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Faculty & Research

Susan Moore Johnson

Jerome T. Murphy Research Professor in Education

Susan Moore Johnson

Degree:  Ed.D., Harvard University, (1981)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.4677
Vitae/CV:   Susan Moore Johnson.pdf
Office:  Gutman 406B
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Member


Susan Moore Johnson, a former high school teacher and administrator, studies, teaches, and consults about teacher policy, organizational change, and leadership practice. She served as academic dean of the Ed School 1993-1999. From 2007 to 2015, Johnson was co-chair of the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), a collaboration between Harvard’s Education and Business Schools. Since 1998, she has directed the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, where she and her colleagues have examined how best to recruit, develop, and retain a strong teaching force.

Johnson is author of many scholarly and professional articles and five books about teachers and their work. Teacher Unions in Schools (1984), focuses on the role of teacher unions in the day-to-day work of schools. Teachers at Work (1990) examines the school as a workplace for teachers. Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools (2006), written with colleagues at The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, centers on the experiences of new teachers. Subsequent research at the Project investigated teachers’ careers, alternative preparation, the role of unions, hiring, teacher induction, performance-based pay, teacher teams, and teacher evaluation. Johnson also is co-author with John P. Papay of Redesigning Teacher Pay (2009). Johnson’s latest book, Where Teachers Thrive: Organizing Schools for Success (2019), examines how schools that succeed in low-income communities support and enhance their teachers’ work.

Johnson has also written and consulted widely about educational leadership and management. Her 1996 book, Leading to Change: Challenges of the New Superintendency, analyzes the leadership practices of 12 newly appointed superintendents during their first six months in the role. She and her colleagues at the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) wrote Achieving Coherence in District Improvement (2015), which examines the management relationship between the central office and schools in five large urban school districts.

Areas of Expertise

Outstanding Writing Award, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education,(2004)

Spencer Senior Scholar Award,(2000)

Spencer Mentor Network Award,(1999)

National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship,(1987)

Sponsored Projects


Retention and Support of Teachers in High-Poverty Schools (2011-2012)
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Low-income schools often have great difficulty retaining effective teachers, who tend to transfer to whiter, wealthier schools when positions become available. This steady exodus means that low-income students are routinely taught by inexperienced teachers, that students experience the disruption and loss caused by teacher turnover, and that schools do not increase their instructional capacity over time. In this project, which we began in 2010 with funding from the Ford Foundation, we seek to understand and explain how high-poverty schools can support and retain good teachers. Between fall and winter of 2010 and 2011, we identified and gained approval to study six high-poverty schools in Boston. These schools are located in different parts of the city and, as a group, include elementary, middle, K-8, and high schools. Each school is demographically diverse and serves large proportions of low-income students. We have interviewed 90 teachers and administrators in these schools and gathered documents and data about them. All interviews have been transcribed and we are just beginning to analyze the interviews. We plan a set of at least three papers based on these data as well as a comprehensive literature review on the topic of staffing high-poverty schools. To complete this work, we are requesting $40,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools (with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers),(2004)

Leading to Change: The Challenge of the New Superintendency ,(1996)

Teachers at Work: Achieving Success in Our Schools ,(1990)

Teacher Unions in Schools ,(1984)


Board of Directors, National Academy of Education,(2003-present)

Editorial Board, Harvard Education Publishing,(2003-present)

Research Advisory Board, Teach for America,(2003-present)

Editorial Board, Harvard Education Letter,(1993-present)

Advisory Board, TURN/Broad Teacher Union Project

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