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Doctoral Degree Programs

Doctor of Education Leadership

America needs transformative leaders in preK–12 education, individuals whose passion for educational quality and equity is matched by a 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 school systems, national nonprofits and philanthropies, mission-driven for-profits, and state and federal departments of education.

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 district/charter management leaders, entrepreneurs, nonprofit directors, principals, teachers, and policy researchers) who progress through the program together. In Ed.L.D. you will 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. All students receive a full tuition funding package plus stipends, work opportunities, and a paid third-year residency at a partner organization.

The Ed.L.D. program prepares graduates to do work for the public good, in the United States education public sector and in high-impact positions for high-impact organizations. Specifically, the program is designed to accelerate the progress graduates make toward achieving influential roles and/or crossing boundaries in the following spaces in the public education sector:

  • Prenatal-12 district, CMO and/or state education leadership roles: Superintendent of Schools, Commissioner, Chief Academic Officer and/or Deputy Superintendent/Commissioner.
  • Education nonprofit roles: President or Executive Director of backbone or collective impact organizations which support preK–12 schools. Ed.L.D. graduates will lead education nonprofits that explicitly focus on improving outcomes and opportunities for children, families, and communities.
  • State or federal education policy roles: Executive Director of Policy for public education advocacy, education policy advisors to Governors or state or local officials, and/or education think tanks. Students will generate and curate best practice research that leads to education policy recommendations that are rooted in evidence and data and push excellence and equity.
  • Social entrepreneurship roles: leaders of education start-ups which address complex problems of practice facing American public education through innovative solutions for the education sector. Work in social entrepreneurship should also focus on scaling innovative ideas which have a research base.
  • Foundations and philanthropy roles: senior leaders within education-focused foundations which support investments in education that focus on data, excellence, equity, and sustainability.

Curriculum Information

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. You will develop and test your leadership skills through team projects and an immersive third-year residency.

HGSE announced plans to deliver a fully online experience during academic year 2020-2021. To learn more about our approach for online learning read the June 18, 2020 curriculum update. We also invite you to review the course list for academic year 2020-2021, which is provided in two formats — one as the full list by course number and one by broad course category. These lists are subject to modification. 

Year One

All 25 students in the cohort take the same classes in four foundational content areas: learning and teaching, leadership and organizational change, politics and policy, and personal mastery (including one-on-one executive coaching). Courses taken during the first-year focus on practice-based learning and serve as the framework of your first year experience.

Sample units in year one

Year Two

Each cohort member works with program advisers to choose an individualized sequence of electives from any of the Harvard graduate schools. You will work closely with the program faculty and staff during your second year to determine the best match with a partner organization for your third-year residency. Matches are driven by mutual interest between the resident and the partner organization, and each student's career and learning goals and geographic preferences.

Sample units in year two

Year Three

You will stay connected to your Ed.L.D. cohort and HGSE through technology and by returning to Harvard periodically for intensive workshops. It will also include a paid residency, a strategic project, and a final written Capstone, which serves as an integral part of the third-year residency experience.

Paid Residency 
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.

You will be intentionally pushed out of your comfort zones and asked to work systemically and make a significant contribution to the partner organization. In addition, the residency will provide you with the professional mentoring, practical experiences, and network of connections they need to position themselves as future leaders in the education sector. 

Strategic Project 
You will define (with supervisors from your partner organization) a strategic project on which to focus. You will have the 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 you to practice and improve 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, you will produce a written Capstone. The Capstone is a descriptive, analytic, and reflective account of your third-year leadership contributions to a strategic project within an Ed.L.D. partner organization. It is a demonstration of the your ability to engage others, develop strategy to successfully address and diagnose challenges, work toward a vision and goals, and learn from the results.

View Capstone Samples

Sample Topics 

  • Accountability, Coherence, and Improvement: Leadership Reflection and Growth in the Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Leadership Development for Entrepreneurial Education Leaders Working to Build Public & Private Sector Support
  • Disrupting Teacher Preparation: Lessons in Collaboration and Innovation Across the Learning to Teach Community of Practice
  • Pursuing Educational Equality for English Language Learners

Sample Summaries 


Program Faculty

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:


How is the third third-year residency determined? Will I get to choose where I go and for whom I work?

You will work closely with Ed.L.D. Program faculty during your second year to determine the best partner organization match for your third-year residency. In ascertaining a match, faculty take a number of factors into account, including a 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.

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. You will work directly with partner organizations in the third-year residency and have some exposure to partner representatives in the first two years of the program. You will capture your 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.

Outcomes and Alumni Profiles

Graduates of the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program find positions in system-level leadership in national nonprofits and philanthropies, state and federal departments of education, mission-driven for-profits, and school systems. With a national network, scope of transformational impact, and depth of diverse work experience, alumni of the Ed.L.D. program are helping to change the world. 

Cesar Cruz

Get to Know the Keynote Speaker: Cesar Cruz, Ed.L.D.’16

Bringing the power of community to the 2021 Alumni of Color Conference.

Mona Ford Walker with a student at Winship Elementary

Sharing the Lessons of School Improvement

One Boston public school, two HGSE school leaders, and the ingredients of whole-school change.

Connect with Admissions

More information about our admissions application requirements and instructions, funding, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. If you have additional admissions-related questions, please contact Christine Lombardi or call 617.495.3414.

Introduce Yourself

Receive tailored admissions information about upcoming programs, events, and opportunities to connect with us.

Connect with Program Staff

Learn more about the unique benefits of the Ed.L.D. Program — including full tuition funding — by visiting admissions or attending an admissions event.

Virtual Information Sessions

View the Doctor of Education Leadership recorded virtual information session to learn more about the program from faculty, students, and staff.