Professional Education

Charter Schools: Practices for High Performance

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What You Will Learn

Develop the strategies and perspectives necessary to create high-performing learning organizations. Work with Harvard faculty and leading charter colleagues from across the country to examine charter school challenges, confront long-held beliefs and solve difficult problems of practice.

Program Overview

Charter schools represent an entrepreneurial reform strategy designed to improve educational outcomes for students. Current challenges include financial and human resource management, ensuring that students learn 21st century skills in an environment defined by high stakes accountability systems, building and supporting a culture that drives high student achievement, approaches for scaling up successful models and frameworks for understanding the changing landscape for charter school policy.

Charter Schools: Practices for High Performance is designed specifically to help you develop the essential skills and strategies to build capacity and improve student outcomes. The institute draws on the expertise and research of Harvard faculty and leading practitioners in addressing the challenges faced by charter schools. Through interactive sessions and group discussions with other participants, you will problem solve your challenges and formulate action plans for addressing them—forming lasting networks with colleagues in the charter sector.

The curriculum examines several overarching questions:

  • What factors are important to the successful expansion of charter schools?
  • How can charter schools strategically manage their external environment to achieve successful outcomes?
  • What systems help charter schools build internal capacity to ensure effective student achievement?
  • What nonprofit management knowledge and skills are essential for leaders of entrepreneurial charter schools?

Program Objectives

  • Examine elements of high-performing charter schools
  • Explore issues of scale-up that support positive outcomes for students
  • Address topics of internal accountability that enhance student learning
  • Allocate human and financial resources to build organizational capacity
  • Devise a theory of action for working effectively with charter boards, external agencies and constituencies

Who Should Attend

  • Educators and administrators involved in the design and implementation of charter schools at both the school and system levels
  • Administrators responsible for the design of state or national policy affecting charter schools

Fall 2012 Session Topics and Faculty

Data-Driven Instruction
Elizabeth City, Lecturer on Education; Executive Director, Doctor of Education Leadership Program, HGSE 

Systems and Structures for Academic Success
Caleb Dolan, Executive Director, KIPP Massachusetts

Working with Teams
Monica Higgins, Professor of Education, HGSE

Strategic Decision-Making and the Management of Resources
James Honan, Senior Lecturer on Education, HGSE

Curriculum Planning
Dana Lehman, Managing Director, Uncommon Schools, Boston 

Human Resources - Hiring Staff
Scott McCue, Chief Operating Officer, Match Teacher Residency, Match Education

Achieving Quality Instruction: Instructional Rounds
Katherine Merseth, Senior Lecturer on Education; Director of the Teacher Education Program, HGSE

Working with English Language Learners in the Charter Context
Aretha Miller, Founder/CEO, The Venn Group, Inc.

The Next Challenges for Charter Schools
Nina Rees, President and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Navigating the Tricky Relationship between the Board Chair and the School Head
Nelson Smith, Former President, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Faculty Chair

Katherine Merseth is Senior Lecturer on Education and Director of the Teacher Education Program at HGSE. Merseth has more than 40 years of experience in instruction, administration and research in public education in the United States and internationally. Her work concentrates on charter schools, teacher education, mathematics education and the case-method of instruction. Most recently, she was the principal investigator for a study researching high-performing charter schools, the results of which have been turned into the recently published book Inside Urban Charter Schools: Promising Practices and Strategies in Five High-Performing Charter Schools.

Enrollment Instructions

Charter Schools is a registration-based program. Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Payment is due within 30 days of acceptance into the program. If acceptance into the program falls less than 30 days prior to program start date, payment is due upon acceptance.


The comprehensive program fee includes tuition, all instructional materials and refreshments. Participants receive a certificate of participation and a letter confirming clock hours of instruction.

Payment or a purchase order is due 30 days after registration. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses.


Hotel accommodations are made available to participants at a reduced rate. The Harvard Graduate School of Education is not responsible for non-refundable travel arrangements or other planning expenses incurred. We recommend that you not make lodging and travel arrangements until you are admitted to the program.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be submitted via fax or email. Full refunds will be given up to 30 days prior to the start of the program. Due to program demand and pre-program preparations, cancellations received 29–14 days prior to the start of the program are subject to a fee of 10% of the program tuition. Cancellations received within 13 days prior to the start of the program and no-shows are subject to the full program tuition. Please note: cancellation fees are based upon the date the written request is received.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education reserves the right to change faculty or cancel programs at its discretion. In the unlikely event of program changes, the school is not responsible for non-refundable travel arrangements or other planning expenses incurred.

Non-Discrimination Policy

The Harvard Graduate School of Education affirms the right of all individuals to equal treatment in education without regard to age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, handicap, national origin, or any other factors that are extraneous to effective performance. The Harvard Graduate School of Education will accommodate anyone with disabilities.