DoctorateEducation in K-12 District Leadership (Ed.D.)

Teacher with books

Make a big impact in children’s lives by earning a Bellarmine Ed.D. in District Leadership.


Why earn your Ed.D. at Bellarmine?

The Doctor of Education in K-12 District Leadership (Ed.D.) focuses on developing highly skilled education leaders who will act as change agents in improving the education of children living in poverty circumstances. Designed for students who have successfully completed the Ed.S. degree and are seeking both superintendent certification and a doctoral degree, this program:

  • prepares educational leaders to improve student learning and achievement by working with district personnel and the larger community to augment the professional skills of colleagues,
  • to strengthen the culture of the district through learning communities, and
  • to improve the quality of instruction through research and data-based decision-making.

Program Highlights

The Ed.D. program coursework is focused on preparing candidates with advanced knowledge in educational research practices, assets and challenges of children living in high-poverty contexts, and an understanding of innovative education solutions. This program consists of an additional 36 hours of coursework at the doctoral level which, when combined with the 30 credit hours of the Ed.S. program, gives each candidate a total of 66 hours beyond a master’s degree. A candidate in this program will be challenged to reflect continuously upon:

  • leadership components;
  • coaching and mentoring;
  • analysis of assessment data to impact instruction and district leadership and operational systems;
  • strategies for closing the achievement gap through instructional best practices;
  • the need to address equity and diversity in schools; and
  • collaborative efforts to include colleagues, parents, and the community in comprehensive efforts for school and district improvement.
  • promote the success of each student by ensuring a leader-driven management and leadership style that provides the resources necessary for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment built on equity, adequacy and equality.
Robert Gunn

“As an educator who embarked on a career in teaching to change the world, the focus of the program is to challenge you to be the change you wish to see. If you are a change agent committed to challenging the status quo and changing the narrative about the purpose of school, and how to positively impact ALL students, this is the program for you. ”

Robert E. Gunn Jr., Principal, W.E.B. DuBois Academy


Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to complete the program?

  • 36 hours (30 hours of coursework + six dissertation hours)
  • Cohort model that begins in fall semester. Six hours per semester for five semesters: fall 1, spring 1, summer 1, fall 2, spring 2.
  • Once 30 hours of coursework are completed, students sign up for dissertation hours based on their own pacing (at least one semester hour per semester for a maximum of six hours).

What can I do with this degree?
The Ed.D program is aligned with Kentucky’s superintendent certification program. Students completing the degree will be eligible to apply for a superintendent certificate. As the terminal degree in your field, someone with this degree could teach at the post-secondary level in educational leadership programs, depending on your professional experiences. Students completing this program would also be eligible for administrative positions at the district level overseeing programs and schools.

What is the course schedule like?
The courses are offered in person on Bellarmine’s campus. Classes meet on six weekends over the course of each semester in order to accommodate the busy careers and lives of students in or doctoral programs. Classes are on Friday evenings from 5 - 9 p.m., and two class sessions on Saturdays from 8 a.m. - noon and 1 - 5 p.m.

How much does it cost to complete the program?
For current pricing, contact Sarah Shumway Schuble at 502.272.8271 or

What are the admission requirements?

  • Admission to Bellarmine’s graduate school
  • Completion of an Ed.S degree
  • At least two years of successful experience as a principal, supervisor, guidance counselor, DPP, DoSE, school business administrator, vocational school coordinator, or coordinator/administrator/supervisor of district-wide service

How will this program help me as a leader?
The purpose of this program is to produce educational leaders who are passionate about creating innovative educational systems that ensure the learning of ALL students. Our current educational paradigm has arguably worked for about 60-70% of children. This is an unacceptable rate of failure. As Deming said many years ago, “every system is perfectly designed to produce the results it gets.” This means we must design different systems. How do we do this in the age of educational reform and accountability, considering the political system—at all levels—national to local, whose purpose is often manifested in meeting the needs of adults, not children and students of all ages? Educational leaders must relentlessly focus on designing educational systems that are equitable and excellent in the face of adversity. We believe such systems can be created, there is evidence to support these beliefs, this program focuses on opportunities we have to do this very thing.

Admission Requirements

Candidates must hold an Ed.S degree and a valid Professional Teaching Certificate. Additionally, candidates must have at least two years experience as a principal, supervisor, guidance counselor, DPP, DoSE, school business administrator, vocational school coordinator, or coordinator/administrator/supervisor of district-wide services.

For a comprehensive explanation of admission requirements, please visit our Procedure for Admission page.

Program Outcomes

The Ed.D. program seeks to prepare candidates who:

  • promote the success of each P-12 student by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by all stakeholders;
  • promote the success of each P-12 student by advocating, nurturing and sustaining a district culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth focusing on 21st Century and College and Career Readiness Skills;
  • provide district leadership by ensuring management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment;
  • promote the district’s learning program by collaborating with community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources;
  • acts with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner promoting cultural diversity and equal access to all district resource and initiatives; and promote the success the school district by understanding, responding to, and influencing the political, social, economic, legal, and cultural contexts as they impact education;
  • evaluate change theories and practices aimed at improving education access and outcomes for all people; and
  • evaluate secondary research and formulate an original argument; then design, implement, analyze and disseminate an applied research study

Faculty Profiles

Here is a quick snapshot of a few of our faculty members. Read profiles of all of our distinguished faculty.

Amy E. Lein, Ph.D.

Amy E. Lein is Assistant Professor of Special Education and the Chair of the Education and Social Change (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs. Before coming to Bellarmine, Dr. Lein was a Master Coach for Minnesota Math Corps and adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where she earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and won the 2016 Balow Dissertation Award. As a former public-school teacher, she taught special education and general education mathematics at the high school and middle school levels in both the Boston metro area and in Charlotte, Michigan. Her research areas of interest include mathematics interventions for struggling students, student engagement, and teacher preparation and development. Her research has resulted in peer-reviewed publications in journals such as Preventing School Failure, Educational Research and Evaluation, The Journal of Learning Disabilities, Learning and Instruction, and The Journal of Educational Psychology.

Dr. Will Wells

Will Wells, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership and School Administration. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Louisville in Educational Leadership and School Administration. Before joining the faculty at Bellarmine in 2016, Dr. Wells was Superintendent in the Oldham County Schools. His experience as a successful assistant superintendent, school principal, assistant principal, guidance counselor, and middle school teacher, in both urban and suburban districts, provided him a broad base of experience and expertise as he served in this role. His current research interests are systems, structures, and policies that improve teacher quality vis-à-vis job embedded professional learning such as the academy structure and other means of building teacher capacity in order to ensure the learning of ALL students. Wells teaches a variety of instructional leadership and administration courses to graduate students at the masters, specialist, and doctoral levels.

Grant Smith, Ph.D.

Grant Smith, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Research Design and Statistics. Grant spent over 20 years in the private sector working in operations management, mergers and acquisitions and the design and execution of feasibility research and process improvement studies. His research interests include accountability measurements, and the relationship of educational outcomes and economic opportunity. He received a B.A. from the University of Florida, a Ph.D. in measurement and statistics from the Florida State University and is currently completing postdoctoral studies at Harvard University where he works with the National Center for Teacher Effectiveness at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. At Bellarmine, Grant teaches courses in statistics, research methods and evaluation.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Please visit our Graduate Tuition Rates page for the most up-to-date tuition and fees information.

School districts may apply tuition supports for this program; please contact your school district’s personnel specialist. Students are eligible for federally supported forms of student aid. Financial aid questions should be directed to the Financial Aid Office at Bellarmine University ( or 502.272.7300).


All advanced-level teacher education programs at Bellarmine University's Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education are recognized by the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board, and are fully accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.


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