Promise in diversity

by David Safier

I'm not always encouraged by the ed reform ideas I'm hearing, and that includes what's coming from Duncan's Dept of Ed. But here's where I see promise. The idea seems to be to encourage lots of approaches to improving education. If that's true, we have a decent chance of finding a number of alternatives that can be effective in a variety of situations.

Here's one of those ideas, and a promising one.

Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It’s the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S.

The program will emphasize hands on experience as well as theory.

Students will spend the third year of the doctoral leadership program in a “field placement” at some organization or agency — say, a large urban school district or educational advocacy group — to gain practical experience. School officials likened this aspect of the program to a medical residency. Instead of doing a dissertation, the students will lead an education reform project in that third year.

The idea is to turn out people who know education, have managerial skills and have some experience in the real world. Too often, administrators know one or the other, not both. And making the program tuition free increases the chances that students will have differing social and economic backgrounds.

Will the program produce successful educational leaders? Who knows? But if it's done well, we'll learn if this model is a good one.

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