Taking School Leadership to the Next Level

The School Leadership specialization is designed for experienced K-12 educators who aspire to leadership roles within their schools and communities. The School Leadership concentration features a five-course specialization sequence that addresses essential areas of school leadership including data driven decision-making, instructional leadership, professional learning communities, meaningful engagement with families and communities, and ethical and professional norms. All courses are grounded in a social justice foundation and are designed to prepare school leaders who advance equity and excellence in their schools and communities.

Students who graduate with a M.Ed. specializing in School Leadership will be well prepared to complete the examinations and/or performance based assessments required by their individual states for administrative credentials.

Course of Study

Earn this online Master of Education degree specializing in School Leadership by completing 10 courses (3-units each) for 30 units of coursework. The online Masters in Education program consists of five foundation courses including a capstone action research project as well as five specialization courses. You may begin your study in any semester with any of the courses offered. The Capstone Seminar is the final course in the program and builds on knowledge gained in the research and specialization courses. Course descriptions reference the ten standards of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL).

*Note: Courses are not approved for the Education Administrative credential required by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to be an administrator in a California public school.

Program Course Curriculum

The Master of Education with School leadership specialization program spans over five different semesters which includes a mandatory orientation course. Each semester is fourteen weeks and is split into two different courses. The first course is seven weeks and the second course is seven weeks. Below is a sample outline of what the span of the Master of Education with School Leadership specialization program may look like:


Course Units
Master of Education Orientation

This course introduces you to the University of San Diego and provides important information about the program. Throughout the orientation, you will learn to successfully navigate through the Blackboard learning environment and locate helpful resources. You will practice completing tasks in Blackboard as preparation for success in your online graduate courses. This orientation course will be available to you as a reference tool throughout the entirety of your program.


Semester 1

Course Units
Qualitative Methods in Educational Research

Applied exploration of qualitative research methodologies such as ethnography, grounded theory, case-study and cross-case comparisons, surveys, observations, document analyses, focus groups and interviews. Opportunity to learn and apply a variety of techniques to analyze data and interpret findings.

Data Driven Decision Making

Rigorous exploration of how school leaders use data, including standardized and school-based assessments, to drive continuous improvement through site-based decision-making for the express purpose of promoting equitable and culturally responsive opportunities for all students. (PSEL #3 & 10).


Semester 2

Course Units
Social Justice and Educational Equity

Analysis of the American educational system with a particular focus on issues of diversity, inequity, conflict and social justice within a school context. Historical case studies, contemporary policies and practices, and international comparisons compel consideration of the social construction of education.

Ethical Leadership in an Era of School Reform

Contextualized within the evolving high stakes accountability context of public K-12 education, this course will consider the challenges and opportunities facing educational leaders. The course will examine the history and impact of national, state, and local reform movements, and explore how educational leaders develop, advocate for, and enact a shared mission and vision for excellence and equity within schools and districts. The course will include a focus on ethical and professional norms for school leaders and address legal rights and responsibilities. (PSEL
Standard #1 & 2).


Semester 3

Course Units
Educational Research Methodology

Introduction to the major educational research methods and paradigms with an emphasis on reflective, practitioner-directed inquiry. The course encompasses quantitative methods, qualitative methods, mixed methods, and action research frameworks. Particular emphasis is placed on action research as a reflective and collaborate inquiry for improving educational practices.

Leading Professional Learning Communities

Investigation of strategies used to build and sustain effective site-based professional learning communities. Targeted focus on how to structure school operations and leverage resources to prioritize professional learning, continuous improvement, and each student’s academic success and well-being. (PSEL #7 & 9).


Semester 4

Course Units
Cognition & Learning

Explore key cognitive studies on human cognition and learning. You will critically discuss research and contemporary debates on cognitive processes, learning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, developmental mechanism, cognitive styles, motivation, and the socio-cultural foundations of learning with an emphasis on the implications for educators and educational researchers.

Instructional Leadership

This course addresses the development, implementation, and assessment of rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment designed to promote each student’s academic success. Targeted focus on effective strategies to develop the professional capacity of teachers and other school personnel through effective hiring, coaching, mentoring, and accountability structures. (PSEL #4 & 6).


Semester 5

Course Units
Capstone Pathways

For the concluding phase in the program, Masters candidates have the option of three culminating final projects: studies employing action research, studies employing other methodologies, or the curriculum research project.

Family, School, and Community Partnerships

This course will address strategies used by effective school leaders to build and sustain reciprocal family and community partnerships and explore approaches designed to leverage these partnerships to cultivate an inclusive, caring, and culturally responsive school community. Targeted focus on working with stakeholder groups to support special populations including English Language Learners, Title I students, and Special Education students. (PSEL Standard #5 & 8)

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