Harvard Education Press Publishes New Book on MCPS Reform Effort

July 14, 2009
Harvard Education Press released a new book today that chronicles the 10-year reform effort in Montgomery County Public Schools. The book, Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools, provides a comprehensive look at the efforts in Montgomery County to raise student achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap. The authors, Stacey M. Childress, Denis P. Doyle and David A. Thomas, describe a systemic reform effort led by Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast that is predicated upon building teacher capacity to deliver high-quality instruction in every classroom. The authors make the case that focused efforts tied to a clear strategy can yield significant results and have, in fact, produced a workable model of whole-district reform in America.

The book has been praised by nationally respected education leaders and includes a foreword from noted author and commentator, David Gergen, who believes the work in Montgomery County provides hope that meaningful education reform can take root across the country. “Leading for Equity not only provides an enlightening account of progress in one school district; it also makes the lessons from Montgomery County relevant for others, proposing practical applications for education reformers of all stripes,” Gergen writes.

Authors Childress, Doyle and Thomas summarize the lessons from the MCPS reform effort in six key lessons. The lessons all undergird the essential premise that school districts must make sure they provide excellent teachers for every classroom and give them the support and resources necessary to do the job. Each lesson in the book includes an extensive discussion designed to help other school districts learn from the work in Montgomery County and translate it to their own reform efforts. The six lessons are:

Implementing a strategy of common, rigorous standards with differentiated resources and instruction can create excellence and equity for all students.

Adopting a “value chain” approach to the K–12 continuum increases quality and provides a logical frame for strategic choices.

Blurring the lines between governance, management, staff and community increases capacity and accountability.

Creating systems and structures that change behaviors is a way to shift beliefs if they lead to student learning gains.

Breaking the link between race, ethnicity and student outcomes is difficult without confronting the effect that beliefs about race and ethnicity have on student learning.

Leading for equity matters.

In addition to Leading for Equity, Harvard University faculty and researchers have produced several case studies over the last four years about the MCPS reform journey. The cases provide additional insights and lessons for other school districts. The case studies and other materials are available on the MCPS web at the link below. The book is available for purchase through Harvard Education Press. Forty-five percent of the royalties generated from the sales of the book will be donated to fund scholarships through the MCPS Educational Foundation.

Stacey M. Childress is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and a cofounder of the Public Education Leadership Project at Harvard University. Denis P. Doyle is a nationally known education writer and cofounder of SchoolNet. David A. Thomas is the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

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