The Ph.D. in Policy, Leadership and School Improvement will prepare you to conduct rigorous research into the social, political and economic conditions affecting schools and to recommend policy solutions that are effective, socially just, and technically sound.

Exposure to and use of tools from both qualitative and quantitative methods will equip you with the analytic skills to discern ideological from empirical questions and to investigate pressing educational problems. You will learn conceptual and analytic approaches from economics, political science and sociology, and complete intermediate and advanced courses in cutting-edge methods of educational research.

Your program of study will include courses in policymaking, program evaluation, school law, leadership for reform, implementation, and taking reforms to scale. You will have the opportunity to further develop your skills through professional seminars and research with faculty.

Explore education’s toughest topics

The Policy, Leadership and School Improvement concentration/strand is among the few programs at elite public universities in the nation to offer opportunities to study with a faculty whose work in K-12 administration, education policy, and school improvement is internationally known. As leaders in these areas, our faculty work collaboratively with students to develop research questions and hypotheses, study them in state and national settings, and link findings to practice.

Faculty and students in PLS are engaged in the examination and critique of today’s important and contested issues in education, including

  • Teacher quality
  • Turn-around schools
  • High school effectiveness
  • Resource allocation
  • Principal instructional leadership
  • Issues of class, gender, immigration and race in education

In addition to disciplinary core and research courses, you will pursue a program of study that includes courses in policymaking, education program evaluation and policy analysis, school law, leadership, educational innovation, implementation, and taking reforms to scale. In combination with courses in quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methods, students develop their research skills through a professional seminar and assistantships with faculty.

Work with engaged scholars

Committed to professional service, our faculty are also members of editorial boards and advisory forums at the national, state and local levels. We also work directly with school systems, consulting on issues of staffing, instructional delivery, and governance.

PLS faculty are currently working with the federal Race to the Top initiative in North Carolina and a national education research center funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

Open doors to meaningful careers

Our graduates are postdoctoral fellows and faculty members at universities, analysts for government agencies and non-profit organizations, and leaders in research and advocacy firms in education.