Group of Danforth students standing in front of Miller Hall

Lead differently

Danforth prepares equity-driven educators to become outstanding principals and program administrators in P–12 school systems. Our innovative, competency-based program combines proven classroom instruction and cutting-edge research with an intensive internship. After graduating, you will feel confident in your educational leader and know how cultivate leadership in others.

Our faculty roster offers cutting-edge scholarship and veteran educational leadership. You’ll study the latest pedagogical research and engage with instructors who have decades of experience working in the field and join a group of dynamic, motivated educational leaders.

Did you know? We have a 100% graduation completion rate and up to 96% of our graduates accept principal, assistant principal or district-level leadership positions within one year of completing the program.

Program details

  • What you can earn:
    • Principal certificate
    • Program administrator certificate
    • Master of Education (M.Ed.)
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Credits: 36-45
  • Format: On-campus
  • Time commitment: Full-time
  • When to apply: Early bird applications begin in autumn; Applications continue through winter for a summer start

What you'll learn

We are centered around six core competencies:

  • Shaping Culture & Leading Change: Articulates and uses clear vision of equity and achievement to mobilize students, staff, and community in support of a culture of learning for all
  • Building Instructional Capacity: Improves instructional quality and support teacher learning for equitable practice
  • Advocating With Students, Families & Communities: Engages students, families and communities and create partnerships in service that all young people graduate ready for college and careers
  • Committing to Ethical Practices: Adheres to core values and actions demonstrate congruence with achieving equity and excellence for each and every learner
  • Driving Improvement through Inquiry: Utilizes data to influence, build urgency, identify problems of practice and provide actionable feedback
  • Marshaling Resources & Improving Systems: Leads use of human, financial and technical resources in service of equity, excellence and achievement results

The competencies serve as our curriculum framework and reflect National Educational Leadership Preparation (NELP) and Washington state standards. They were developed with district partners, top experts and leading researchers.

After graduation

Danforth graduates are ready to serve as principals, assistant principals and district-level leaders. As a alumnus, you will also receive:

  • Continued support, collaboration and network building through monthly professional development
  • Leadership+ workshops, book studies and peer consultancies
  • Monthly community of practice for BIPOC alumni
  • Support from a personal coach, for up to a year, if you are hired into a significant leadership role

The Danforth Performance Guarantee

We stand behind the quality of this program with a unique performance guarantee: you will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to step into leadership positions and thrive in today’s challenging education environment. If you need additional guidance putting any of the core competencies into practice, we provide the following support at no cost to you, your school or your district:

  • Networking
  • Additional professional development
  • Coaching that targets your individual needs

Nominate a Danforth candidate!

Many of our students are nominated by friends and colleagues. If you know an aspiring leader who is ready to take the next step in their career, we'd love to hear about them! Nominate an aspiring leader...


  • Year-long program beginning in summer and ending in spring
  • Principal Certification and Program Administrator Certification require 36 credits
  • Earn your Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree simultaneously with 9 additional credits

Danforth offers a unique, integrated curriculum that explores issues essential to developing equity-driven, learning-focused school and district leaders. The program’s core competencies are woven together throughout the entire year-long experience.

The program begins in summer with an intensive weeklong summer and an additional weeklong campus experience. Autumn, winter and spring quarters consists of classroom instruction and weekly seminars. You will also engage in an intensive, year-long internship experience during the program.

Course sequence

Summer quarter

  • EDLPS 501: Introduction: Leadership Beyond the Classroom
    • Weeklong residential retreat and UW campus week
    • Introduced to educational leadership through identification of core values and approaches to conflict
    • Examine how culturally responsive leadership practices shape culture, support improved student learning and build instructional capacity

Autumn quarter

EDLPS 502: Leadership Core I

  • Conduct an equity audit of an organization
  • Research and create a cultural portrait of an educational organization
  • Examine legal cases and district policies that shape student and teacher rights
  • Complete multiple evidence-based learning observations; pre-conference, observation, post-conference with teaching practitioners
  • Practice effective communication through reflection on practice augmented by engagement with case studies and role play 

Main Modules: Building Instructional Capacity; Culturally Responsive Leadership; Driving Improvement Through Inquiry; Effective Communication & Productive Conflict; Educational Law; Moral & Political Dimensions; Shaping Culture & Leading Change

Winter quarter

EDLPS 503: Leadership Core II

  • Lead a collaborative inquiry cycle designed to improve teacher and leader practice and student learning
  • Analyze elements of family and community engagement present in an educational organization
  • Conduct a Comprehensive Resource Analysis related to a policy and/or program with suggested changes to produce more equitable outcomes
  • Analyze a moral dilemma encountered during their work

Main Modules: Building Instructional Capacity; Culturally Responsive Leadership; Driving Improvement Through Inquiry; Equitable Collaborations; Marshaling Resources; Moral & Political Dimensions; Shaping Culture & Leading Change

Spring quarter

EDLPS 504: Leadership Core III

  • Develop an entry plan that describes the first 10, 30, 60 and 90 days of leading a school
  • Build capacity with teachers and other educators through targeted, job-embedded professional development
  • Adopt culturally responsive leadership practices through examination of curriculum, instruction and hiring practices

Main Modules: Culturally Responsive Leadership; Driving Improvement Through Inquiry; Equitable Collaborations; Marshaling Resources; Moral & Political Dimensions; Shaping Culture & Leading Change

Weekly reflective seminars

Students participate in a weekly reflective seminar to help you link learning from their internship experiences to program expectations and coursework. During the second half of the year, students take over the leadership of these sessions and gain additional experience in preparing and delivering professional learning.

Additional coursework for M.Ed. option

Six of the nine required master’s credits come from two three-credit graduate courses related to educational leadership, research and/or policy. Some online options are available.

The final credits are earned through a one-credit course taken during Autumn, Winter and Spring Quarters. This instructor-led course is delivered about once a month in face-to-face or online format. It is designed to help students research, write and present their final master’s learning project: a comprehensive literature review or an original study of equity in education.

  • Minimum of 1,000 internship hours are required
  • Danforth students are not able to serve as full-time teachers while enrolled

The program incorporates a rigorous on-site internship experience, overseen by a veteran mentor principal and/or program administrator. The internship involves a minimum commitment of 1,000 hours of leadership experience.

Successful completion of the Danforth internship requires an ongoing commitment equal to about 40 percent of the workweek. Many participants accomplish this by serving full-time in a non-classroom role, such as dean of students, instructional coach, academic dean or — in the case of program administrator candidates — a district-level position.

It is not possible to complete the internship while working as a full-time classroom teacher. Danforth students who are teaching must reduce their teaching load to no more than 60 percent.

Finishing the program

Upon successful completion of the program, you will qualify to apply for the Principal or Program Administrator certificate from Washington state.

If you need additional guidance and help putting the our core competencies into practice, we provide follow-up support through networking, additional professional development, coaching and/or assistance targeted your individual needs. Support is provided at no cost to you, your school or your district. We also provide one-to-one coaches for graduates who begin a principalship within the first year of graduation.

Admission requirements and process

We are looking for educators who are devoted to:

  • Building instructional capacity
  • Shaping culture and leading change
  • Advocating with students, families and communities
  • Committing to ethical practices
  • Driving improvement through inquiry
  • Marshaling resources and improving systems
  • Three years of successful school-based instructional experience in an educational setting (five or more years is recommended)
  • Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States (or equivalent from a foreign institution)
  • Evidence of academic commitment (e.g. minimum 3.0 grade point average for the last graded 60 semester credits)
  • If only only earning certification, masters degree from an accredited institution*

*A master's degree is an OSPI requirement for principal and program administrator certification. If you do not have a master's degree, you can meet this requirement by concurrently enrolling in Danforth's M.Ed. option.

  • Unofficial transcripts from every college or university attended
  • Resume
  • Three professional references who will submit a reference form and official reference letter
  • Copy of your current teacher, educational staff associate (ESA) or Initial/Continuing CTE certificate
  • Goal statement:
    • 2-3 pages, double-space, 12 point font with 1 inch margins
    • Discuss the following prompts:
      • What do you value in education and what goals have you set for yourself as an educator?
      • How have your prior contributions improved or influenced learning outcomes or professional practices?
      • Why have you chosen to apply to the Danforth Educational Leadership Program?
      • What do you plan to accomplish as an educational leader during and after completing the Danforth program? How will you know you are successful?
      • If your application is accepted, how will you arrange half-time release for the internship and to what level/pledge of support have you secured from district leadership?
      • The University of Washington and Danforth actively seek and welcome students from diverse backgrounds. Please address any educational, cultural or economic opportunities or disadvantages that you have experienced and the way these experiences have influenced your decision to apply to the Danforth program and seek a principal and/or program administrator certification.

GRE scores are no longer required. If you've already taken the GRE, you'll have the option to self-report your scores in the application.

  • Gather all required documents
  • Visit the Graduate School website
  • Log into your account, or create a new profile if you are a first-time applicant
  • Complete all steps in application process and upload your documents
    • You will apply for Education - Seattle (MEd - Educational Leadership & Policy Studies - Danforth Educational Leadership Program)
  • Pay the nonrefundable application fee
  • Submit your application


We are a self-sustaining, fee-based program. Course fees are charged on a per-credit basis and are the same for Washington residents and non-residents. The current estimate program cost:

  • Application fee: $85
  • Confirmation deposit: $250 (applied toward first-quarter tuition)
  • Textbooks: $300
  • Cohort retreat lodging and meals: $1,300
  • Tuition ($625/credit):
    • Certificate only: $22,500
    • Certificate and M.Ed.: $28,125
  • Estimated total:
    • Certificate only: $23,885
    • Certificate and M.Ed.: $29,510

This estimate does not include other required fees like registration, technology and U-PASS.

Funding and scholarships

Federal financial aid is available for students. Students can apply for a limited number of fellowships and scholarships.

Washington State Education Leadership Intern Program Grant

This competitive program provides state funds to reimburse school districts for the cost of hiring substitute teachers, allowing for the release of interns to participate in an administrator internship, such as the Danforth internship program. Potential interns must apply for funding; visit the Association of Washington School Principals internship grant page for more information.

Graduate Student Funding

The Graduate School’s Office of Fellowships & Awards is a resource for students seeking information about fellowships, awards and assistantships. The Graduate Funding Information Service assists UW graduate students in their search for funding opportunities for graduate school-related expenses. GFIS representatives host workshops, post funding announcements and meet one-on-one with students.

Kreielsheimer Endowment

The Kreielsheimer Endowment for Seattle School Principals and Leaders provides fellowship awards to students in the Danforth Education Leadership Program. Students must be currently working in Seattle Public Schools and plan to complete their internship in Seattle as well. Selection is based on academic merit and recommendations from Seattle School districts, the Danforth program director and the Danforth admissions committee.

Fellowship recipients agree to complete the Danforth program on schedule and make a reasonable, good faith effort to seek and accept appropriate employment as a school principal or administrator in Seattle Public Schools. If such employment is unavailable, recipients shall make a reasonable, good faith effort to seek and accept appropriate employment as a school principal or administrator at a school in Washington state. However, fellowship recipients will not be required to accept a position with SPS or in Washington state as a condition of the acceptance of the fellowship. Preference will be given to students who reduce their workload to less than 100 percent FTE. (Multiple awards of up to $10,000 each.)

Washington Mutual Diversity Leader Endowed Fellowship

The Washington Mutual Diversity Leader Endowment Fellowship provides fellowship awards to graduate students in the UW College of Education. The fellowship has a preference for students who are members of disenfranchised and underserved communities, including communities of color, and who aspire to become public K-12 school principals, superintendents and education leaders. Selection is based on academic merit and recommendations from the Danforth program director and the Danforth admissions committee. (Multiple awards of up to $5,000 each.)

John E. Corbally Endowed Fellowship and Scholarship

The purpose of the John E. Corbally Endowed Fellowship and Scholarship is to provide support to students in the principal or educational leadership program who are currently serving at the secondary school level. This gift was established in 1984 in memory of Dr. John E. Corbally, a faculty member who joined the UW College of Education in 1927. Selection is based on recommendations from the dean of the College of Education (or his or her designate), the Danforth program director and the Danforth admissions committee. (Corbally Fellowship, multiple awards of up to $3,000 each; Corbally Scholarship, multiple awards of up to $2,000 each.)

T.A. Wilson Scholarship Fund in Education

T.A. Wilson recognized the value of a good education at an early age. After receiving his degree in aeronautical engineering, Wilson had an illustrious career with Boeing, including serving as CEO and chairman of the board. The purpose of the T.A. Wilson Endowment is to provide support to students in the College of Education, in particular those in the principal or educational leadership programs. Selection is based on recommendations from the Danforth program director and the Danforth admissions committee. (One award of $2,200.)

Danforth Educational Leadership Scholarships

A small number of scholarships may be made available during winter and spring quarters to students currently enrolled in the Danforth program, depending on available program funds. These funds are awarded on the basis of unmet financial need, which is assessed through the FAFSA and the UW office of Student Financial Aid. More information on these funds will be provided to enrolled students.

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