US News Best Online Programs Grad Education 2023The EdSp program prepares students with a current principal certification and building-level leadership experience to become inquiring, reflective school leaders at the district level. This unique online program is a collaboration with the University of Missouri – Columbia, University of Missouri – Kansas City, and University of Missouri – Saint Louis. Students will work with students enrolled at the partner universities and receive instruction from professors at the different universities based on expertise and experience. The program aligns with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Missouri Leadership Standards for superintendent certification. We serve a diverse population of graduate students who are making a positive difference in students’ lives.

This EdSp program is a 30-hour graduate credit, four-semester, cohort program that begins each summer semester. Students will complete the program over four semesters (Summer 1, Fall 1, Spring 1, and Summer 2).

The online program is delivered through a series of authentic learning experiences and formative assessments designed to meet the individual and group needs of students in each class. Students are expected to demonstrate their competence across a broad range of district issues such as instructional leadership, organizational development, fiscal and legal compliance, personnel management, community engagement, professional ethics and responsibility, professional development, and internal/external interpersonal relationships, and effective communication.

For additional information about the degree program, please visit Mizzou Online.

Learning Objectives

Standard #1 Vision, Mission, and Goals Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by facilitating the development, articulation, implementation, and stewardship of a vision of learning that is shared and supported by the school community.

Standard #2 Teaching and Learning Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by promoting a positive culture and an effective instructional program, applying best practice to student learning, and designing comprehensive professional growth plans for staff.

Standard #3 Management of Organizational Systems Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by leading personnel and managing the organizational structure and resources in a way that promotes a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

Standard #4 Collaboration with Families and Stakeholders Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by collaborating with families and other community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.

Standard #5 Ethics and Integrity Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by acting with integrity, responsibility and in an ethical manner.

Standard #6 The Education System Superintendents have the knowledge and ability to ensure the success of all students by understanding, responding to and influencing the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context.

Standard #7 Professional Development Superintendents remain current on best practices in education administration and school-related areas as evidenced by establishing a plan for his/her professional development each year.


The program meets the requirements for superintendent certification in Missouri, as well as many other states. Students interested in career certification must have served four years as an administrator and received two years of mentorship from a mentor approved by the state. Students will complete an action research project during their course work and a certification examination at the end of their course work. For more information about certification, see the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Certification Candidate Perfomance Data

Degree Requirements

The EdSp degree is a 30-hour, cohort program of study, which includes the following required courses and a minimum of three internship hours:

There are ten required courses:

Summer Semester 1

ELPA 9416: Theories in District-Level Administration

ELPA 8419: Superintendent: Structures and Processes for Effective Schools

ELPA 9436: School Personnel Administration

Fall Semester 1

ELPA 8424: Education Politics and Policymaking

ELPA 9429: Superintendent: Communication, Team Leadership

Spring Semester 1

ELPA 8423: Advanced Leadership for Learning Environments

ELPA 9424: Superintendent: Instructional Leader*

ELPA 9481:  Central Office/Superintendent Internship (3 semester hrs.)

Summer Semester 2

ELPA 9420:  Superintendent: Fiscal Leadership and Management

ELPA 9435:  Superintendent: Legal Leadership and Management

Learn more about individual courses in ELPA.

Internships & State Assessments

Student will complete a total of 3-semester hour internship during the fall and spring semester. An approved mentor, usually in the school district in which the student is employed, must be approved by the student’s advisor. The mentor must be serving in an assistant superintendent or superintendent capacity, must have superintendent certification, and must have an EdSp degree or a PhD/EdD.

All EdSp students must take the DESE district-level administrator assessment prior to completion of the program. This assessment is required for certification by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE also requires two years of building-level administration experience as a condition of superintendent certification.

The internship also requires an action research project which serves as the capstone examination for the program. This involves the participation and documentation of an implementation of a new program/initiative in a district.

The ELPA department will cover the cost for students to take this content assessment while enrolled in the degree program, typically during the last semester of coursework. In order to qualify for the cost to be covered, you must notify the department of your intention to take the examination at the start of the academic semester in which you plan to complete the assessment. Prior to registering for the examination using the Missouri Educator Gateway Assessments portal, you will contact the department to request a voucher number that you will use to defray the examination cost.


Admission Requirements

  • GPA of 3.5 (4.0 scale) in graduate studies in education (Master’s degree) from an accredited institution
  • A current Missouri Principal Certificate – Building-Level leadership experience preferred.
    • To be eligible for superintendent certification, a Missouri teaching certificate and two years of building-level leadership experience is required.
  • Minimum scores accepted by the MU Graduate School for TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, or the Cambridge C1 Advanced exams for non-native English speakers
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least one of which should be from faculty who instructed or academically advised the applicant during the student’s Master’s degree program and at least one from an immediate supervisor in the student’s current employment role).
  • GRE scores are not required

Application Deadlines

March 1. This program is a cohort-based program that begins each summer. Students must matriculate through the program in a four-semester sequence. Students will be notified of acceptance by April 1.

How to Apply

To apply, please visit the Office of Graduate Studies online application system.

For questions about how to apply, please contact us:

Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis


In rare instances, a minimal number of departmental research or teaching assistantships are available for qualified students who are not working full time. Priority is given to PhD students; however, interested EdSp students are encouraged to apply.