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Harvard's Education and Business Schools Engage Nine Urban School Districts in Partnership to Boost Student Success

The Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Business School (HBS), and nine urban school districts today announced the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), a joint venture, collaboratively designed to dramatically improve the educational outcomes of these school systems. The districts, representing more than a million students, include many of the urban hubs across the nation including Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco.

"Although there are many excellent individual schools in the United States, there are very few K-12 urban school systems that have achieved a uniform high level of excellence that allows students to be educated to their optimum potential," says Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Warren Professor of the History of American Education and dean of HGSE. "The ability to scale up success remains one of the most intractable problems in education and a barrier to real educational progress."

Research, and the experience of other institutions, has shown that addressing this problem is not just a matter of applying lessons from the management of other sectors. It is necessary to understand the many forces that drive the educational enterprise--political, pedagogical, governmental, technological, logistical, and legal--then to adapt and integrate knowledge from the private, nonprofit, and education sectors to devise new insights and approaches within that demanding context.

"Leading and managing in the multifaceted and dynamic environment of an urban school system is an incredible challenge that is complicated further by the heavy day-to-day demands of the job," says Kim Clark, dean of HBS. "We believe that bringing the expertise of Harvard's Education and Business schools together with the practical experience of the participating school districts will lead to new ideas and approaches that can have a significant impact on education."

The PELP faculty team invited, through a competitive process, urban school districts to partner in the design and delivery of an innovative executive education program tailored specifically to meet the actual challenges that educational leaders are facing. The districts are: Anne Arundel County (MD), Boston (MA), Charleston (SC), Chicago (IL), Harrisburg (PA), Minneapolis (MN), Montgomery County (MD), San Diego (CA), and San Francisco (CA).

"Each of the districts had an improvement strategy and long-term vision to enhance student achievement," says Stacey Childress, the senior researcher managing the project for HBS and HGSE. "We'll be working with the individual districts to design, manage and lead complex systems geared toward high performance."

Core faculty members include Richard ElmoreJames HonanRobert Peterkin, and Robert Schwartz from HGSE, and , Nancy BeaulieuAllen GrossmanStig Leschly, and David Thomas from HBS.

The three-year project will have two principal components: a weeklong executive education program offered each summer beginning in 2004 for a five- to seven-person leadership team from each district, during which the team would learn from the experiences of other districts while developing strategic improvement goals for the coming year; and periodic on-site facilitation during the year from participating faculty and staff.

At the same time, participating faculty will conduct research aimed at measuring the effectiveness of the program, identifying the key underlying forces that are shaping educational leadership in urban school systems, and developing a set of powerful ideas to enable district leadership teams to create high performing systems.

Principal funding for the Public Education Leadership Project comes from the Harvard Business School Class of 1963 and will subsidize the development and delivery of the program over the first three years (FY '04-'06).

For More Information

Please contact David Lampe at 617-495-6336, Christine Sanni at 617-496-5873, or Greer Bautz at 617-496-1884.


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