K12 Certification

Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis Banner


Main Office

Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis
School of Education
253 Education Building
1000 Bascom Mall
MadisonWI  53706-1326

Tel: 608/262-3106
Fax: 608/265-3135

Email: elpa@education.wisc.edu
or by contact form
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Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. —John Cotton Dana

K-12 Administrator Certification Programs

"Leadership for Learning for All Students"


Director of Instruction

Director of Special Education and Pupil Services


Responding to PI 34: Implications for Certification and Licensure (2004)
Responding to changes in State administrative rules, the ELPA Program Committee revised all certification programs leading to licensed administrative positions in Wisconsin. This includes programs for superintendents, principals, directors of special education and pupil services and directors of instruction.  Anchored in the ISLLC Standards (Interstate School Leader Licensure Consortium) for school leaders and Wisconsin PI 34 Standards for Administrators, program components include sequenced course work, field studies embedded in classes, the development of a whole school improvement plan, administrative field experiences, and the development of an electronic portfolio that documents learning and exhibits levels of performance against the standards. Students are also required to present their portfolio at a practitioner reviewed showcase conference sponsored in the department.

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis offers certification programs leading to licensure as a school principal, director of instruction, director of special education and pupil services, and superintendent. Certification programs are also offered through cooperative arrangements with the UW-Whitewater campus.

The programs emphasize the development of knowledge, skills and dispositions to support leadership for learning for all students. The program is designed with courses offered under the general themes of individual socialization, instructional leadership, and integrative leadership clusters. Course work emphasizes the development of knowledge and skills in the seven state administrator standards, with a strong instructional leadership focus. Students receive training in data-based decision-making, resource reallocation, instructional and cultural leadership, professional development and evaluation, and legal aspects of administrative practice. Students develop a portfolio of their work throughout the program that is used formatively to help shape learning opportunities, and summatively to assess readiness for administrative work.

The field experience is a critical component of the program, and students have field-related work embedded throughout their course work, as well as participation in a field experience that provides students with an opportunity to practice what they have learned.

Graduates of the program serve as administrators in public and private schools throughout the state in diverse settings. They also serve in state and national leadership roles to strengthen and enhance learning outcomes for all students.

Portfolio Information

Students will develop portfolio entries in their course work and will provide reflective essays on the demonstrations of their skill development  which will include a school improvement plan, a resource reallocation plan and a professional development plan to guide their field experience and ongoing learning beyond the program, and tie together their portfolio of work developed throughout the program.

Field Experience/Practicum

The Field Experience/Practicum is the culminating experience for all students seeking certification as a principal, director of instruction, director of special education and pupil services, or superintendent. A meaningful experience requires the involvement of a University supervisor and a mentoring administrator in a school or district setting. A meaningful experience is also based on the needs and goals of the student, as well the context of the specific school setting for the practicum/internship. More real experience provided under the guidance of the University supervisor and the school based mentor, improves the opportunity for the student to integrate theory and practice . Ideally the experience would be structured over an entire school year to gain an appreciation of the complexity and ever-changing role of the administrator. Responsibility for a successful practicum or internship rests primarily with the student supported by the supervisor and mentor.

As a culminating experience the practicum reflects the mission and values of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. That is, the practicum should be designed to promote instructional leadership focused on equity, inquiry and reflection. Novice administrators are not expected to be accomplished instructional leaders, but they should experience a wide variety of administrative responsibilities and activities designed to improve teaching and learning. Budget development, attending administrative meetings, scheduling, and student supervision are examples of administrative responsibility that are best understood in the context of supporting improved teaching and learning for all children. The concept of instructional leadership requires that the student inquire and reflect about administrative work as it affects the equitable use of resources to achieve learning for all.

A critical part of the practicum is a review of the student’s portfolio conducted as part of a mock interview process. The student’s academic advisor or other University faculty will collaborate with accomplished practitioners and school superintendents to conduct “mock” interviews that review the students portfolio and provide feedback about portfolio exhibits and job readiness.

Finally, the practicum is legally required by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. As such the practicum must be based on the Wisconsin Standards for Administrator Development and Licensure and meet the time requirements as prescribed by state law. Students must document 150 hours of supervised experience for the primary administrative license and 75 hours for other administrative licenses.  Students seeking multiple licensure, i.e. principal license and a director of instruction license, only enroll in 700 course one time not each time you are completing the requirements for a license.

The student is required to submit a “Memorandum of Understanding ” (MOU) and logs that document the completion of the legal requirements regarding the practicum.

Professional Development Plan 

(required by the Department of Public Instruction)

The Professional Development Plan (PDP) is a process for the renewal of an educator’s license based on planned professional growth and evidence of the impact of that growth on student learning. 


Individuals seeking administrative certification must be admitted to one of the certification programs in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Institutional Endorsement

Students seeking institutional endorsement from UW-Madison must enroll in a minimum of six credits at UW-Madison.

Special Student Course Work

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis will accept a maximum of six (6) credits of special student course work toward the completion of any certification program. Contact the Office of Adult, Career and Student Services. If more than 6 credits are required to complete the license, a student must apply for admission as a graduate student.

Transfer Credits

Transfer credits must have been taken in accredited graduate level programs. Requests for evaluation of previous non UW-Madison course work requires submission of transcripts and course descriptions.

Program Approval

After admission, candidates are required to develop a program plan in conference with an academic advisor, and submit the proposed program plan to the Department  for approval as soon as is practical following admission to the program. Programs plans can be revised at any time. 

Exceptions, equivalencies, and competencies to the minimum certification program requirements may be made by the Department upon request by the student and advisor through the Department Chairperson.

Minimum Standards and Progress Toward Certification

Students are required to maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.0. A minimum overall 3.0 GPA in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis courses must be maintained at all times.

Standards for School Administrators and Other Administrative Licenses

Department of Public Instruction Wisconsin Administrative Code PI 34.15 (Quality Educator Initiative)

(3) (b).
c) Practicum program. 1. Programs for pupil services and administrative licenses shall include supervised practicums in the area of licensure that are developmental in scope and sequence.

2. As a result of the practicum experience a license candidate shall demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Wisconsin standards in PI 34.02, PI 34.03 or PI 34.04.

3. Successful performance shall be measured using all of the following:

a. At least 2 written evaluations based upon observations by the school-based supervisor and at least 2 written evaluations by the SCD supervisor shall be required during each student’s practicum.

b. The evaluation procedures under subpar. a. shall include at least 2 conferences involving the school-based supervisor, the SCD supervisor and the practicum student. The school-based supervisor evaluation of the practicum shall become part of the student’s portfolio.

(d) Graduate internship program. 1. Advanced programs shall include a graduate internship in the area of licensure that is developmental in scope and sequence.

2. As a result of the intern experience, a license candidate shall demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the Wisconsin standards under s. PI 34.02,
34.03 or 34.04, as appropriate.

3. Supervision and primary responsibility for the student shall rest directly with the licensed local school district supervisor and indirectly with the college or
university supervisor.


Shari Smith, Student Services Coordinator, coordinates the ELPA portfolio requirement. For further information on the requirement, contact ssmith@education.wisc.edu.

In accordance with PI 34, the Department has a portfolio requirement for all certification students. Students seeking initial certification as Principal, Director of Instruction, Director of Special Education and Pupil Services, or Superintendent must participate in practicum classes and labs to successfully complete and submit their own individual electronic portfolio to a faculty committee for review.   The electronic format for the ELPA format was developed collaboratively by ELPA faculty and the School of Education’s EPSC (Education Placement and Career Services) office.  The format is designed as a learning tool to assist students in conceptualizing and demonstrating educational leadership.  Each portfolio is comprised of five components: four dimensions of leadership, and a professional vision statement. Students create exhibits for the components that demonstrate their leadership proficiency in each of the dimensions that coincide with the Department’s mission and vision for instructional leadership.  As required by PI 34 the portfolio is designed to reflect and integrate the seven Wisconsin Administrative Standards and the approximately two hundred knowledge, dispositions, and performance indicators associated with those standards. 

View more information about the ELPA Portfolio.

Professional Development Plan (coming soon)

A final grade will be given when the following criteria have been addressed:
  • The requirements for the classroom portion of 700/900 have been completed.
  • All the parties to the Memorandum of Understanding has counter-signed and attested to the completion of the practicum as outlined in the memorandum.
  • All of the logged hours for the field experience/internship have been submitted to the UW practicum supervisor.
  • A Professional Development Plan and Portfolio have been submitted to the UW practicum supervisor.

Additional certification for licenses after the completion of 700/900 and the initial license certification:

  • Complete a Memorandum of Understanding for all subsequent license certifications.
  • Log the hours of the field experience and submit the log to the practicum supervisor.
  • Submit a revised Professional Development Plan and Portfolio to the practicum supervisor.

Obtaining and Submitting a Wisconsin License Application

A. The online application is on the DPI website.  You must contact Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis to request University endorsement prior to completing the DPI license application.  You will not be able to complete the application without University endorsement.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) provides information on:

  • PI-34 New DPI education program approval and license rules
  • Renewing a teaching license
  • Holding certification in another state, but seeking licensure in Wisconsin
  • Adding new areas of certification
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