Students sit on the stairs in front of the Education Building

The Educational Specialist Program is most often completed by someone seeking a superintendent license. In Wisconsin, to be eligible for a superintendent license, you must either be in a Ph.D. program and have completed preliminary exams (dissertation proposal) or hold an educational specialist degree. 

The Educational Specialist (EdS) in ELPA is available to students who entered the Ph.D. in ELPA, but chose not to complete the final requirement of the Ph.D.: a dissertation. As a non-admitting degree, the EdS requires a degree change (from Ph.D. to EdS) in the student's final semester of the program.  Students may not apply directly for the ELPA-EdS degree.  If you are interested in applying for the Ph.D. program, please see program information here.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Information

Students enrolled in this program are not eligible to receive tuition remission from graduate assistantship appointments at this institution.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

major requirements

mode of instruction

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

curricular requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 60 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 24 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 60 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA
This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
Other Grade Requirements n/a
Assessments and Examinations A practicum experience requiring 150 contact hours for an initial administrator license and an additional 75 hours for each additional administrative license. Practicums are completed under the guidance of department faculty.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.


The following minimal requirements will satisfy the Educational Specialist in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Category I
Introduction to Educational Leadership
Category II
Resource Allocation for Equity and Social Justice
The School Superintendency
Organizational Theory and Behavior in Education
The Politics of Education
Theory and Practice of Educational Planning
Category III
At least ten (10) additional courses including at least thirty (30) graduate credits selected from any courses in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. (A maximum of three (3) graduate credits of ELPA 990 or ELPA 999 may be included in the 30 credits.) Students seeking Superintendent Certification need to incorporate required coursework into Category III. In addition to Category II coursework, Superintendent Certification requires:
Applied Research in Educational Administration
Research Methods and Statistics Courses
At least two (2) courses including six (6) graduate credits of research courses distributed as follows:
1. An introductory statistics course which includes descriptive statistics, central tendency, probability, inference, and variance.
2. The research requirement for the Educational Specialist shall be satisfied by completing ELPA 824.
Supporting Courses
At least two (2) courses including six (6) graduate credits of supporting coursework in teaching and learning (typically one course in Curriculum and Instruction and one additional course). Additional courses in teaching and learning and recommended.
Total Credits60

Program Approval

The Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Program plan (as well as any subsequent amendments and changes) must be submitted and approved by the department as soon as is practicable following admission to the program.

Specialist Paper

The department has established the following criteria as guidelines for the specialist paper:

  • The specialist paper should be derived from a current, practical problem which is researchable and limited in scope.
  • The specialist paper should have the approval, cooperation, or collaboration of the governing board or administration of an educational institution when appropriate.
  • The specialist paper should utilize applied, market, or policy research.
  • The specialist paper should result in recommendations for action.
  • The design and methodology for the specialist paper will be developed by the student and major professor and reviewed and approved by a three-person faculty committee which will also conduct the oral examination on the completed specialist paper.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

major specific policies


Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to an educational specialist degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. 

UW-Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW-Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree. 

UW-Madison University Special

This program follows the Graduate School's policy for Transfer from UW-Madison University Special Student Career at UW-Madison.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


This program follows the Graduate School's Advisor policy and the Graduate School's Committees policy

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


15 credits


This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.


These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

School of Education Grievance Policy and Procedures

The following School of Education Student Grievance Policy and associated procedures are designed for use in response to individual student grievances regarding faculty or staff in the School of Education.

Any individual student who feels they have been treated unfairly by a School of Education faculty or staff member has the right to file a grievance about the treatment and receive a timely response addressing their concerns. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these grievance procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies. The grievance may concern classroom treatment, mentoring or advising, program admission or continuation, course grades (study abroad grade complaints are handled through International Academic Programs), or issues not covered by other campus policies or grievance procedures. 

For grievances regarding discrimination based on protected bases (i.e., race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, etc.), contact the Office of Compliance (

For grievances or concerns regarding sexual harassment or sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking and sexual exploitation), contact the Sexual Misconduct Resource and Response Program within the Office of Compliance.

For grievances that involve the behavior of a student, contact the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards in the Dean of Students Office at

For grievances about, or directed at, faculty or staff in a School of Education department, unit, or program, students should follow these steps:

  1. Students are strongly encouraged to first talk with the person against whom the concern is directed.  Many issues can be settled informally at this level.  If students are unable to resolve concerns directly or without additional support, step 2 or 3 should be pursued.
  2. If unresolved after taking or considering step 1:
    1. If the concern is directed against a teaching assistant (TA), and the student is not satisfied, the student should contact the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor.  The course professor will attempt to resolve the concern informally.
    2. If the concern involves a non-TA instructor, staff member, professor, academic department, or School of Education office or unit, the student should contact the chair of the department or the director of the office or unit, or their designee. The chair or director, or their designee, will attempt to resolve the concern informally. If the concern is about the department chair or office/unit director, the student should consult the School of Education Senior Associate Dean for guidance.
  3. If the concern remains unresolved after step 2, the student may submit a formal grievance to the chair or director in writing within 30 business days1 of the alleged unfair treatment. To the fullest extent possible, a formal written grievance shall contain a clear and concise statement of the issue(s) involved and the relief sought.  
  4. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will notify the person at whom the grievance is directed with a copy of the written grievance. The person at whom the complaint is directed may submit a written response, which would be shared with the student.
  5. On receipt of a written grievance, the chair or director will refer the matter to a department, office, or unit committee comprised of at least two members. The committee may be an existing committee or one constituted for this purpose. The committee, or delegates from the committee, may meet with the parties involved and/or review any material either party shares with the committee.  
  6. The committee will provide a written description of the facts of the grievance and communicate recommendations to the department chair or office/unit head regarding how the grievance should be handled.
  7. The chair or director will offer to meet with the student who made the grievance and also will provide a written decision to the student, including a description of any related action taken by the committee, within 30 business days of receiving the formal grievance.

    For the purpose of this policy, business days refers to those days when the University Offices are open and shall not include weekends, university holidays, spring recess, or the period from the last day of exams of fall semester instruction to the first day of spring semester instruction. All time limits may be modified by mutual consent of the parties involved.

If the grievance concerns an undergraduate course grade, the decision of the department chair after reviewing the committee’s recommendations is final. 

Other types of grievances may be appealed using the following procedures:

  1. Both the student who filed the grievance or the person at whom the grievance was directed, if unsatisfied with the decision of the department, office or unit, have five (5) business days from receipt of the decision to contact the Senior Associate Dean, indicating the intention to appeal.   
  2. A written appeal must be filed with the Senior Associate Dean within 10 business days of the time the appealing party was notified of the initial resolution of the complaint.
  3. On receipt of a written appeal, the Senior Associate Dean will convene a sub-committee of the School of Education’s Academic Planning Council. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and/or may hold a meeting at which both parties will be asked to speak separately (i.e., not in the room at the same time).
  4. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the Dean of the School of Education, or their designee, who will render a decision. The dean or designee’s written decision shall be made within 30 business days from the date when the written appeal was filed with the Senior Associate Dean.  For undergraduate students, the dean or designee’s decision is final.

Further appealing a School of Education decision – graduate students only

Graduate students have the option to appeal decisions by the School of Education dean or designee by using the process detailed on the Graduate School’s website.

Questions about these procedures can be directed to the School of Education Dean's Office, 377 Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, 608-262-1763.




Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulate research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the study of educational leadership.
  2. Formulate ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the boundaries of knowledge within the study of educational leadership.
  3. Create research or scholarship that makes a substantive contribution to the field of practice.
  4. Demonstrate breadth within their learning experiences through experiences and artifacts in curriculum and instruction, leadership, personnel, and knowledge and skill development gained through field placements.
  5. Advance contributions to society in the study and practice of educational leadership.
  6. Communicate complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  7. Understand the role of the Superintendent as the district’s “first” educational leader.
  8. Identify and view the issues and decisions inherent in district leadership through a social justice lens leading to the elimination of inequity for both students and staff.
  9. Explore the many roles and perspectives of the Superintendent as educator, corporate leader and community leader.
  10. Develop an understanding of the fundamental personal leadership skills necessary to lead an organization.
  11. Recognize the impact that local, state, national and international events/trends (both actual and perceived) have on the office of the Superintendent.
  12. Recognize the difference between leadership and management.

Faculty: Professor Anjalé (AJ) Welton (chair); Professors Conrad, Eckes, Halverson, Kelley, Miller, Wang, Winkle-Wagner; Associate Professors Burt, Hillman; Assistant Professors Grooms, Henry, McQuillan, Saldana, Yu; Clinical Professors Crim, Li, Sramek, Salzman, Soffa-Jimenez 

For educational administrator licensure, a practicum experience requiring 150 contact hours for an initial administrator license and an additional 75 hours for each additional administrative license. 

Additional Department of Public Instruction Licensure Requirements

  1. Completion of a state-approved educator preparation program in the licensure area.
  2. A minimum of a master's degree or the equivalent. Superintendent license requires a specialist degree or equivalent; program coordinator licenses require a bachelor's degree. 
  3. A valid or eligibility to hold a provisional educator license in teaching or pupil services. School business administrator and program coordinator licenses are waived from this requirement. 
  4. Six semesters of successful full-time classroom teaching experience, or six semesters of successful experience as a pupil services professional including 540 hours of classroom teaching experience. School business administrator and program coordinator licenses are waived from this requirement.

Professional Certification/Licensure Disclosure (NC-SARA)

The United States Department of Education requires institutions that provide distance education to disclose information for programs leading to professional certification or licensure about whether each program meets state educational requirements for initial licensure or certification. Following is this disclosure information for this program:

The requirements of this program meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:


The requirements of this program do not meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:

Not applicable

The requirements of this program have not been determined if they meet Certification/Licensure in the following states:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming; District of Columbia; American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands