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Ed.D. Education Systems Improvement Science

Our graduate programs at Clemson University build on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

The Doctorate in Education Systems Improvement Science, Ed.D. is designed to provide certified PK-12 practitioners, regardless of current job titles, positions, or content areas, with the opportunity to pursue an applied professional doctoral degree. Improvement science is an emerging field in education that has previously been used in business and in the medical fields. It is a specific method of inquiry that teaches practitioners to collect real time data on programs and interventions to enhance replicability and improve results for students. The Ed.D. focuses on the practice and improvement of education, through systemic whole school reform, with an emphasis on addressing educational priorities as well as seeking specific strategic improvements in educational settings and student learning outcomes. Admission requires the completion of an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree.

The program is designed to focus on problems of practice in schools through improvement science and systemic whole school reform, with the goal of obtaining a deep understanding of the problem, the system that produces the problem, and a shared theory of practice to drive improvement. The focus of leadership in school systems has changed to include an examination by faculty and others of the empirical evidence of best practices that support student achievement. Graduates will need an awareness of the systemic context of challenges facing schools in South Carolina such as poverty and rurality. Effective schools are characterized by a shared purpose, decisions are made collaboratively, responsibilities are distributed among teacher leaders, and capacity exists to create and sustain change. Increasingly, educational leaders must be the stewards of a vision of success for all students as they work to achieve consensus on the purpose of education and to implement the necessary structures to change the process of teaching and learning to assist all children to succeed. 

The contextual framework for the research of the Ed.D. centers around three themes: inquiry as practice, laboratories of practice, and problems of practice that leads to dissertations that looks to solve complex issues facing South Carolina to identify opportunity, innovation, and improvement. The program, by using field embedded research, that moves theory into practice, is a key approach to addressing state needs based on state findings. Graduate students should plan their dissertations around problems that they face in S.C. schools, and propose and test solutions to those everyday problems.  

Admission to the Program
Applications for the Ed.D. in Education Systems Improvement Science are accepted for the Summer term only.  Admission decisions are made following the deadline below. 

Application Deadline
All application materials must be submitted by the following deadline:

  • April 15, to enroll in Summer

Application Requirements
To be considered for the program, applicants must:

  • Have completed a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a recognized international university with a baccalaureate degree equivalent to a US bachelor's.
  • Have an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree. With a grade of “B” or higher in each graduate course applicable to the program. 
  • Complete any missing prerequisite requirements following a review of Ed.S. transcript, if from a non-partner institution.
  • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
    • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
    • Competitive, official GRE (Graduate Record Exam)- taken within the last 5 years
    • A current resume
    • Three letters of recommendation.  Two can be professional recommendations but at least one should be from someone to speak on your academic achievement.  This can be from a partner institution (Winthrop, The Citadel, or Coastal Carolina) or other accredited institution. 
    • A statement of research interest/ problem of practice developed during the Ed.S. internship.
    • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students

    Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

For more detailed program information, please refer to the program handbook.

Education Systems Improvement Science Ed.D. (42 credit hour minimum)

Core Courses (6 credit hours):
EDIS 9100 Models for Whole School Reform
EDIS 9200 Systemic Educational Reform

Cognate Courses (minimum 6 credit hours):
As a part of the program of study, each student must complete six graduate credit hours approved by the student’s doctoral advisory committee. The cognate is focused on issues contextually important to practitioners in South Carolina. The cognate should support the student’s professional goals and research program. As the EDIS program grows, additional courses may be developed.
EDIS 9300 Rural Education
EDF 8710 Cultural Diversity in Education
ED 8540 Perspectives on Poverty

Research Courses (12 credit hours):
EDF 9270 Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts
EDF 9790 Qualitative Research in Education
EDIS/EDL 9360 Advanced Program Evaluation
EDL/EDIS 9880 Directed Research

Dissertation Course: (minimum 18 credit hours):
EDIS 9910 Doctoral Dissertation Research

Tuition and Fees

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Financial Aid

For information regarding Financial Aid, please contact the office of Student Financial Aid.

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For more information regarding the program or questions associated with applying to this program, please contact:

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Clemson University Ph.D. in Education Systems Improvement Science



Program Handbook