Nancy Gutierrez spoke of the anger she felt when she returned to her public school as an adult and the teachers asked her how many of her friends and relatives were in jail or on drugs. Diane Robinson talked about how different she realized her experience was, as a private-school student growing up in Jamaica, from those of her peers who didn't have the same advantages. And, David Rease (pictured) choked up when he talked about his reason for becoming an educator.
"[My classmates] made references to things I hadn't heard of before," Rease said of his first year at Columbia University. This was unexpected, considering he had been a straight-A student at his inner-city East Cleveland public school. But he had not been prepared for college study the way many of his peers had been. "I never doubted my intelligence, but I was angry and hurt. I felt disappointed and lied to. [So,] I learned to smile more, nod more, do the things [the other students] did naturally." He paused, collecting himself. "I got into education because I didn't want anyone else to have that experience."
Gutierrez, Robinson, and Rease were taking part in a panel discussion September 30 in Askwith Hall, part of a day of events celebrating the institution of an innovative new Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program at HGSE. They and 22 classmates, all mid-career professionals with impressive achievements to their names, make up the first cohort. The goal of the program -- which, thanks to support from the Wallace Foundation and other institutions and individuals, is tuition-free -- is to develop high-level leaders who can transform education in America by bringing the best practices being used on a small scale to school systems across the country.
"We are positioned to launch not just a program," said Dean Kathleen McCartney, "but a movement."
The program - which is led by Executive Director Elizabeth City and Faculty Codirectors Harry Spence and Richard Elmore - is unique in three ways. First, it is multidisciplinary, with faculty from HGSE, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Business School. "Every faculty member hopes the students will feel like we give them something important," said Professor Robert Kegan, who helped design the core curriculum for the first year, "but what they don't know is they've already given us something important: the opportunity to work together as a faculty that's unprecedented in all of our careers."
The program is also practice-based and completely tailored to the individual, with a curriculum developed from scratch that combines classroom and field experience in modules that vary in length and placement in the calendar. "We had to ask ourselves, What do we think these people need to learn and what's the best way for them to learn it?" said Kegan. Among the units in the first year core curriculum are those on family and community engagement, political engagement, public narrative and mobilization, resource allocation, sectoral change, and remaking educational policy.
In year two, students will continue with some of that core curriculum as an ongoing seminar, but they'll also take elective courses offered across the university. The third year consists of a year-long residency in a partner organization where they will not only be learning about the organization, but also taking on a significant project within.
The participation of those partners is the program's third unique feature: It is collaborative, not just within the university, but also outside it, with links to more than three dozen organizations that are already working around the country to change the face of K-12 education. The partners, which will provide job placements as well as residencies, include the Massachusetts and New York State education departments, school districts from across the country, human capital providers, national policy leaders, and charter-management, student-support, and entrepreneurial organizations.
"People can be extraordinary," said Andres Alonso, Ed.M.'99, Ed.D.'06, CEO of Baltimore Public Schools, at another panel discussion that brought together representatives from the partner organizations, "but if there are no extraordinary people around them, then the work isn't going to get done."
The Ed.L.D. Program's first cohort consists, indeed, of extraordinary individuals, not only school leaders but also people who work in consulting or at think tanks. Rease, for example, was a senior consultant with Mid-continent Resarch for Education and Learning, working with schools nationwide to develop strategies for improvement. Robinson has held several senior positions at Teach For America, has been the KIPP Foundation's national director of recruitment and selection, and is president of Urban Teacher Residency United in Chicago. Gutierrez was principal of the Clyde L. Fischer Middle School in San Jose, Calif., was one of the founders of Renaissance Academy of Arts, Science, and Social Justice, and is on the national board of the Coalition of Essential Schools.
Though, as Kegan pointed out, it took many people many years to make the Ed.L.D. a reality, when Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, speaking at the dinner at the Charles Hotel that closed the celebration, praised McCartney in particular, her words received a standing ovation. "What I'd like to do is tell you why I love the Ed.L.D., beginning by saying [that] I love it when dreams come true," she said. "This dream came true because, above all, one person dreamed it so hard and worked so assiduously to make it so."
The Ed.L.D., Faust continued, is about building human capital. "We're going to invest in [the Ed.L.D. students] because they're going to invest in others ... and then ask those students to come forward and do it for others." The program would be accountable, she said -- "We're going to ask ourselves constantly how do we need to change, how do we need to adapt?" -- and will broaden Harvard's mandate and influence. "It says this is what we can be as a university," she said. "This is how we can work together."
The event also included the awarding of the inaugural Medal for Educational Impact to Marshall "Mike" Smith, Ed.M.'63, Ed.D.'70, who recently retired as director of international affairs at the Department of Education and senior counselor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
"Friendships and professional relationships are just about everything in this job," Smith said in accepting the award from McCartney. "The message is you cannot do it alone. You are starting with an opportunity to create those new friendships, not just to rise up but to do one hell of a job. If there wasn't this set of problems out there, we wouldn't be here tonight. We're trying to face those problems but we know it's the next generation that's going to do it for us."
The celebration concluded with a toast by Amy Loyd, Ryan Wise, and Katiusca Moreno -- three members of the fir
st cohort -- to the success of the program and to everyone in the room who had made it possible.