   Beyond that, School Developers use the increased flexibility (1.5 fewer required courses than Principal Licensure Students) to customize their learning with additional electives, getting deeper insights into teaching and learning, entrepreneurship, or the mechanics of starting a school.  In addition, many School Developers exercise increased flexibility at their practicum sites during the spring to visit other schools as they develop plans for their own. 

Faculty

SLP faculty members are experienced teachers, influential researchers, and passionate education reformers who are committed to raising up the next generation of transformative school leaders. The SLP faculty includes experts in organizational behavior, networks and partnerships, and school and district improvement.  They are former school principals and urban superintendants, researchers exploring the best methods for developing effective school teams, and scholars who are pioneering new ways to use data analysis to improve instruction and student outcomes.

Andres Antonio AlonsoKatherine C. BolesKathryn Parker BoudettEleanor R. DuckworthThomas HehirMonica C. HigginsJames P. HonanDeborah Jewell-ShermanSusan Moore JohnsonDaniel KoretzKaren L. MappJal MehtaKatherine K. MersethPaul RevilleMary RussoLee Teitel
Students

SLP students are experienced educators with a minimum of three or four years of teaching experience in traditional public schools, charters, and independent schools. Most have taken on leadership roles in their schools as teacher leaders or department heads, and have been involved in school-wide initiatives like curriculum development, professional development, and inclusive education. The majority of SLP students see themselves working as principals, assistant principals, and fulfilling other leadership roles in existing schools — many in high-need districts — while some aspire to launch their own start-up schools and charters. All SLP students share a desire to be influential agents of change, turning around underperforming institutions and making successful schools even stronger.

Alumni

Alumni of SLP are principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders in traditional public schools and charter schools across the country and around the world. Several have gone on to design, launch, and direct their own charter and alternative schools. We’re proud that so many of our graduates choose to serve in high-need school districts in both urban and rural areas. SLP graduates also work for non-profit organizations that support public schools through leadership training, research, and professional development.

Where Alumni Work

  • Abu Dhabi Education Council
  • Boston Public Schools
  • Breakthrough Birmingham
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Educators for Social Responsibility
  • Edward Coles Model for Excellence Language Academy
  • Gradeable
  • International Community School
  • KIPP
  • Out of the Box Learning Studio
  • San Francisco Flex Academy
Apply

If you are ready to be a transformative agent of change in American schools, we want to hear your story.  Visit HGSE admissions to learn more about Ed.M. application requirements and deadlines, and to get information about financial aid. Please note that you must choose between the Principal Licensure strand or the School Developer strand on your application. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll.

Contact

If you have any questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the benefits of the SLP program, please contact our admissions liaison Justin Maher at askjustin@gse.harvard.edu or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about SLP program requirements, please contact program coordinator Rebecca Pyne at rebecca_pyne@gse.harvard.edu or 617-496-4816.