Qualifying Exam

First-year Milestone: Qualifying Examination

The First Year Milestone, the Qualifying Examination, is the only milestone for which there is an established date for completion.  The Qualifying Examination is submitted to the Program Director during the second semester of Year 1. The Qualifying Exam is scored by two faculty who have not yet had students in doctoral coursework.  Scoring is based on a rubric, and each paper is scored “double-blind”: the identity of the author is not known to the reviewers, and the identity of the reviewers are not known to the student.  

The Qualifying Exam must meet six criteria:

  1. Identification and description of a specific educational problem in California,
  2. Synthesis and critique of appropriate scholarship relevant to that problem,
  3. Framing of a potential research question and methodology for examining that problem,
  4. Describing the equity implications of this proposed research,
  5. Describing the leadership implications of this proposed research, and
  6. Use of clear, concise, graduate level academic prose. 

Each criterion within the Qualifying Exam is scored “exemplary” (a score of 2), “pass” (a score of 1), or “not passed” (a score of zero).  All six criteria must be passed with a minimum score of 1. The rubric for the Qualifying Exam is posted in the Appendix to this Handbook, and is distributed to and discussed with students during the first year. 

The Qualifying Examination serves four purposes:

  • To evaluate whether students are academically prepared to continue in the program;
  • To provide first-year students and the program with an assessment of student strengths and weaknesses in reading, writing and research skills within the social sciences;
  • To promote the integration of scholarship with a specific problem in the practice of educational leadership in California;
  • To build a foundation for research leading to the dissertation study.

Students who pass the examination can enroll in the second year. If a student fails, he/she may resubmit the qualifying paper by the date set by the Director for a second review by the faculty panel. If the student fails the second review, he/she will be disqualified from the program.