100 STORIES OF IMPACT

System Leadership — Embedded, Accessible, and Worldwide

CAEL graphic

How might we develop leaders with the knowledge, skills, habits of mind, and actions necessary to transform systems and outcomes?  By 2015, HGSE had explored this question in many venues, including the 20 years of the Urban Superintendents Program, executive education for school districts through the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) (with Harvard Business School), and with its then-newest degree, the Doctorate in Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program, graduating its first cohorts into leadership roles.


HGSE’s Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership set a new standard for professional learning for superintendents. 


A work group of faculty, alumni, and staff met to determine how HGSE could extend the mission and learnings from the Ed.L.D. Program and support the development of system-level leaders around the world. The result would be the Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership (CAEL), HGSE’s first online certificate program.

In addition to the distinctive leadership content, the program was meant to be scalable and accessible. The online model would enable HGSE to reach educators globally, to engage them over an extended period of time, and to deliver a job-embedded experience. Through the leadership of Senior Lecturer Elizabeth City, faculty chair of CAEL, and the collaboration of HGSE’s Professional Education and Teaching and Learning Lab teams, the school committed to a rapid design and development schedule.

HGSE launched CAEL in February of 2016 with five modules, each 12 weeks long and following a Learn-Apply-Reflect learning arc. In just four years, more than 250 educators have earned the CAEL certificate by completing the required four modules, and 750 educators have taken at least one module. The program has served educators in 42 states and Washington, D.C., and in 55 countries.

“The coursework proved transformative to my work as an educational leader,” said one participant. “Upon completion, I have a set of skills that are relevant to my daily work as a superintendent …. I think more deeply about the problems facing my system, and I have the patience and stamina to face them head on with purposeful solutions oriented in equity.”

In addition to the direct impact on participants, CAEL was the first of what has developed into a set of online certificates developed and delivered by HGSE. The Certificate in Early Education Leadership (CEEL) was announced in May 2018, and its first cohort has completed the program. The Certificate in School Management and Leadership (CSML), a collaboration of HGSE and Harvard Business School, has launched two of its planned four courses. Through these online certificate programs, HGSE is providing high-quality content on engaging platforms in scalable models.

“CAEL has enabled us to extend and deepen the impact of the Ed.L.D. Program to education leaders in diverse settings,” said City. “We have been inspired by the opportunity to connect these leaders with HGSE and one another in a sustained learning experience that aligns closely with their roles. The leaders enrolled in this intensive, rigorous experience, in the thick of their everyday work, have translated their learning into practice faster than any other professional learning experience I have led. It’s a privilege and delight to see what they do with their learning and how they are making a difference immediately for the children and adults they work with.” – Keith Collar

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Explore Professional Education's Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership.

Learn more about the Doctor of Education Leadership Program.