U needs to reconsider the Ed.D. degree

The Ed.D. degree is meaningless and burdensome. Change it or abolish it.

President Bob Bruininks wants to make the University one of the top public research universities. In the process, he hopes to save $25 million by economizing on energy and consolidating various programs. I suggest that the University consider discontinuing the educational administration program track that leads to a doctorate in education. A report appeared by Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College, Columbia University, containing a blistering attack on programs that train public school administrators, especially those that lead to the Ed.D. degree. The report, “Educating School Leaders,” is the result of a four-year study funded by the Annenberg Foundation and others.

Levine makes the following charges regarding the Ed.D.: “It is a watered-down doctorate … lightweight.” He continues, “An Ed.D. is unnecessary for any job in school administration.” All too often, the Ed.D. is a “meaningless and burdensome obstacle” for those who aspire to leadership positions in education.

Programs that train superintendents and principals typically amount “to little more than a grab bag of survey classes.” These programs “range in quality from inadequate to appalling.” Many who enter these programs “are more interested in earning credits than in pursuing rigorous academic studies.” Research on school leadership is “weak” and “a-theoretical and immature; it neglects to ask important questions.”

What is needed, Levine said, is a new degree to replace the Ed.D. (perhaps to be called the M.E.A., a masters of educational administration). It would be the “educational equivalent of an M.B.A.” A terminal degree, it would include “educational subject matter and business/leadership” training. The Ph.D. should become a “rigorous research degree reserved exclusively for the very small number Ö planning on careers as scholars.”

Abolishing the Ed.D. might not lead to significant savings if the University Ed.D. program is as bad as Levine thinks such programs are, but it will contribute to the University’s reputation as a world-class research institution.

Jeremiah Reedy is a professor emeritus of classics at Macalester College. Please send comments to [email protected].