School Improvement (Ph.D.)

Ph.d. School Improvement

This program prepares educational leaders, policymakers, and researchers to facilitate educational improvement in local, state, national, and international.

Program Overview

Recognized by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as a national model for creating equity-oriented leaders, the program emphasizes the improvement of PK-12 teaching and learning through the development of systems-level processes and structures and prioritizes educational leadership as a practice integrating school and community contexts.

Course Work

The program takes an interdisciplinary approach to educating equity-oriented scholar-practitioners who view education through a variety of lenses. Students have the opportunity to incorporate international research into course work.

Students are admitted as a cohort that begins in the fall semester of each year. All classes are offered in the evenings or on weekends for the convenience of working professionals. The program consists of 51 hours of course work and 12 hours of dissertation for a total of 63 hours.

  • core (foundational) courses
  • major (school improvement) courses
  • doctoral electives
  • dissertation proposal development
  • research courses
  • dissertation courses
DegreeCourse WorkDissertationTotal Hours
Course Work
51 hours
12 hours
Total Hours
63 hours

Round Rock Campus

Applicants can apply for the San Marcos cohort or the Round Rock Campus Cohort. For applicants applying for the San Marcos Cohort, instruction will be fully in-person. For applicants applying to the Round Rock Cohort, instruction will 80% distance education and 20% in-person. Admitted students will be required to take classes at the campus to which they applied.

What Our Alumni Say

The school improvement program was a life-changing experience. The professors’ genuine mentorship provided me with the resources and networks to navigate academia and be successful as an assistant professor.”

— Juan Nino, Ph.D. ’12, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

Program Details

The program brings together students with diverse backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and professional goals to study with nationally recognized faculty who collaborate with students on research projects, publications and conference presentations.

Program Mission

The school improvement doctoral program is designed for professionals in a variety of educational roles who wish to develop and enhance their capacity for facilitating ongoing educational improvement. The program offers the opportunity to conduct research to inform practice and to prepare educational practitioners.

The program develops skills in the following areas:

  • transformational school leadership
  • culturally responsive leadership
  • professional development
  • curriculum development 
  • instructional improvement
  • improvement of student assessment
  • educational philosophies and educational research with both qualitative and quantitative methodologies

Related Programs: Principal Certification Superintendent Certification

Career Options

Doctoral students in this program may be preparing for roles including:

  • superintendent
  • principal
  • assistant principal
  • university professor
  • department chair or team leader
  • instructional supervisor
  • curriculum coordinator 
  • educational researcher
  • school district administrator
  • staff developer
  • government agency administrator
  • educational nonprofit administrator
  • educational consultant

Program Faculty

Faculty members are experienced P-12 teachers, administrators and researchers. This practical background enables the professors to demonstrate to students the manner by which ideas, techniques and policy studies may be applied in a school setting. The faculty is actively engaged in professional organizations at state and national levels. They also serve as consultants to numerous school districts in personnel searches, facility studies, curriculum projects, staff development and professional organization accreditation studies.

Contact The Graduate College for general questions about getting started with your application, funding your degree, and more. If you have program-specific questions after reviewing the program details, we encourage you to contact the following individuals.

Doctoral Program Director
Dr. Melissa Martinez
Academic Services Building South (ASBS), Room 322

Graduate Advisor
Dr. Adolph Vega
(512) 245-9909
Academic Services Building South (ASBS), Room 306


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Application Deadlines

DeadlinesU.S. CitizenInternational
U.S. Citizen
January 1*
January 1*

This program's deadline is firm. This type of deadline means the application and other application requirements must be submitted by the program's specified deadline day.

*For fall 2024 admissions, the deadline has been extended to May 31. Candidates who apply by January 1, 2024 will be given priority consideration. Candidates who apply after January 1, 2024 will be considered on a rolling basis if spots are available after admissions decisions have been made for the priority group that applied by January 1. Review of applicants to the San Marcos campus cohort will begin after January 1, 2024 and review of applicants for the Round Rock Campus cohort will begin after May 31, 2024.

Funding Information
For scholarship, fellowship or assistantship consideration, applications must be completed by the deadline above.

Decision Timeline
This program reviews applications on a firm basis.

Admission Requirements

The items required for admission consideration are listed below. Additional information for applicants with international credentials can be found on our international web pages.

  • Review important information about the online application.

    • $55 nonrefundable application fee
    • $90 nonrefundable application fee for applications with international credentials

    Review important information about application fees.

    • baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited university (Non-U.S. degrees must be equivalent to a four-year U.S. Bachelor’s degree. In most cases, three-year degrees are not considered. Visit our International FAQs for more information.)
    • master's degree in a field related to the proposed studies from a regionally accredited university
    • a copy of an official transcript from each institution where course credit was granted
    • minimum 3.5 GPA in all completed graduate course work

    Review important information about transcripts. Official transcripts, sent directly from your institution, will be required if admission is granted.

  • GRE

    • GRE not required

    Approved English Proficiency Exam Scores

    Applicants are required to submit an approved English proficiency exam score that meets the minimum program requirements below unless they have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or the equivalent from a country on our exempt countries list.

    • official TOEFL iBT scores required with a 78 overall
    • official PTE scores required with a 52 overall
    • official IELTS (academic) scores required with a 6.5 overall and
      • minimum individual module scores of 6.0
    • official Duolingo Scores required with a 110 overall
    • official TOEFL Essentials scores required with an 8.5 overall

    This program does not offer admission if the scores above are not met.

    Review important information about official test scores.

    • resume/CV
    • statement of purpose (approximately 500 words) describing background and professional goals, including your rationale for pursuing a doctoral degree
    • three recommendation forms addressing your professional and academic background. References are required to use the program's Professional Reference Evaluation form and are also strongly encouraged to attach a recommendation letter to the form.
    • possible interview with program faculty
    • possible academic writing sample

    Review important information about documents.

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