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Master's Programs

School Leadership

We are dedicated to helping you prepare for an impactful career in education by offering powerful learning experiences and field-based opportunities that will develop critical professional skills. The program information below is for academic year 2020-2021. We encourage you to visit our website in August, when more information will be available for academic year 2021-2022 applicants.

In the School Leadership Program (SLP), you will join a dynamic and diverse cohort of experienced teachers and education professionals ready to develop and hone your leadership knowledge, practice, and skills. SLP provides an exciting learning experience with a focus on race, equity, and excellence. The combination of research, theory and practice prepares students to lead change, schools and organizations, people, and learning.

Playing a leadership role in education is something that's joyful. It's a way to improve the world; it's a way to provide service and it's a way to benefit children – our most precious resource.

Senior Lecturer Mary Grassa O'Neill, faculty director

SLP is a program that engages you in learning experiences to develop critical leadership skills and make a real difference in the lives of learners. The many strengths of SLP include:

  • Cohort and Community – 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. The diverse experiences and perspectives of your close-knit cohort will enrich your HGSE experience and support you as you move into leadership roles. You will develop strong bonds and a supportive learning community through participation in various cohort and community-building virtual activities hosted by your program, student organizations, and HGSE faculty and staff. 
  • Fieldwork and Internships Internships provide a lot of value to your academic experience while providing you excellent knowledge and skills to build your resume. While Field Experiences will continue to be an important part of the HGSE learning experience, logistical and other program details are subject to modification for academic year 2020-21. Internships will not be required for SLP for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Curriculum Information

HGSE and its faculty are launching a series of schoolwide courses, designed to take advantage of active learning and the latest research findings about how to nurture powerful learning experiences online. These schoolwide courses address a range of critical topics that respond to today’s societal circumstances, including leadership and organizations, inclusive and effective teaching, education policy, and more. Your courses are being redesigned to provide the best that digital learning has to offer, combining asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences and an unparalleled curriculum. Program-specific courses will be offered in a variety of formats: seminars, tutorials, classes of varying sizes and models for collaboration and learning, field-based experiences, and more.

You will have even more access to the Harvard network, whose global reach extends far beyond Appian Way. You will also have access to our outstanding faculty, including Professors Mary Grassa O’Neill, Irvin Scott, Monica Higgins, Karen Mapp, and Jim Honan. We will continue to support you as individuals, as a Program, and as a member of the HGSE community on dimensions ranging from academic learning to personal growth to professional development. 

The School Leadership Program curriculum is rigorous but flexible, structured in a way that focuses on the development of change agents. You will study core concepts and topics, ranging from management and finance through to entrepreneurship, organizational change, and instructional leadership. Those students who are interested in leadership and entrepreneurial roles in district, charter, independent schools, and education nonprofits will pursue the School Developer strand. You will complete 32 credits in total, with access to courses across HGSE, including the new set of schoolwide courses, and other parts of Harvard University. The Principal Licensure Strand will not be offered in 2020-2021.

Students in the School Leadership Program will take 12 credits in required courses:

  • A310H Race, Equity, and Leadership
  • A310X Leading Change: Cultivating Skills for School Leadership and Management
  • A310Y Leading People: Cultivating Skills for School Leadership and Management
  • A333Y Strategic Leadership: Schools, Organizations, and Start-Ups
  • A334Y Strategic Leadership: Schools, Organizations, and Start-Ups
  • A course on school law

In addition, students will take 8 credits in leadership electives, and 12 credits in general electives.

Program Faculty

HGSE consists of a faculty of the whole and students can work with and take courses with faculty throughout HGSE and Harvard. The faculty that SLP students most often work with include: 

Alumni & Student Profiles

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. Our alumni can be found in leadership positions around the U.S. and the world, working in organizations, and public, charter, independent, faith-based, and international schools, in roles such as: principal, assistant principal, head of school, school founder, director of education and leadership, and program director.

Steve Askar

Striving for Belonging: Steve Askar, SLP'20

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for School Leadership reflects on his time at HGSE and looks toward the future.

Illustration by George Wylesol

Grade Expectations

Why we need to rethink grading in our schools.

Tell us about yourself so that we can tailor our communication to best fit your interests and provide you with relevant information about our programs, events, and other opportunities to connect with us.


If you have a program-specific question, please reach out to the School Leadership Administrator, Abbie Bloom.

Admissions Information

More information about our admissions application requirements and instructionstuition and financial aid, and answers to frequently asked questions is available on our website. If you have additional admissions-related questions, please contact Ernald Furxhi or call 617.495.3414.