Wisconsin Idea Executive Ph-D- Cohort

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Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills, or abilities—that’s training or instruction—but is rather making visible what is hidden as a seed. —Thomas Moore






Wisconsin Idea Executive Ph.D. Cohort in K-12 Leadership    

New cohort begins every four years.  Next cohort application deadline December 1, 2018 for fall 2019 cohort. 


The Wisconsin Idea 

"One of the longest and deepest traditions surrounding the University of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Idea signifies a general principle: that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom."

Through the Wisconsin Idea Executive PhD in Educational Leadership, ELPA seeks to enhance its influence on educational quality and opportunity for all students in Wisconsin schools and beyond.


  Program Leadership

MBK 2015  
The Wisconsin Idea Executive PhD in Educational Leadership is coordinated by 
Dr. M. Bruce King (mbking1@wisc.edu).  ELPA faculty will serve as major advisors to cohort students.​


  Program Description

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) will offer its PhD in Educational Leadership through a Cohort Program that will focus 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 will be infused through most courses, and supported by theoretical and empirical, as well as practical, understandings. The program will provide a coordinated plan that will allow students to defend their dissertation within three to four years. The dissertation will focus on school, district, or community efforts to improve performance for all students. Cohort students will receive training in qualitative and quantitative inquiry and analysis, and will be expected to develop a study design for the dissertation that is appropriate to addressing their research questions.


    Program Features
  • Cohort Program: Up to twenty students will be admitted to establish a professional learning community and to complete program requirements together. We are especially interested in establishing a diverse cohort group of highly talented and effective educational leaders from throughout the state and region.

  • UW-Madison School of Education Community: Students can complete an entire PhD program at a top-ranked program while working full time. Students interested in refining theoretical understanding or knowledge of research methodologies have access to the wide range of course and program options available through the UW-Madison School of Education.

  • Expanded Career Options: Along with completion of the PhD, students should receive licensure for the superintendent, director of special education and pupil services, and director of curriculum and instruction. Note: Depending on previous educational experiences, degrees, and licensures, the Cohort program may or may not fulfill all requirements for further licensure. It is the student’s responsibility, along with their advisor, to make sure all requirements for licensure are met. As with the regular PhD program, students will be well prepared to continue in K-12 school systems or seek faculty positions at the college or university level.

  • Leading for Learning: The goal of the program is to link district and school leadership to high levels of achievement for all students and close achievement gaps. Students will learn the most recent, research-based effective practices and their theoretical foundations to improve student achievement across a district.

  • Data Based: Students will leave with a sophisticated set of strategies to use data to address district inequities, to make data-based decisions, and to empirically evaluate program effectiveness. These strategies will not only help students become highly successful district leaders, but also national leaders in improvement efforts. They can pass this knowledge on to the building leaders in their districts.

  • Learn from the Leaders: Students will interact with nationally recognized UW-Madison School of Education faculty and leading practitioners. Students will learn from faculty who are engaged in ongoing research on schools and districts from across the country that have significantly raised student achievement for all students. Course instructors and visiting lecturers will also include highly successful Wisconsin superintendents who lead districts that have made significant gains in student achievement. 

  Proposed Weekend Course Schedule

During the academic year, students will complete two, 3-credit courses and 1 credit of 990 (Research or Thesis) to help prepare for the dissertation each semester. The two, 3-credit courses will be offered over five weekends each semester, and may include non-cohort ELPA PhD students as appropriate. The months that the courses will be offered over five weekends each semester are listed below:

  • Early September
  • Later September
  • Mid October
  • Mid November
  • Early December
  • Late January
  • Mid February
  • Early March
  • Late March
  • Mid-Late April

Each weekend schedule will include a class meeting from 4-9 p.m. on Friday night, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday for 70 contact hours for the two classes. Faculty teaching the two courses will collaborate to determine an appropriate schedule for the weekend structure. Because of the extended class time over fewer sessions, attendance at all sessions is of critical importance and expected. In addition, faculty will use Learn@UW or other distance technologies and field experiences to ensure that each course meets the equivalent of 37.5 hours per 3-credit semester course. For the 1-credit 990 course, individual and group meetings, both face-to-face and through distance formats, will be scheduled for students and their advisors.

In summer, students will be enrolled for 9 credits. Specific meeting times for Cohort classes will be determined to address student needs, and dates will be determined in advance to ensure student availability. With more flexibility in the summer, we’ve designed the program so that students will take one class outside of ELPA to meet minor requirements during each of the summer terms.


Current PhD Cohort Information

  Cohort v 3 course sequence 102616


Fall 2017 Course Dates
Sept 15-16
Oct 6-7
Oct 27-28
Nov 17-18
Dec 8-9


Additional Ph.D. Requirements & Admission   


   Examinations - Qualifying Exam, Preliminary Exam, Final Oral Exam  


   Minimum Standards and Progress Towards Degree  


     Forms to Facilitate the Process


   Admission Process  

Candidates for the cohort program are expected to hold a master’s degree and/or principal’s license. The coursework in the cohort program is designed to build on this foundational experience.





If you have questions, please contact Shari Smith, ELPA Student Services Coordinator, or call 608/263-2701.


updated ​January 2016

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