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Starting next academic year, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education will offer a new tuition-free doctoral degree program that aims to better equip 25 graduates each year with skills needed to transform the U.S. education system, school officials announced today.
The three-year Doctor of Education Leadership Program will be led by faculty at the School of Education, the Harvard Kennedy School, as well as Harvard Business School, and is being billed as the first of its kind in the nation.
Doctoral students at the School of Education currently graduate with an Ed.D.—essentially a research degree not specifically designed to prepare them for shaping education policy, said School of Education Dean Kathleen McCartney.
“We really needed to think about a practice doctorate like a J.D. in law or an M.D. in medicine,” McCartney said. “We have to think about how to have a greater impact on education policy and practice, since we already have a huge impact on education research.”
The program is designed for students who already have a few years of work experience and possibly an “entry-level” leadership position in the workplace. It offers a year-long residency program at a Harvard-approved education organization—including Teach for America, well-developed urban school districts across the country, or the Massachusetts Department of Education—during their third year.
Instead of writing dissertations, which McCartney said do little to train future education policymakers and leaders, students enrolled in the new program will receive hands-on training and lead a “capstone project” at the partner organization where they do their residencies.
“This program is a big experiment on our part,” McCartney said. “If it’s successful, we hope it will become a model for other education schools.”
The School of Education plans to raise $77 million to support the program—roughly $1 million per student—and the school has currently raised $34 million through a combination of re-purposed funds and donations, most notably, a $10 million grant from The Wallace Foundation, which “seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices that will strengthen education leadership, arts participation and out-of-school learning,” according to its Web site.
Planning for the new degree program first started in December 2005, and McCartney, then the school’s acting dean, asked The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm with an office in Boston, to conduct a market research study to determine what skills employers would be looking for in an Ed.L.D. graduate.
With guidance from the study’s findings, faculty from the three participating schools designed a “modular-based”—rather than a traditional course-based—curriculum, with emphasis on three areas, including learning and teaching, leadership and management, and understanding and transforming the education sector.
The experimental program sparked considerable discussion among faculty when first introduced, McCartney said, and school administrators will be closely monitoring faculty and student feedback for the program.
Arthur E. Levine, the president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and former president of Teachers College at Columbia, expressed his support for the new leadership program. Levine published a study surveying education schools across the country a few years ago, concluding that the majority of programs offered do not adequately prepare aspiring teachers for the classroom.
“Admission standards were low, curricula weren’t tied to any skills people needed in their jobs, and field experience was weak,” Levine said. “I looked around the country for an exemplary program and couldn’t find one.”
But the “innovative” elements of the School of Education’s new leadership program show promise, Levine said.
Levine, who taught at the School of Education roughly two decades ago, pointed to the “richness” of the third-year residency program as well as the school’s collaboration with faculty at the Kennedy School and the Business School in particular as strengths.
The real challenge, Levine said, is whether the School of Education is able to implement the program as planned.
“What stands out now is the creativity, the boldness, the coherence of the plan,” Levine said. “But every one of those parts need to be implemented.”
—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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