New doctorate in education to focus on student ach...

New doctorate in education to focus on student achievement

MTSU seniors David Hiller, left, and Mary Helmbrecht and junior Andréa Boyer study in the lobby of MTSU’s College of Education Building. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

A new doctoral degree program will move MTSU forward into its second century of teaching Tennessee’s educators: the Doctor of Education in Assessment, Learning and School Improvement.

The new program, which will begin in fall 2013 and is the first of its kind in Tennessee, aims to help preK-12 educators improve their students’ academic achievement.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission approved the measure on July 26. The Tennessee Board of Regents gave its OK earlier this summer.

The new doctorate will train educators to analyze student-learning data and pinpoint areas of success as well as areas in need of attention, according to MTSU’s program proposal.

“MTSU is thankful to THEC and TBR for their approval of this innovative doctoral program,” said University Provost Brad Bartel. “It represents a new and needed approach to improving K-12 education throughout Tennessee. Our dedicated faculty worked long and hard developing this new program to be at the leading edge of educational reform.”

MTSU currently offers doctoral degrees in economics, English, human performance, literacy studies, molecular biosciences, computational science, public history, and mathematics and science education.

Dr. Lana Seivers

MTSU’s College of Education already coordinates the literacy studies doctoral program. The mathematics and science-education program in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences focuses on K-12 math and science teacher training.

The new Doctor of Education in Assessment, Learning and School Improvement degree will be headquartered in MTSU’s College of Education, which moved into a new $30 million, state-of-the-art building last year.

“Approval of this unique doctoral program is a major accomplishment for MTSU and the College of Education,” said education Dean Lana Seivers. “More importantly, its relevance to today’s k-12 schools will provide the opportunity for educators to develop the skills that can have an impact on student achievement.” 

MTSU is one of the top producers of teachers in Tennessee. In fall 2011, there were 133 graduate students seeking education degrees at MTSU, including 20 in the literacy-studies doctoral program.

Three hundred ninety-seven students earned advanced degrees in education from MTSU in 2010-11.

Mike Krause, director of Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said MTSU’s new doctoral program complements the university’s overall mission and the state’s Complete College Tennessee Act, which aims to increase the number of state residents with college degrees.


“The Complete College Tennessee Act keenly focuses on ensuring that new academic programs are consonant with each institution’s distinct mission,” Krause said. “The Ed.D in Assessment, Learning and School Improvement is just such a program, and is fully aligned with MTSU’s mission. It is a welcome addition to the state inventory.”

Others agree.

“The program offers the best example of an attempt to bridge the gap between universities and public-school practitioners that I have ever seen,” said Dr. Roland Barth, founding director of Harvard University’s Principals’ Center and one of three nationally recognized education experts who reviewed the new ALSI degree proposal.

Instructor Elaine Warwick leads a student-teaching class in the lobby lounge of the College of Education building. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“Its focus on learning for both adults and students, its use of balanced assessment processes to monitor learning and inform professional practice and its recognition of the need to develop the collective capacity of a staff to improve their schools is exactly what educators need in an era of accountability that places greater demands upon schools.”

Like MTSU’s other doctoral programs, the new degree will require 60 credit hours of study focusing on core aspects of student learning, student-learning assessment, research-based school improvement and research methods, as well as a dissertation.

MTSU expects to enroll 20 students in the ALSI program in the first year and double it the following year, rising to a projected 60 doctoral students by academic year 2017-18. They’ll probably be part-time students and will complete their degrees in the three-year cohort model, officials said.

Tennessee’s 136 school systems currently serve 1,736 preK-12 schools with more than 900,000 students. Only 13 percent, or 917, of the 68,840 K-12 teachers and administrators across the state hold a doctorate in education, while 56 percent (38,704) of those educators have earned master’s or education-specialist degrees.

As the only degree of its kind in Tennessee, the ALSI doctoral program can serve the remaining 87 percent of the state’s educators, as well as those in southern Kentucky and northern Alabama.

“MTSU has a proud history of developing signature programs designed to meet the emerging needs of Tennessee and the nation,” said President Sidney A. McPhee. “The Ed.D (Doctor of Education) program is one piece of a larger commitment by our university to support Tennessee’s teachers and schools.”

Those wanting to learn more about the program can email inquiries to

— Gina E. Fann (