You are here: American University School of Education Institute for Innnovation in Education Early Literacy Intervention Leaders (ELI Leads) Program

Early Literacy Intervention Leaders
(ELI Leads) Program

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs awarded Dr. Sarah Irvine Belson a five-year grant to support the Early Literacy Intervention Leads Program (ELI Leads). This $1 million grant will provide full funding for eight doctoral candidates in the School of Education's EdD in Education Policy and Leadership. In partnership with DC Public Schools, the project team will support ELI Leads scholars as they work to improve early reading outcomes for DC students. The scholars will gain the practical skills and leadership competencies necessary to prevent and remediate reading difficulties. Beyond coursework, the program includes three residencies, an internship in DC Public Schools, and a problem of practice dissertation focused on a real-world challenge in early literacy and special education.

Teacher reaching with kids and globe

Doctorate in Education Policy and Leadership

Graduates of the fully-funded online EdD program will be equipped with the skills every education leader needs to be effective, including strategic budgeting, collaborative inquiry, talent management, partnership building, learning science, and program evaluation. After completing their coursework, required internship with DC Public Schools, and their Problem of Practice (PoP) dissertation, graduates will have the skills necessary to serve in senior positions in schools and districts. 

  • 40 credits (three years) beyond an approved masters degree

  • All coursework is online; each course has a weekly live session

  • Three, week-long DC residencies (on-campus)

  • Required internship with DC Public Schools


The ELI Leads program is searching for aspiring school and systems leaders. Successful candidates will have the following:

  • Masters degree in special education, elementary education, reading, or related field
  • Teaching experience in elementary special education and/or early reading
  • Leadership experience
  • Knowledge of reading science
  • Commitment to inclusive education
  • Commitment to anti-racism, equity, and social justice
  • Commitment to serving DC students

ELI Leads Program Details

ELI Leads Scholars will follow the course sequence for the online EdD program, with one exception. ELI Leads Scholars will take, as their elective, the Science of Reading for School and Systems Leaders.

This course provides an overview of reading science, including models of reading, typical reading development, instructional approaches, assessment, and identification of reading disabilities. The course prepares school and systems leaders to make evidence-based decisions regarding early screening, technology, curricula, RTI processes, and data collection and analysis.

ELI Leads Scholars Receive:

  • Tuition Assistance: ELI Leads Scholars receive discounted tuition provided by American University and stipends provided by the US Department of Education covering all tuition costs and fees.
  • Opportunity to intern in the DC central office. The 210-hour internship in the final year of the program will be related to early literacy. The internship can be completed during the summer or the school year.
  • Mentored supervision during the internship with American University clinical faculty.
  • Funding to attend educational research conferences and related professional development seminars.

ELI Leads Scholars Must:

  • Complete 40 credits, beyond a masters degree
  • Attend three, week-long residencies in Washington, DC. These residencies will be during normal working hours. Scholars will need to be available for the entirety of these week-long residencies.
  • Live in or be willing to relocate to Washington, DC by the third year of the program to complete the internship.
  • Commit to working in a high need DC school district for six years after the completion of the program (2 years for each year of the EdD program). This is a requirement stipulated by the US Department of Education. If accepted, you will be asked to sign a participant agreement, which indicates your committment to working in a high need school district in DC or be required to pay back scholarship funds.

ELI Leads applicants are required to meet the EdD admissions criteria. Please review the EdD program admissions page for details about the requirements. Please see below for an additional requirement for the statement of purpose for ELI Leads applicants.

Admission requirements include:

  • Official Transcripts

  • Three Letters of Recommendation

  • Resumé

  • Academic Writing Sample

    • (e.g., a published or unpublished paper) that demonstrates clear, logical, conceptual, and analytical thinking, as well as the proper use of citations and references.

  • Statement of Purpose

The ELI Leads program prepares scholars to be systems leaders in early literacy and special education. In addition to the EdD statement of purpose requirements, ELI Leads applicants must:

  • Describe both your previous experience and passion for improving early literacy outcomes.
  • Provide evidence of teaching and leadership roles in reading and/or special education, and offer specific examples of your approach to early reading.
  • Include evidence that demonstrates your commitment to inclusive education and evidence-based interventions.
  • Finally, describe your willingness to commit to six years of early literacy service in high-need LEAs in Washington, DC.  

Please take an additional 1000 words to complete the ELI Leads statement of purpose requirements.

  • Additional Requirements

The Admissions Committee carefully reviews each applicant’s personal and professional experience to assess readiness for graduate study at American University. In order to ensure your success, candidates must provide the following to be considered for the program:

  • A Master’s degree.
  • TOEFL (non-native English speakers)
  • International Students: International applicants are eligible to apply, provided they have successfully completed the equivalent of a US Master’s degree, have the appropriate diplomas and/or satisfactory results on transcripts and meet additional ELP requirements. Please note that ELI Leads scholars and graduates will have a specific focus on literacy in DC schools.

EdD applicants may be invited to attend an interview with EdD program faculty and a group interview with follow applicants as part of the application process.

Apply Now!

Are you ready to apply? Please visit our application portal to start your application. Need more information? Please contact Anselm Beach, EdD Graduate Program Coordinator, for questions about the ELI Leads program. You can also request more information about the online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership from our EdD Admissions team.

Application Deadline: May 10, 2020

Our Supporters and Partners

This project is fully funded by a $1,097,300 grant from the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Award Number: H325D190041 of the Special Education Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities
CFDA/SubProgram No: 84.325D

Thank you to our partner, DC Public Schools, for their collaboration and support of the ELI Leads Scholars. The Scholars will be placed in internships in DCPS headquarters within offices such as the Office of Teaching and Learning.