Innovations That Inspire

DC Public Schools Executive Master’s in Leadership Program (DCPS EML)

Recognition Year(s): 2017
School: McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
Location: United States

Innovation Statement

In collaboration with D.C. Public Schools, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business adapted its EML curriculum to benefit a diverse, struggling urban K–12 system, transforming school principals into change agents ready to impact their 45,000 students.

Call to Action

Formed as a collaboration between DC Public Schools (DCPS) and the McDonough School of Business, the EML was inspired by the previous DCPS chancellor’s own experience as a 2007 graduate of the Executive Master’s in Leadership program. She approached Georgetown with a vision to adapt the curriculum to one that could inspire transformational leadership among her principals, equipping them to become change agents in a troubled school system. DCPS, Georgetown, and other donors came together to help underwrite the program, providing greater access to the distinctive EML and supporting the concept that everyone should have access to a quality education.

In Washington, D.C., the differences between the public and private school experience is stark. In a city of wealth and status, those in public schools are more likely to face racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic challenges and biases. Georgetown realized that the best way to have a positive impact on its city’s youth population was to lend its specialized expertise to solve the problem at its core. The founders had the goal of influencing the individuals who could make the largest impact on schools—principals and administrators. The program sought to build a cohort community that could foster continued connections and collaborations after graduation.


In collaboration with DCPS, Georgetown McDonough adapted the EML curriculum to one that would benefit the leadership of an urban K–12 school system. Using targeted lessons rooted in Georgetown’s signature leadership curriculum, participants received a customized education to accelerate the impact they could have through their day-to-day work.

The program, which is offered over 12 months both on the Georgetown campus and on site at schools, is unique for school principals. It focuses on leadership development, equipping them to lead culture change and improve student learning and achievement. DCPS EML is based on a premise that personal development is at the core of all leadership development. As a result, one of the courses in the program is Developing a Personal Leadership Action Plan. In addition, each principal participates in four sessions with an executive coach familiar with leadership in a school setting.


Georgetown’s goal is to go beyond changing how DCPS operates. Rather, the academic leadership hopes to change DCPS’s trajectory along with its expectations and motivations. This program works top-down to build an individual’s confidence and determination to continue moving forward and making a difference.

Georgetown McDonough views DCPS as a critical local institution within a diverse community divided along the lines of wealth and race, among others. Building on Georgetown’s values, the school seeks to impact the formative years of Washington, D.C.’s underserved youth, allowing students to chart new paths for themselves. This program is not about building revenue; McDonough customized and subsidized an established program to meet a social need of a diverse and critical community. Over the past three years, this partnership has accomplished great results through its innovative approach to teaching.

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