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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 Development strand, ideal for leading in charter and less traditional settings, or for launching your own start-up school. 

Faculty Director Mary Grassa O’Neill on SLP:

Message from the Director

Welcome to the School Leadership Program where we learn to change the world.

In an age of burgeoning innovation and research, challenging inequities and changing policies, the role of leadership is more vital than ever.  In Harvard’s School Leadership Program, you’ll engage in an ecosystem of learning experiences that will enable you to effectively lead schools, organizations, people and learning.

Our enthusiasm for leadership is demonstrated through an academically exhilarating program with a focus on research-based practice. You will develop critical leadership skills to make a real difference in the lives of students, families, teachers and other stakeholders.  You will develop the knowledge and skills to lead change for improved results by harnessing the full potential of faculty, staff, students, and families.

You will engage in invigorating work and lively conversations with distinguished faculty, a diverse group of talented, thoughtful and accomplished students and other educators in this cohort-based program. In addition, you’ll develop real-world skills and experiences during two 250-hour internships where you will work with talented educational leaders as you learn to implement best practices. You will be prepared for professional and personal growth and advancement.

Permeating the program will be a focus on race, equity, and excellence.

If you want to change the world through equitable and excellent education for all, then Harvard Graduate School of Education’s School Leadership Program is the place to learn how to make it happen.

Mary Grassa O’Neill, Ed.D
Faculty Director, School Leadership Program
Senior Lecturer on Education

Program Highlights

The School Leadership Program is divided into two strands: Principal Licensure and School Development.

The Principal Licensure Strand is for those students interested in earning a license to serve as a principal. After completion of the Principal Licensure Strand requirements students earn a Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Principal License.

The School Development Strand is for those students interested in leading nonprofit, for-profit or philanthropic organizations, and for those who want to launch their own schools or educational organizations.


Curriculum Requirements Overview

  • 32 credits total
  • 14-18 credits in three core courses
  • Five courses in leadership
  • Two 250 hour internships
  • Remaining credits earned through electives

Principal Licensure Strand

​Elementary-School Level

Middle-School Level

High-School Level

School Development Strand

Sample Electives include:

View all courses in the Academic Catalogue.


Treasure the opportunity to work with outstanding leaders in two different semester-long internships at a district, charter, pilot, faith based or independent schools or at educational organizations in the Greater Boston area. 

Cross Registration

We encourage you to cross-register for a course outside of HGSE, if you can manage to do so. Learn more about course offerings at other Harvard schools, including:


SLP faculty members are experienced teachers, influential researchers, and passionate education reformers who are dedicated to developing 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 very successful school principals, superintendents, researchers, and philanthropists exploring the best methods for developing effective school practices, and scholars who are pioneering new ways 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 RevilleLee TeitelDrew Michael EchelsonIrvin Leon ScottCatherine SnowMary Grassa O'Neill

SLP students are experienced educators with a minimum of three to four years as teachers, leaders, or in other roles. Students come from traditional public schools, charters, independent and faith based schools. Most have taken on leadership roles as teacher leaders, department heads, community based leaders and have been involved in school-wide initiatives such as curriculum development, professional development, and inclusive education. The majority of SLP students see themselves working as principals or other educational leadership roles in schools or organizations — many in high-need districts. Others aspire to launch their own start-up schools and organizations. All SLP students share a desire to be influential agents of change, turning around underperforming institutions and making already good schools and organizations even better.


Sample Careers of Recent SLP Graduates

  • Head of School, charter high school, San Francisco
  • Principal, charter K–12 international school, Salt Lake City
  • Principal, district elementary school, Boston
  • Founder and School Leader, charter middle and high school, Honolulu
  • Dean of Lower School, Chicago
  • Director of Education and Leadership of an Arts Society, Washington, DC
  • Director of Program Resource and Development for Children’s Social Growth, San Francisco
  • Leadership Development Director at a Philanthropic Organization, Dallas

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 Development strand on your application. Applications are due in January of the academic year you plan to enroll.


If you have questions about the admissions process or want to learn more about the School Leadership Program, please contact our admissions liaison Alfred Ayoub or 617-495-3414. If you have specific questions about program requirements or experience, please contact program administrator Abbie Bloom at or 617-496-4816.

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