We prepare professionals in independent, public, and charter schools to develop their identities as leaders.

Our 11-month School Leadership master's program features convenient scheduling, highly specialized course offerings, and research projects that are directly tied to your professional life. The program culminates in a master’s degree and/or eligibility for state principal certification. In a field where practitioners are frequently siloed within their schools, grade levels, and sectors, we bring together education professionals representing a diverse array of public, charter, and independent schools—not only from across the region but also the nation.

What Sets Us Apart

11 months Prepare for your next professional step in less than a year—without interrupting your career
  Learn from and with a cohort that reflects public, charter, and independent school experiences
1-to-1 mentoringGain a wealth of school leadership & administrative expertise with a university-assigned mentor

About the Program

Our School Leadership master's program integrates coursework with an internship, enabling you to earn a master’s degree and/or eligibility for state principal certification—without career interruption. We seek educational leaders deeply committed to enhancing learning opportunities for all our children, leaders eager to work with a community of their colleagues. 

Application deadline
Independent School Track - Priority deadline: November 15; rolling admission thereafter as space permits | Public/Charter School Track with Certification - rolling. The application for Fall 2025 will be available September 1, 2024.
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
10 courses (5 for Principal Certification–Only)
Duration of program
11 months

Tracks offered

  • The Independent School Track M.S.Ed. in School Leadership
  • The Public/Charter School Track M.S.Ed. in School Leadership & Principal Certification
  • Principal Certification-Only Track

Culminating experience

  • M.S.Ed.: Practitioner research project and portfolio
  • Principal Certification–Only: Portfolio
  • Executive-Style
Programs for Working Professionals
Teacher Programs & Certifications

Our master's program in School Leadership focuses on the dynamics of instructional, organizational, public, and evidence-based leadership—with coursework designed to help you draw connections between theory and practice by applying learning in school settings. We emphasize cross-cutting competencies, including habits of mind, intrapersonal/interpersonal growth, reflective practice, communication skills, and professionalism.

A Diverse Cohort Model. Our cohort model creates a collaborative learning community that leverages collective expertise to address the challenges facing schools. Through lively and intellectually stimulating dialogue, students broaden their perspectives and achieve new insights. Sharing these diverse experiences prepares students for the practical realities of assuming new leadership roles, often outside of their present school. Our accomplished faculty further reflect the immense value of varied experiences for professionals pursuing leadership in education.

Extensive Mentoring. One of the most important assets for aspiring school leaders is the cultivation of strong mentoring relationships. Unique to the School Leadership program is the establishment of a mentoring relationship assigned by the university. With a wealth of school leadership and administrative success, these mentors work directly and deeply with our students over the course of the year. University-assigned mentors have an enormous impact on our students’ growth as leaders.


Our curriculum prepares professionals for the opportunities and challenges of working in a school environment, whether a public school, charter school, or independent school. Students experience coursework seamlessly with themes built throughout the year. Some highlights of our curriculum include:

University-Assigned Mentoring

The program establishes mentoring relationships with experienced school leadership professionals. Throughout the year, these mentors work directly with our students, nurturing their growth as leaders and developing relationships that frequently last beyond the program and extend into the professional realm. Learn more about our mentors. 


Working within their place of employment, students complete an on-site internship focused on core areas such as teacher supervision, budget management, curriculum development, and community relations. An on-site mentor enriches the internship experience and helps students to hone their observation and leadership skills. Students are active participants in selecting a school leader to serve as their on-site mentor. Special arrangements can be considered for students not currently working in a school setting. (Independent School Track students complete a 240-hour internship. Students in the  Public/Charter School and Principal Certification-Only tracks complete a 360-hour internship.)


Students create a portfolio of coursework reflecting their understanding of the roles of school leadership, and identify an essential question or area of focus. A final oral presentation of the portfolio offers the students an opportunity to indicate the significant knowledge, dispositions, and performances gained during the year.  

Practitioner Research Project

Within the context of their own school, students develop a proposal, and gather and analyze research data as part of the practitioner research course. Submission of a satisfactory project is a graduation requirement. 

Focused Observations

Students have daylong visits to a variety of independent and public/charter K-12 schools, which take place five times over the course of the program. Students use research-based techniques to observe, analyze, and communicate about school practice to inform their learning in curriculum development and leadership. Attendance at three of the five observations is required.

For courses and requirements for the master's programs, visit the School Leadership M.S.Ed. program in the University Catalog.

For courses and requirements for the certification program, visit the School Leadership Certificate program in the University Catalog.


Our 11-month schedule integrates coursework with an internship and enables students to earn a master’s degree and/or eligibility for state principal certification—without career interruption.

A typical School Leadership Program calendar runs as follows: Following the August weekend orientation, the cohort meets in-person in Philadelphia one weekend per month from September to June. The cohort also convenes virtually through a monthly online evening session. During the year, students are required to participate in three of five Focused Observation sessions of their choosing. Focused Observations take place at traditional public, charter, and independent schools in the Philadelphia region. To facilitate national participation in the program, the observations are scheduled on either a Monday or a Friday, typically bookending a weekend session. Additionally, students in tracks leading to a master’s degree meet for two weeks in July.

School District of Philadelphia Scholarship

Through generous foundation support and partnership with The School District of Philadelphia’s Pathway to Leadership Principal Preparation Program, the Penn GSE School Leadership Program is pleased to offer $15,000 scholarships in addition to the $25,000 School District of Philadelphia Pathway to Leadership scholarship to aspiring school leaders. To be considered for the scholarship, applicants must be currently employed by the district, meet the program’s general application requirements, and have the school principal to whom they report provide one of the three references requested.

In the personal statement, applicants should reference their careers with the School District of Philadelphia, why they chose to work in the district, and their school leadership goals. Only applicants pursuing a master’s degree in the Penn GSE School Leadership Program – not applicants in the certification-only track – may seek the $15,000 scholarship. Those interested must also submit the general online application for Penn GSE master's program in School Leadership and apply to The School District of Philadelphia Pathway to Leadership Program. 

The School Leadership Program Experience

See what School Leadership alumni have to say about their experience in the program

Our Faculty

Penn GSE Faculty Earl Ball
Senior Fellow and Adjunct Associate Professor
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Joseph P. Brereton
Principal, Central Bucks School District
Ph.D., Lehigh University
Penn GSE Faculty Adrianne Flack
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ed.D. University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Nelson Flores
Associate Professor
Ph.D., The Graduate Center of the City of New York
Penn GSE Faculty Warren Mata
Ed.D., Lehigh University
Penn GSE Faculty Steve Piltch
Senior Fellow & Director, School Leadership Program
Ed. D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Abby Reisman
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University
Penn GSE Faculty Janine Remillard
Ph.D., Michigan State University
Penn GSE Faculty Jessica Richard
Associate Director, School Leadership Program
M.S.Ed., Gwynedd-Mercy University
Penn GSE Faculty Howard C. Stevenson
Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education
Ph.D., Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Penn GSE Faculty Ebony Elizabeth Thomas
Associate Professor, University of Michigan School of Education
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Ariane Thomas
Lecturer in Educational Practice and Director, Professional Counseling Program
Psy.D., Widener University
Penn GSE Faculty Caroline L. Watts
Senior Lecturer
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Susan A. Yoon
Graduate School of Education Presidential Professor
Ph.D., University of Toronto

Program Leadership & Staff

Working in conjunction with the participating faculty and lecturers, the School Leadership program directors and administration manage and coordinate the day-to-day learning and opportunities for our students.

Steve Piltch
Director, School Leadership Program

Jessica Richard
Associate Director, School Leadership Program

Administrative Coordinator
(215) 746-2718


Over 40 university-assigned mentors participate in the School Leadership program. Meet a few of our current mentors:

Lynne B. Millard, a Philadelphia native, is currently a Principal Leadership Coach in the School District of Philadelphia, and was previously the principal of Kennedy C. Crossan Academics Plus Elementary School in the District. In 2014, she received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Principal Leadership recognizing her outstanding service, leadership, and commitment to children and the community. As an active participant in several national and local educational, professional, and service organizations, she is affiliated with the American Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Philadelphia High School for Girls Alumnae Association, West Chester University Alumni Association, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. 

Carlton Tucker,  co-coordinator of the School Leadership Program’s Mentors Program, served for 20 years as Head of Upper School at Princeton Day School, where he provided steady leadership and oversaw Upper School enrollment growth to a historic height at the time of his retirement in 2013. Prior to Princeton Day School, he was a Department Chair among other roles at San Francisco University High School in California.

Kate Sylvester, Penn GSE School Leadership, M.S.Ed., 2014

"Penn GSE’s program gave me a foundation for understanding education leadership. It helped me see the role I would need to play in managing change, supporting teacher growth, creating new systems, and building a responsive community if I wanted to make a difference for children and families."

Kate Sylvester

School Leadership M.S.Ed., 2014

Our Graduates

Graduates of our program serve in leadership positions in public, private, and charter schools around the country. They have the opportunity to network with more than 15,000 Penn GSE alumni and with more than 300,000 Penn alumni. The Penn GSE Alumni Relations office offers many opportunities to get involved and stay in touch with the GSE and Penn Alumni communities.


  • Assistant Principal, William D. Kelley School, School District of Philadelphia
  • Dean of Faculty, Riverdale Country School
  • Head of School, Heathwood Hall School
  • Head of School, Miami Country Day School
  • Head of School, Northfield Mount Hermon
  • Principal, Carver High School of Engineering and Science, School District of Philadelphia
  • Principal, Comly Elementary, School District of Philadelphia
  • Principal, Meredith Elementary, School District of Philadelphia
  • Principal, Universal Audenried Charter High School
  • Middle School Head, Friends’ Central School
  • Middle School Head, Sidwell Friends


SLP Alumni

The School Leadership Program’s Alumni Steering Committee organizes an annual retreat, participates in the program through mock interviews, and creates opportunities for continuing professional development and networking, including alumni Focused Observations. SLP alumni additionally support the program by serving as lecturers, guest speakers, mentors, and Focused Observation hosts. The program faculty and mentors provide continuous support for alumni in career guidance and opportunities.

The SLP Alumni Steering Committee includes:

  • Rohan Arjun (Co-Chair), 2015
  • Michelle Black, 2018
  • Ryann Williams Berry, 2018
  • Nisa Bryant, 2018
  • Christina Carter, 2018
  • Kate Cassidy, 2018
  • Christian Cloud, 2016
  • Richard Davis, 2016
  • Samuel Evans, 2018
  • Chris Herman, 2015
  • Heidi Hutchison, 2015
  • Jill MacDougall, 2017
  • Maggie McMillan, 2018
  • Jaime Morgan, 2018
  • Yaasiyn Muhammad, 2016
  • Molly Muller, 2018
  • Will Nord (Co-Chair), 2013
  • Sarah Odell, 2015
  • Joey Plum, 2018
  • Robert Quinn, 2015
  • Kathy Smithwick, 2018
  • Katie Teevan-Ryan, 2017
  • Jill Weller-Reilly, 2015
  • Helen Zaleski (Co-Chair), Cohort 17

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415

Program Contact
Administrative Coordinator
(215) 746-2718  

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.