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What Is Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis?

The University of Wisconsin–Madison provides a rich academic environment for graduate study in educational policy and policy analysis. The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) focuses on educational policy. Our department trains individuals to be leaders in educational organizations, researchers, and policy analysts. Our focus is on understanding educational policy, policy systems, and educational organizations, so that one would be able to design policy to be effective in educational organizations or to be a leader in or researcher of educational organizations with an understanding of policy systems and policy implementation. A number of former and current teachers and administrators are students in our department.

The difference between ELPA and other UW–Madison education policy majors

There are two other departments at UW–Madison that focus on educational policy-related issues. 

One is LaFollette School of Public Affairs. This school trains individuals to be public policy analysts and public sector managers. Students interested in the study of policy analysis in general, or of the analysis of non-educational issues, should consider the offerings of the LaFollette School of Public Affairs. Faculty specialize in a variety of issues related to public affairs, including education, international affairs, and a variety of other policy-related issues. Many LaFollette students take ELPA courses.

The other department, Educational Policy Studies (EPS), takes a disciplinary approach (e.g. sociology, philosophy, anthropology, history) to the study of educational policy and has a specific focus on issues related to international issues, and the specific effect of policy systems on issues related to race and gender.

Choosing an area of study

If you are interested in policy analysis as it relates to broad social policy issues including, but not limited to education, we would probably recommend the LaFollette program. You would be trained to analyze and design social policy and could take ELPA and EPS courses. We have had a number of students from LaFollette involved in the teacher compensation and school finance agendas. Several of these students have continued on and received PhDs in our department and have worked in the Consortium for Policy Research in Education Teacher Compensation and Finance Projects.

If you are interested specifically in educational leadership and policy as a focus for your study (not the broader social policy issues) and intend to work in schools or in school-related policy, particularly in the U.S., we would recommend the ELPA department. If you are interested in a more theoretical understanding of educational policy systems and want to take a particular disciplinary focus with a mix of international and U.S. contexts, we would recommend EPS. You should also feel free to contact the other departments to get their perspective.