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

The Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis (ELPA) offers a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis named option in Wisconsin Idea Executive Ph.D. Cohort 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.

Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Ph.D. applicants are required to upload the following items to the online application.

1. Essay statement. Each applicant must submit a "Reasons for Study" essay. As you prepare your responses, we invite you to review the information on our website to review the program literature, to talk with our alumni and current students, and to interact with members of the faculty and staff. Ph.D. applicants should address the following in an essay that does not exceed three pages (single or double spaced.)

  • What are your primary career goals and professional gaps you have identified as important for your intellectual and professional advancement over the next 5-10 years?
  • In what ways will these professional gaps be addressed through a doctoral program at UW-Madison?
  • Describe at least one research topic and/or project you plan to work on during your doctoral program.
  • As you will note, we are interested in developing and maintaining a diverse and engaged learning community. Please identify any unique or special contributions you will bring to this community.

A "Strong" essay is characterized by:

  • A clear, through, well-organized essay that expresses ideas in a detailed and engaging manner.
  • Addresses all components of the instructions.
  • Paragraphs signal the divisions of thought and sentences flow with ideas in a logical sequence.
  • No (or very few) noticeable errors in composition.
  • The articulation of clear scholarly interests that are consistent with the department's mission and that may expand knowledge within the field.

A "Satisfactory" essay is characterized by:

  • A detailed, well-organized essay.
  • Addresses all components of the instructions.
  • Paragraphs signal the major divisions of thought and sequence.
  • Few errors in composition.
  • The articulation of scholarly interests that are consistent with the department's mission.

A "Weak" essay is characterized by:

  • A well-organized but insufficiently detailed essay.
  • Addresses some, but not all, of the components of the instructions.
  • Paragraphs do not contain main topics.
  • A distracting number of errors in composition or spelling (i.e., more than two or three per page).
  • No articulation of scholarly interests.

2. Unofficial transcripts. Official transcripts will be requested prior to Graduate School admission.

3. Resume or CV.

4. Three letters of recommendation. We require recommendations from three (3) people who are qualified to evaluate the academic and professional competence of the applicants. When completing the online application, submit the names and emails of those requesting recommendation from; recommendations are sent electronically to your application.

5. Supporting document if required. Applicants who earned an undergraduate GPA below 3.00 or a graduate GPA below 3.5 should provide additional explanation/documentation to support their admission. In statement, explain why GPA does not accurately reflect high potential to serve in leadership roles. 

English proficiency requirements are required for international applicants. Test scores should be submitted to institution code 1846.

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.

Named Option Requirements


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

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students are able to complete a program with minimal disruptions to careers and other commitments.

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.


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 that students maintain a graduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for all graduate courses (excluding research) to receive a degree. 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 Doctoral students must complete a doctoral minor. See below for more information about the Minor requirement.


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:

Core Courses
Doctoral Inquiry in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
The Politics of Education
Introduction to Quantitative Inquiry in Education
Seminar in Educational Law
Field Research Designs & Methodologies in Educational Administratn
Theory and Practice of Educational Planning
Seminar in Educational Finance
Leadership for Inclusive Schooling
The School Superintendency
Organizational Theory and Behavior in Education
Authentic Pedagogy and Achievement
Advanced Research Methods in Educational Administration
Special Topics6
Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topics: Advanced Quantitative Inquiry in Education or Advanced Qualitative Methods)
Special Topics Seminar in Educational Leadership (Topic: Urban Education Leadership)
Research or Thesis
Research or Thesis
Students may take any five courses inside or outside of the Department, to provide depth or breadth to program focus. Students are reminded that their programs must include at least 39 credits taken from ELPA. Note that electives are separation from minor/supporting coursework.
The minor is a rational, unified set of courses taken outside of the department which have a clearly articulated theme or focus which allows the student to develop knowledge in a related area of study. Students may either pursue an option A (departmental minor in a SINGLE department outside of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis) or an option B-distributed (courses in two or more departments outside of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis) minor. The Option A minor requires a minimum of 9 credits; the Option B, 12 credits. Students interested in an Option A minor should initiate contact and approval from the minor department. Students electing the Option A minor must complete an additional 3 credits of course work outside of the department in order to satisfy the supporting coursework requirement for the department. At least two courses (6 credits) must be completed during or after the semester in which the student is admitted to the Ph.D. program.

The program includes a practicum experience that requires 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.  

Submission and approval of an online portfolio is required for both degree completion and certification.  Portfolio requirements are available on the department website.

Students in this program may not take courses outside the prescribed curriculum without faculty advisor and program director approval. Students in this program cannot enroll concurrently in other undergraduate, graduate or certificate programs.

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

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.

grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Any student who feels that they have been treated unfairly by a faculty or staff member has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing of the grievance, following these grievance procedures. The complaint may concern course grades, classroom treatment, program admission, or other issues. To insure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect both the rights of the student and the person at whom the complaint is addressed, the procedures below are used in the School of Education.

The person whom the complaint is directed against must be an employee of the School of Education. Any student or potential student may use these procedures unless the complaint is covered by other campus rules or contracts. The following steps are available within the School of Education when a student has a grievance:

  1. The student should first talk with the person against whom the grievance is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. If the complaint is directed against a teaching assistant, and the student is not satisfied, the next step would be to talk to the TA's supervisor, who is usually the course professor. If the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily, the student may continue to step 2.
  2. If the complaint does not involve an academic department, the procedure outlined in Step 4 below should be followed. If the complaint involves an academic department, the student should contact the chair of the department. The chair will attempt to resolve the problem informally. If this cannot be done to the student's satisfaction, the student may submit the grievance to the chair in writing. This must be done within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  3. On receipt of a written complaint, the chair will refer the matter to a departmental committee, which will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed. This response shall be shared with the person filing the grievance. The chair will provide a timely written decision to the student on the action taken by the committee.
  4. If either party is not satisfied with the decision of the department, they have five working days from receipt of the decision to contact the dean's office (at the number below), indicating the intention to appeal. If the complaint does not involve an academic department in the school, the student must contact the dean's office within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  5. In either case, there will be an attempt to resolve the issue informally by the associate dean. If this cannot be done, the complaint can be filed in writing with the dean's office. This must be done within 10 working days of the time the appealing party was notified that informal resolution was unsuccessful.
  6. On receipt of such a written complaint, the associate dean will convene a subcommittee of the school's Equity & Diversity Committee. This subcommittee may ask for additional information from the parties involved and may hold a hearing at which both parties will be asked to speak separately. The subcommittee will then make a written recommendation to the dean of the School of Education who will render a decision. Unless a longer time is negotiated, this written decision shall be made within 20 working days from the date when the grievance was filed with the dean's office.

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

State law contains additional provisions regarding discrimination and harassment. Wisconsin Statutes 36.12 reads, in part: "No student may be denied admission to, participation in or the benefits of, or be discriminated against in any service, program, course or facility of the system or its institutions or center because of the student's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status." In addition, UW–System prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Students have the right to file discrimination and harassment complaints with the Office of Compliance, 361 Bascom Hall, 608-265-6018,


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 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