This is a named option in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Ph.D.

The Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis (ELPA) offers its Ph.D. in Educational Leadership through a Cohort Program that focuses explicitly on K-12 leadership for dramatically improving student performance and closing achievement gaps.

The theme of District and School Leadership for Equity and Excellence is infused through most courses, and supported by theoretical and empirical, as well as practical, understandings. The program provides a coordinated plan that allows students to defend their dissertation within three to four years. The dissertation focuses on school, district, or community efforts to improve performance for all students. Cohort students receive training in qualitative and quantitative inquiry and analysis, and are expected to develop a study design for the dissertation that is appropriate to addressing their research questions.

Admission to the department is based, in part, on the following criteria: undergraduate GPA in the last 60 hours of undergraduate work, GPA on 9 or more graduate credits, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores (required only for Ph.D.), three letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to judge the applicant's academic and professional competence, resume, transcripts, and a "reasons for study" essay.

For information regarding admissions criteria, deadlines and the application process, see Admissions on the department website.

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 processes related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

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

Named Option Requirements


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

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 75 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 51 credits out of 75 total credits must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.


Final course sequence and instructors to be determined by ELPA chair and Cohort coordinator. Seven terms of coursework totaling 53 credits, plus at least 4 credits of ELPA 990 are required. Ultimately students must take 75 total credits toward the Ph.D., including 6 credits for the minor completed before admission or outside the cohort program. The most recent course sequence follows:

Term 1
ELPA 810 Doctoral Inquiry in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis3
ELPA 940 Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topic: Critical Epistemologies & Organizational Theory in Education)1-3
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis1
Term 2
ELPA 870 The Politics of Education3
ELPA/​ED PSYCH  822 Introduction to Quantitative Inquiry in Education3
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis1
Term 3
ELPA 910 Seminar in Educational Law3
ELPA 824 Field Research Designs & Methodologies in Educational Administratn3
ELPA 940 Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership1-3
Term 4
ELPA/​ED PSYCH  827 Surveys and Other Quantitative Data Collection Strategies3
ELPA 875 Theory and Practice of Educational Planning3
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis1
Term 5
ELPA 940 Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topics: Advanced Quantitative Methods or Advanced Qualitative Methods)1-3
ELPA 940 Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topic: Urban Education Leadership)1-3
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis1
Term 6
ELPA 960 Seminar in Educational Finance3
ELPA/​RP & SE  835 Leadership for Inclusive Schooling3
ED POL/​HISTORY  907 Seminar-History of Education (Topics: Cities, Schools and the Urban Crisis)1-3
Term 7
ELPA 940 Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topic: Seminar in Authentic Pedagogy & Achievement)1-3
ELPA 846 The School Superintendency3
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis1
Term 8
ELPA 990 Research or Thesis2-4

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.

Named Option-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 36 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral 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

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison special student, however, if the Graduate School minimum graduate credit requirement for the degree is not met, special student coursework may need to be converted to graduate course work.  Once converted, students are then assessed the difference between special and graduate tuition.  The conversion is requested in the last semester of course work.  Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. More information here.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

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


15 credits

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.


Funding is not offered along with offers for admission.

Graduate School Resources

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

Faculty: Professor Julie Mead (chair); Professors Borman, Camburn, Capper, Conrad, Diamond, Halverson, Jackson, Kelley, Miller, Underwood; Associate Professors Hillman, Wang, Winkle-Wagner; Assistant Professors Goff; Clinical Professors Crim, Rainwater; Faculty Associate King