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Winter 2010

Lead the Leaders

leadership_degree_puzzle.jpgIt's being called "groundbreaking," a degree that will "shake up the status quo." In September, just as classes were kicking off for the fall semester, Harvard announced the launch of a new doctoral program in education leadership that is tuition-free and based in real-life practice.

Called the Doctor of Education Leadership Program, or Ed.L.D., the three-year program will begin in August 2010 with an initial group of 25 students. The goal is to give students a deeper understanding of teaching and learning, as well as a solid grasp of management and leadership skills that will allow them to become top leaders in school districts, government agencies, nonprofits and NGOs, and the private sector.

"Our goal is not to develop leaders for the system as it currently exists," says Dean Kathleen McCartney. "Rather, we aim to develop people who will lead system transformation."

One of the unique aspects of the degree is the curriculum. Although based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, faculty members from the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government will also take part, emphasizing the belief that for superintendents, education policymakers, nonprofit/NGO education leaders, and others to really succeed in making change, they need to master not only teaching and learning, but also management, organization, policy, and politics.

Harvard President Drew Faust says this kind of collaboration at Harvard is exactly what is necessary to create strong leaders in education.

"One of the core missions of Harvard's professional schools is to prepare leaders who can guide organizations in a rapidly changing environment. No sector has a greater need for such transformational leaders than public education," she says. "I am delighted that professors from three outstanding professional schools are combining their knowledge and experience to create this groundbreaking program."

Based in practice, the new degree is also different from the traditional Ed.D. degree, which tends to emphasize research. Students will spend the first two years on campus, with a new customized curriculum that includes modules and both core and elective courses. The third and final year will be spent in a residency, getting hands-on, paid experience with a partnering organization. These include large urban school districts like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and New York, and nonprofit education-focused groups such as Achieve, Jobs for the Future, KIPP, the New Teacher Project, the New Schools Venture Fund, and Teach For America. Instead of a traditional dissertation, students will lead a significant improvement project for the partnering organization. Academic Dean Robert Schwartz, C.A.S.'68, says the time is right in education for this kind of degree, which is funded in part by the Wallace Foundation and gives a full-tuition fellowship and a cost-of-living stipend to accepted students.

"The Obama Administration and large private foundations are about to make unprecedented levels of investment in education reform," he says. "It is critical that states and districts, and the national organizations they count on for support, have access to a pipeline of leadership talent equipped with the knowledge and skills to ensure that these investments produce dramatic improvements in the performance of our schools."

Go to wpdev.gse.harvard.edu/edld to read a list of frequently asked questions about the degree, or for more information.