Seven years ago, Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT), a nonprofit education advocacy organization, collaborated with the Harvard Graduate School of Education to help strengthen public education and Texas school leaders. An integral part of RYHT work involves providing public school leaders with opportunities to expand their knowledge, and develop new tools to lead change in their schools. For many RYHT principals, that means continuing their education at HGSE Programs in Professional Education (PPE).
This summer, 99 RYHT participants came to Appian Way in order to take part in six different PPE institutes: Closing the Achievement Gap, Data Wise: Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning, Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership, Leadership: An Evolving Vision, National Institute for Urban School Leaders, and Leading 21st Century High Schools. Including this year’s group, RYHT will have sent nearly 800 principals to attend professional development institutes at the Ed School in the seven years of the program.
“We believe that empowering principals as stronger campus leaders improves teacher effectiveness and student outcomes,” said David Anthony, RYHT CEO. “Over the past seven years, we have provided more than 700 principals with an opportunity to expand their management skill set and enact meaningful change at schools across Texas.”
“We believe that empowering principals as stronger campus leaders improves teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. Over the past seven years, we have provided more than 700 principals with an opportunity to expand their management skill set and enact meaningful change at schools across Texas.”
RYHT is one of the largest initiatives of its kind in the state. Since its inception, the RYHT Leadership Program has invested almost $4.2 million to send principals to the institutes.
“PPE values our partnership with RYHT,” said Wendy Robison, associate director of PPE’s Principals’ Center and School Leadership Programs, who points to the complimentary missions of PPE and RYHT. “We are thrilled to support and work with the RYHT principals and be a part of the influence RYHT has across the state.”
The program continues to thrive with many Texan educators applying each year to attend the Harvard institutes. This year, RYHT received 560 applications.
Dorene Benavidez, principal of Woodlawn Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, who attended the National Institute for Urban School Leaders, said there’s a sense of privilege in being selected to be part of a PPE program. “Being here really reaffirms who I am and how I should continue to push myself,” Benavidez said.
For many principals, whose days are busy and focused on students or teachers within their schools, the institutes are a must have to examine and reflect on their own practice and develop leadership skills.
Geovanny Ponce, principal of the Jones Futures Academy in Houston, Texas, said principals are the last group of educators to think about professional development. “We spend so much time thinking about staff and training programs. But it is so needed,” said Ponce, who attended the National Institute for Urban School Leaders.
RYHT Program Director Andre’ Morgan said they purposely like to select educators who often don’t know each other so connections can be made across schools within the state. The need for that connection and professional development for Texas’ leaders in education is part of the reason why PPE supports RYHT’s annual symposium, which draws alums from the summer institutes and provides additional learning opportunities with two or more Harvard faculty presenters each year.
Those reunions keep the networking and inspiration going for many educators like Marie Anaya, principal of Riverside Middle School in El Paso, who was attending her second PPE program. Anaya acknowledged how she continues to work and problem solve with many of the principals she met at the first institute. Though the programs are often intense, it also provides opportTunities to find colleagues truly committed to the learning process, she said. “I think there is so much value in the process,” she said.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education welcomes teams of educators for our professional education programs.
Related content: Raise Your Hand Texas-produced video about the impact of their work with HGSE.