Alonso Named Professor of PracticeBy newseditor
Dean Kathleen McCartney announced today that Andrés Alonso, Ed.M.’99, Ed.D.’06, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, has been named professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He will be joining the faculty beginning July 1, 2013.
“In the past six years, Andrés has transformed the Baltimore City Public Schools,” said McCartney. “He has closed low-performing schools, reduced the dropout rate by 56 percent, ended a 26-year court oversight in special education, and even reached an agreement between teachers and administrators tying compensation to evaluation. His commitment to evaluating what does — and doesn’t — work has allowed him to be one of the most effective superintendents in the nation. I am thrilled that Andrés will be returning to HGSE to share his knowledge and experience with future educators, leaders, and policy makers.”
Alonso, who immigrated to America from Cuba in the early 1960s, began his career practicing law in New York City but within a few years decided to become an educator. From 1987 to 1998, he taught emotionally disturbed special education adolescents and English language learners in Newark, N.J.
“After teaching in Newark, N.J., for 12 years, I felt deeply that nothing mattered like the education of the children I had taught, and that the work of educating those children had to change radically, in ways I was struggling to define,” said Alonso. “I went back to Harvard to become an urban superintendent. There, I found teachers and mentors who guided, challenged, and encouraged me to take risks while ensuring that I understood the work of those who had struggled before me. I feel incredibly privileged to now come full circle. Leadership matters. I hope that I can do for others what the graduate school did for me.”
At HGSE, Alonso will play an important role in Ed.L.D. Program, which prepares students to assume system-level leadership positions in education, including superintendencies. Among other things, he will teach a course about systemic reform in urban schools.
After earning his Ed.M. and Ed.D. in the Urban Superintendents Program at HGSE, Alonso worked as the deputy chancellor for teaching and learning and also chief of staff for teaching and learning at the New York City Department of Education during the launch of its Children First Reform.
In 2007, he took on the role of CEO for Baltimore City Public Schools and quickly addressed organizational problems in which principals had little autonomy and parents were kept at a distance from the schools. He shifted financial and human resources from the central office to the schools, while granting principals greater control of their budgets, curriculum, and staffing. While giving principals increased autonomy, he also insisted on them having more accountability to parents and the community. As part of district reform efforts, Alonso engaged all parties, including the teachers union and nonprofit groups.
During Alonso’s tenure, students in the Baltimore City Public Schools reached their highest outcomes in state exams, across all categories of students. His leadership also led to the district achieving its best-ever dropout and graduation rates, driven largely by attention to all students, a focus on adult performance, the promotion of choice and school autonomy, and intensive efforts to engage parents and the community.
“Dr. Alonso sparked the sense of urgency and the collaborative spirit that now has an entire city rallying around its kids, in a way we haven’t seen before here in Baltimore. We have changed how we approach public education and watched unprecedented student achievement gains flow from those changes,” said Neil E. Duke, chair of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. “Under Dr. Alonso we have laid a foundation for sustained improvement, and today we are a much better school district thanks to his forceful leadership and extraordinary commitment to kids. His contribution to Harvard and to the graduate students who study under him will be one-of-a-kind.”
Alonso’s work has received recognition both in Maryland and nationally. He has been named School Superintendent of the Year by The Fullwood Foundation, an Influential Marylander by The (Maryland) Daily Record, and Best New Public Servant by The City Paper. U.S. Hispanic Youth Entrepreneur Education gave him its Hispanic Hero Award and, in 2011, Alonso was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as The Nation’s Report Card.