Harvard Selects School System for Leadership Project

October 21, 2003
The Montgomery County Public Schools was selected by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Business School to participate with eight other public school systems across the United States in identifying innovative organizational research and best practices on critical leadership and management issues being faced in urban education.

The participating school systems were selected on a competitive basis, following a national search, to join the Harvard Public Education Leadership Project and work with the university's education and business faculty over the next three years.

“The key advantage of this new partnership is the opportunity to learn more about how to address the increasingly difficult challenges of poverty, immigration, and mobility being faced by Montgomery County and to demonstrate what we have learned ourselves from the academic reforms already under way in our schools,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools.

The other participating systems include the major urban centers of Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, and San Francisco, along with Charleston, South Carolina; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Montgomery County was selected following extensive onsite interviews with the Board of Education, superintendent and executive staff, union leaders, county government and community representatives, and business partners. A written proposal was submitted outlining the ways in which Montgomery County is addressing the challenge of providing a quality academic program in increasingly urbanized schools. Over the past four years, the school system has ushered in a series of key reforms in such areas as curriculum, staff development, shared accountability, technology and data assessment, early childhood education and full-day kindergarten, class-size reductions, and improved collaboration with parents.

The participating school systems were described as having “achieved a uniform high level of excellence that allows students to be educated to their optimum potential” by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, the Warren Professor of the History of American Education and dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The 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.

“Each of the districts had an improvement strategy and long-term vision to enhance student achievement,” said Stacey Childress, the senior researcher managing the project for Harvard's education and business schools. “We'll be working with the individual districts to design, manage and lead complex systems geared toward high performance.”

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