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Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement, Ed.D.

MTSU’s doctorate in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement became a reality after more than forty years of working for a program that focuses on improving K-12 teaching and learning. This unique program is designed to meet a specific need to develop capabilities of existing school leaders, in formal and informal leadership roles. The program offers research-based knowledge, analytical skills, and practical application to enhance student learning, increase assessment scores, and improve schools. This is not a program you learn about now and do some day; in the ALSI program you will integrate your learning directly into your setting in a job-embedded professional development approach.  Educators who want to make an immediate difference in the lives of K-12 students are attracted to the program and the opportunity to participate in projects that result in direct improvements. The cohort-based doctoral program provides a structured curriculum that takes into account that most students are employed during their studies. Participants benefit from the support and collegiality of their cohorts.

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Program grads become true change agents

Program grads become true change agents

“The ALSI program has been transformative for me, both professionally and personally,” says Lando Carter, a member of the first Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement cohort, graduating in August 2016. “This program is unique because the instructors purposefully fuse assessment, learning, and school improvement to help school leaders of all backgrounds become true change agents, ones who seek substantive and lasting change in their classrooms, schools, or districts.” Carter, who teaches high school English in Rutherford County, says the cohort model creates a meaningful family atmosphere during the three years of coursework. “Now I’m watching the program work in my classroom and my school on a daily basis,” says Carter, who built on an ALSI project to start a popular writing lab at Central Magnet School, modeled after MTSU’s Writing Center. He says “the program works because I’ve been given the tools and the training to consistently move from theory to practice. I am indebted to the expert faculty not only for building such an innovative program but also for the guidance they provided during and after my time as an ALSI student.”

Explore new ways to impact instruction and learning

Explore new ways to impact instruction and learning

Tracy Hollinger was in her fourth year as principal of Northeast Middle School when she decided she could balance the time, commitment, and work load of her demanding job and the stress of pursuing a doctorate. “I was leading others, but I was certainly feeling the need to challenge myself and grow in my own knowledge and skills as an instructional leader,” she recalls. When she looked at doctoral programs, she discovered that MTSU had a new program in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement. “Having received my bachelor’s degree at MTSU, I knew firsthand the quality of the education programs. The ALSI program was exactly what I was looking for—designed from current research, focused on job-embedded application, and with a distinct focus on student learning and school improvement.” Hollinger says the program impacted her daily work “in profound ways,’ such as the utilization of new resources and processes for examining progress, needs, and strengths in developing a school improvement plan. “I highly recommend this program for those interested in expanding their knowledge and skills, examining current educational research, and exploring new ways to impact instruction and learning in all levels and roles,” she concludes.

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The Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement is designed to meet a specific need to develop the capacity of existing pre-K–12 school leaders (including teacher-leaders) and those in education-related careers to significantly improve student academic achievement and to meet increased accountability mandates. 

Program graduates may also find work in higher education, research, educational policy, governmental agencies, not-for-profit and philanthropic organizations, and professional development consulting, which will also contribute to improved student and school achievement. Because this degree program is new, employer information is still being compiled.

The College of Education began offering the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement (ALSI) in 2013. Following are a few key points to help answer initial questions.

  1. The ALSI program is a cohort-based program comprising 60 graduate credit hours.
  2. The ALSI program is partnering with districts to offer cohorts based out of their districts to meet practitioners where they are and ground learning in real context.
  3. This doctoral program requires the physical presence of all cohort members for all class sessions. The ALSI Ed.D. is not an online doctoral degree program.
  4. All applicants must have successfully completed an earned master's degree from an accredited institution prior to admission.
  5. The ALSI program will admit applicants based on a competitive process including but not limited to a professional portfolio, an onsite personal interview, and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

The program will take advantage of the latest technology to enhance the learning opportunities for all of the learners in the program. We will engage as a cohort of faculty and learners to model the development and growth of an authentic learning community.  Completion of the degree requires successfully completing all courses as prescribed in the ALSI program course of study, conducting original research, and successfully completing a doctoral dissertation, among other graduation requirements.

For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS button to the right. 

Other graduate degrees

The College of Education also offers a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Literacy Studies.

Professional Licensure Disclosure

The Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) College of Education’s teacher licensure preparation programs are accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and are eligible for accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Students in the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement at MTSU have the opportunity to meet the Instructional Leader licensure requirements set by the Tennessee Department of Education. Students should be aware that licensure requirements vary from state to state and are subject to change. MTSU has not made a determination whether a specific program will meet all of the requirements of another US state or territory. MTSU recommends that students who plan to seek licensure outside the state of Tennessee contact the appropriate licensing agency and discuss their plans with their advisor. To obtain current information about each state’s and territory’s licensure requirements and any additional regulations, students should consult the US Department of Education’s website for state contacts at

Graduates of MTSU teacher education programs certified to teach in Tennessee are eligible for certification reciprocity in many states. Reciprocity is not an automatic or complete transfer of certification, thus individuals should consult the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) site at and the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) site at as well as the US Department of Education state contacts site for information about any additional state requirements.

Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement, Ed.D.

Kevin Krahenbuhl, Interim Program Director
(615) 898-2995
Jennifer Hyde, Program Secretary

The Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement is a cohort-based doctoral program capitalizing on faculty expertise in the College of Education. The program provides a structured curriculum with early development and ongoing support for students as they work to complete their doctoral dissertation. The Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement is designed to

  • meet a specific need to develop the capacity of PreK-12 school leaders (including teacher-leaders and education leaders across the range of policy and non-profit agencies),
  • significantly improve student academic achievement, and
  • meet increased accountability mandates.

This degree will provide educational leaders with the knowledge and analytical skills to analyze all forms of student-learning data (formative and summative, quantitative and qualitative) in order to accurately identify areas of success as well as areas in need of specific attention to attain school improvement.

Applicants with a leadership role (including school administrator, teacher-leader, policy-maker, policy advisor, staff in philanthropic and not-for-profit agencies, higher education,and educational consulting) in PreK-12 education and a master's degree in a variety of disciplines are eligible for admission. Typically, successful students will hold formal qualifications related to some area of PreK-12 educational practice with three or more years of professional experience in their specializations.

Please see the undergraduate catalog for undergraduate program information.

Admission Requirements

Admission is limited and will be based on a holistic review of test scores, past academic success, and potential for success in a rigorous doctoral program whose objective is the development of individuals who can effect immediate school improvement and student learning achievement. The following are minimum requirements for admission to the Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement (although meeting these criteria does not guaranteed admission to this selective program of study):

Applicants are expected to have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 in master's coursework.

Applicants are expected to have scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that indicate capacity for success in doctoral study.

Application Procedures

All application materials must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies. NOTE: The program is partnering with local school districts for off-campus cohorts. Please contact program office for current procedures pertaining to location and deadlines.

Applicant must

  1. have earned a Master's degree from an accredited institution;
  2. submit application with the appropriate application fee (online at;
  3. submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended showing a grade point average (GPA) in previous academic work that indicates potential for success in advanced study (successful applicants will typically have a GPA in prior graduate work that exceeds 3.50);
  4. submit official scores for the verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing measures of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that indicate potential for success in the Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement doctoral program. Although specific minimum scores are not set, evaluation of scores is an important factor in admission decisions and successful applicants will typically submit scores above the 50th percentile on each measure;
  5. submit three letters of recommendation which must meet the following specific criteria.The first letter must be from an educational leader (principal, assistant principal, central office administrator, school board member) of your school or school district and should specifically address: (a) your abilities, and (b) their support for you to lead an effort to significantly improve student learning and achievement in your current position. The second letter must be from a tenure-track professor, and it should address your potential to successfully complete an academically rigorous doctoral program. The third letter may be from any educational professional (i.e.: LKPreK-12 education leader, university faculty, policy maker, governmental agency representative, non-profit or philanthropic organization leader, etc.) and should address your specific skills, attitudes, and experience(s) related to the goals of this program.
  6. submit a statement of purpose (750-1000 words) communicating your professional goals and suitability for the doctoral program in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement. In your statement you should address how your participating in this program will result in increased student learning and achievement as measured on standardized test scores for students under your educational care and authority. You may include a brief discussion of any literature (e.g. research articles, texts-please use appropriate APA citations) that has informed your professional practice or influenced you in some way;
  7. submit a current vitae including education and employment history, experience with school improvement, professional presentations and publications, awards, recognitions, etc.;
  8. participate in an interview with the Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement doctoral program admission committee as part of the admissions process.

NOTE: Accepted students will be required to attest to their commitment to the cohort and to contribute the necessary quality and quantity of time and energy to ensure the success of this community of learners as each student prepares to lead an effort to significantly improve her/his school or school district.

NOTE: International students will be required to meet MTSU's English language proficiency requirements in addition to the program admission requirements.

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Assessment, Learning and School Improvement Doctoral Program requires

  1. completion of a minimum of 60 semester hours;
  2. completion of a minimum of one research-based article submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed professional journal; (The research-based article and presentation must receive approval from the program director (or designee) to meet degree requirements.)
  3. completion of one research-based presentation at a regional/national educational conference; (The research-based article and presentation must receive approval from the program director (or designee) to meet degree requirements.)
  4. mastery of academic coursework (measured by course grades and successful completion of a comprehensive examination); and
  5. successful defense of a dissertation that demonstrates mastery of applied research methods in the field of education.

Curriculum: Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement

The following illustrates the minimum coursework requirements.

Student Learning Core (13 hours)


  • ALSI 7010 - Cognitive Learning Theory and Student Achievement

    3credit hours

    Provides thorough knowledge base in research on ties between instructional practices and students' learning and achievement. Examines cognitive learning theory from learner perspective and draws on newest research on the best classroom and school cultures to support student learning and achievement.

  • ALSI 7020 - Implementing a Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum

    3credit hours

    Examines research on importance of a guaranteed and viable curriculum tied to state and national standards as well as the skills needed by school leaders to develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate this type of curriculum.

  • ALSI 7030 - The Effective Teaching Knowledge Base

    3credit hours

    Examines research base of instructional practices proven to have direct, positive correlation with improved student achievement. Links this research base to national initiatives and teacher evaluation models aimed at improving teaching experience. Equips students with skills to promote adult learning.

  • ALSI 7040 - Teacher Observation, Evaluation, and Improvement

    3credit hours

    Focuses on providing students with in-depth knowledge about research behind the concepts of teacher observation, evaluation, and improvement methods as well as applied skills in implementing these evaluative methods, with an emphasis on using these methods to improve instructional practice and ultimately student achievement.

  • ALSI 7050 - Application and Research Seminar: Student Learning

    1credit hours

    Provides students with structure and format for reflective practice regarding student learning, including application of research knowledge base to challenges faced in K-12 educational settings.

Research Methods (9 hours)


  • ALSI 7600 - Educational Statistics

    3credit hours

    Prerequisite: One undergraduate statistics course or permission of instructor. Provides students with knowledge and skills needed to understand, interpret, and apply appropriate statistical methodologies and concepts to the educational settings. A survey course for basic statistical methods, including descriptive statistics, confidence intervals, sampling, distribution, Central Limit Theorem, logic and procedure of hypothesis testing, z-tests and t-tests of means and proportions, chi-square tests, correlation and simple regression, and one-way ANOVA. Statistical software packages such as SPSS and SAS will be utilized for data analysis.  Prerequisite for ALSI 7620 and ALSI 7630.

  • ALSI 7610 - Qualitative Research Methodologies

    3credit hours

    Provides candidates with a thorough understanding of cognitive learning theory in order to inform best instructional practices on behalf of diverse learners. Framed by a collaborative team approach within a school community.

  • ALSI 7620 - Advanced Quantitative Research Methodologies  3 credit hours  
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    ALSI 7620 - Advanced Quantitative Research Methodologies

    3credit hours

    Prerequisites: ALSI 7600 and ALSI 7610. Provides students with advanced quantitative research methodologies that can be applied in an educational setting. Topics include power and effect size, ANOVA (One-Way Analysis of variance, Two-Way Analysis of Variance), MANOVA (Multivariate Analysis of Variance), ANCOVA (Analysis of Covariance), Factor Analysis, Multiple Regression, Logistic Regression, and ranking or Non-Parametric tests. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) will be used. The course will include the study of the methodologies used in growth models.

  • ALSI 7630 - Advanced Qualitative Research for School Improvement

    3credit hours

    Prerequisites: ALSI 7600 and ALSI 7610. Provides students with advanced qualitative research methodologies that can be applied in an educational setting. Course content focuses on conceptual issues, ordering, framing inquiry, applying appropriate approach and design, selecting and collecting data, approach-specific analysis, interpretation of data, and reporting procedures. Course tasks provide opportunities to develop skills in qualitative coding, bracketing, restorying, descriptive culture sharing, and cross-case theming.

Assessment Core (13 hours)


  • ALSI 7210 - Assessment Literacy

    3credit hours

    Focuses on assessment vocabulary and practices prevalent in North America and Tennessee. Appropriate use and interpretation of various types of formative and summative assessments, both norm-based and criterion-referenced.

  • ALSI 7220 - Advanced Applications in Assessment

    3credit hours

    Engages students in comprehensive study of conceptual and applied aspects of assessment with a focus on the role of assessment in improving student learning. Students will focus on specific skills in developing and using assessment to influence student achievement and school improvement.

  • ALSI 7230 - Formative Assessments and Improved Student Learning

    3credit hours

    Emphasizes the development and use of collaboratively developed, common, formative assessments for improving student achievement. Examines both the research basis behind and applications for developing multiple kinds of formative assessments and for collaboratively analyzing their results.

  • ALSI 7240 - Data Analysis, Learning, and School Improvement

    3credit hours

    Provides students with a deep understanding of the interplay between and the connection of multiple assessment tools, data analysis, improved student learning, and school and district improvement with an emphasis on linking student achievement data to decision-making for improving student learning at every level.

  • ALSI 7250 - Application and Research Seminar: Assessing Student Learning

    1credit hours

    Provides students with structure and format for reflective practice regarding the assessment of student learning, including application of research knowledge base to challenges faced in K-12 educational settings.

Research-Based School Improvement Core (13 hours)


  • ALSI 7410 - Highly Effective Schools and School Districts

    3credit hours

    Examines the research base related to the cultures and practices that characterize highly effective schools and school districts. Stresses the process skills educational leaders need to be change agents and to apply research findings to specific educational settings with an emphasis on developing consensus for substantive change.

  • ALSI 7420 - Schools as Professional Learning Communities

    3credit hours

    Examines the research base related to professional learning communities and their link to greater student learning and school improvement. Focuses on skills required for successful implementation of professional learning community concepts and practices at all levels to create a culture of continuous improvement.

  • ALSI 7430 - Collaborative Teaming and Effective Schools

    3credit hours

    Provides students with the importance of collaborative teaming in order to impact student learning and implementing the best instructional practices.

  • ALSI 7440 - Improving Student Achievement in Core Academic Areas and Sub-Groups: Best Practices

    3credit hours

    Examines the research base on best practices as well as applications for improving student achievement in specific core curricular areas (emphasis on math and literacy) and among specific subgroups (emphasis on children with disabilities, children of poverty, and children whose primary language is not English). Applies this knowledge base to designing timely, directive, and specific systems of intervention.

  • ALSI 7450 - Application and Research Seminar: Research-Based School Improvement

    1credit hours

    Provides students with structure and format for reflective practice regarding research-based school improvement, including application of research knowledge base to challenges faced in K-12 educational settings.

Dissertation (12 hours)


  • ALSI 7640 - Dissertation Research  1 to 6 credit hours  
    (Students will enroll in dissertation research in multiple semesters for a total of 12 credits.)(Students will enroll in dissertation research in multiple semesters for a total of 12 credits.)  dotslash:(Students will enroll in dissertation research in multiple semesters for a total of 12 credits.) title:(Students will enroll in dissertation research in multiple semesters for a total of 12 credits.) 
    (Students will enroll in dissertation research in multiple semesters for a total of 12 credits.) 

    ALSI 7640 - Dissertation Research

    1 to 6credit hours

    Selection of a research problem, review of pertinent literature, collection and analysis of data, and composition of the dissertation. Once enrolled, students must register in at least one credit hour of dissertation research each semester until complete. Open only to students who are in the Assessment, Learning, and school Improvement Doctor of Education degree program. S/U grading.

Program Notes

Currently, the program admits students in successive cohorts. All students in the graduate program are expected to complete all coursework with their cohort as scheduled.

Candidate must

  1. file a degree plan in the College of Graduate Studies prior to entry into the program;
  2. file a Notice of Intent to Graduate form in the College of Graduate Studies within the first two weeks of the term in which candidate intends to graduate.


Contact Information

Jennifer Hyde

Who is My Advisor?

Dr. Kevin Krahenbuhl

Mailing Address

College of Education
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 93
Murfreesboro, TN 37132 

College of Graduate Studies
Middle Tennessee State University
MTSU Box 42
1301 East Main Street
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

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