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American University’s School of Education produces graduates with the skills and knowledge to create equitable and excellent learning environments. AU faculty members, including researchers and distinguished scholars, produce cutting-edge research, lead innovative partnerships and outreach, develop relevant and evidence-based coursework, and effect positive change in the most vulnerable communities, both nationally and globally. The School of Education Online brings the essence of DC culture right to your home. By engaging in class discussions inspired by the political rhetoric of DC, you’ll gain the necessary insight and tools to advance your career as you learn from faculty members who are on the cutting edge of education policy, teaching, and special education.

The Online Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership from American University can help you translate your desire to change the course of American education into actionable steps that have a true impact through innovative, evidence-based programs and policies. Focused on policy, leadership, law, economics, and research, the program will prepare you to transform societies. As a graduate, you’ll be prepared to join a network of American University faculty, students, and alumni who are transforming education in the United States.

Visit our website for more information on our campus-based programs.

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Required Credits

30 Credit Hours

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Estimated Time to Completion

Less than two years

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Transfer Credits Accepted

6 Credits

Program Goal

To attract high-quality, diverse students with both professional and academic accomplishments so that students can learn from one another and have a substantial impact at the national, state, or local level.

Program Highlights

  • Earn your degree in 20 months
  • Learn from current and former DC-based policy makers
  • Join an active and supportive alumni network
  • Receive support for identifying career pathways and opportunities
  • Gain hands-on experience through consultancy projects in educational organizations

Spring 2021 Deadlines

Priority Application Deadline
October 16, 2020
Application Complete Deadline
November 20, 2020
Class Start
January 11, 2021
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Information Webinar Sessions

Join our admissions team for a chance to learn more about our Masters in Education Policy and Leadership program. Ask any questions you might have around the application process or program requirements, meet a faculty member from the program and more.

Register For The Next Event

Why choose a master’s in education?

Prepare to make meaningful change in American education. As an experienced teaching professional, you’ve identified countless opportunities to address systemic shortcomings. You understand how culturally inclusive teaching methods, strategic resource allocation and data-driven decision making can create new ways of working toward equitable schools. Earn your master’s in education to become a trusted leader with the skills and knowledge to affect change at local, state and federal levels. Learn how to evaluate, create and implement effective policy that facilitates exceptional learning experiences for all students, and closes opportunity and achievement gaps for a brighter future.

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The online Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership provides teachers and other professionals with the knowledge and skills to transform schools and school systems. Its focus on Policy Studies prepares graduates to serve as leaders in organizations - including federal and state education agencies, school districts, and nonprofits - that implement education policies and programs. In addition to leadership, policy, legal, economic, and research skills, the curriculum emphasizes the data analysis and performance management skills needed to administer education programs and policies.

Students enroll in two courses each semester and complete the program within a twenty-month period.

Course Schedule

To complete the Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership, students must complete 30 hours of approved graduate work, including a 3-hour capstone experience in their final semester.


Students examine organizational change and leadership in educational organizations, including K-12 schools, federal and state agencies, school districts, and charter school management organizations. Students analyze theories and approaches for management, strategic planning, decentralization versus centralization, organizational learning, stakeholder engagement, and personal leadership.

Students are introduced to concepts and principles of social science research design. Observation, interview and survey design, literature reviews, development of problem statements and research questions, surveys of quantitative and qualitative data analyses, and formative and summative evaluation techniques are emphasized. Students demonstrate their competencies by engaging in a small-scale research study.


Analysis of and practice in the design of quantitative educational research. Emphasizes the nature and function of quantitative data gathering and analysis and the statistical approaches and techniques utilized to obtain particular outcomes. Usually Offered: spring.

Students examine major public policy issues and theories in American education through the three-phase lens of policy design, policy adoption, and policy implementation. They learn to describe tensions in federal, state, and local education policies with reference to historical and international comparisons, as well as to evaluate the use of various education policy tools. Policy issues considered include standards and accountability, whole-district reform, school choice, teacher quality, and college and career readiness.


Students learn how to use economic principles, such as productivity and return on investment, to evaluate education policies and programs. They apply these economic analytical approaches to education policies and programs such as value-added assessments, teacher compensation, early childhood education, and class-size reduction. Students also examine basic resource allocation and education finance, including costing-out models, school-district budgeting, Title I funding, and weighted-student formulas.

Electives (3 Credits)


Students examine legal issues relating to reforming elementary and secondary education through an analysis of federal and state court cases. They identify important legal standards/rules and explore how legal precedents could be applied to different situations across the country. Students also analyze institutional reform litigation such as school finance and voluntary desegregation; federal and state educational authority, including civil rights enforcement; local educational authority, including school boards and collective bargaining agreements; and legal conditions for school improvements.

Students learn about how educational organizations, including schools, school districts, and state agencies, implement education programs and policies. Students learn approaches to program management, including how to use data to set performance targets, make strategic improvement decisions, assess programs, and prioritize changes. Students are also introduced to basic grant writing and administration, including enforcement, monitoring, and support for education grants.


Working in small groups, students serve as consultants to an educational organization on a pressing issue of policy or practice. During this field-based project, they apply skills developed through their program of study in education policy and leadership. Students learn approaches to project management, client relations, analytical design, and project presentation, as well as receive support for transitions into policy and leadership careers.

Electives (3 Credits)

Student Stories

“I had a lot of teachers and professors who worked in the field and were really knowledgeable, not just about the academic aspects of education research and policy, but also about the practical aspects in skill sets that we need to be successful and help make real impactful and lasting changes.”


MEd Graduate, 2019
“I think the professors were just as invested in us as students as they were the work that we need to do because they wanted to help us be successful.”


MEd Graduate, 2019

Employer Testimonial

Guy Johnson
“Our team at the Opportunity Institute was ready to take on a big and complex multi-state project relating to equity in teacher pension policies. The students we worked with from American University were sharp, reliable, and focused, and their timely work helped us move forward with some significant work. The work we’ve done together over this semester has pointed a way forward for us and our partners on this topic, and we will definitely be engaging with the program again in the future.”

Guy Johnson

Senior Program Director of Federal and National Networks

New AU Alums Thrive in All Economic Sectors and in Grad Schools

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  • Bridges Public Charter School
  • City Year
  • DC Prep
  • DC Public Charter School
  • DC Public Schools
  • Elizabeth Seton High School
  • Excel Academy Public Charter School
  • Hospitality High School
  • Jumpstart
  • Leadership for Educational Equity
  • Live It Learn It
  • Prince George’s County Public Schools
  • Southern Education Foundation
  • Teach For America
  • The New York City Department of Education


  • Seattle University

Recent AU Grads are Competitive in the Marketplace

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Alumni & Outcomes

Our alumni are working to change the lives of students throughout the country and the world. Within six months of completing their programs, 100 percent of American University’s MAT graduates are working, continuing their education, or both.*

Our students channel their talents into a wide variety of career roles:

* American University does not guarantee employment after graduation.

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Program Head

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Bilingual Teacher

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Policy Maker

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Classroom Teacher

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Edu. Game Designer

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Curriculum Specialist

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Art Coordinator

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Adult Educator

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Learning Specialist

What makes American University’s online education master’s programs unique?

Our faculty members have worked in the fields they teach, which means they know that formulating beautifully written policy is only a first step in affecting positive and lasting change.

“No matter how brilliant or researched a policy idea is, the wheels always fall off if there’s weak implementation,” says Jason Snyder. “That’s why American University’s master’s in education policy and leadership focuses as much on putting policy into practice as it does on policy development.”

In other words, we meet passion with real-world, hard-won lessons to give students the best possible chance for success upon graduating, ensuring that they have the resources and tools required to bring innovation to the American educational system. We don’t doubt that our students can transform educational systems for the better, and that means we’ve worked hard to establish an education master’s program that marries the theoretical with the practical, the heady with the imperfectly real.

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