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Volume 23, Number 6
November/December 2007

Creating Coherence in District Administration

A framework based on the work of the Public Education Leadership Project


Pockets of excellence exist in all school districts. One can find spectacular classes in otherwise dreary schools and stunning schools in mediocre districts. However, to truly serve all students and meet the demands of today’s accountability environment, district leaders must find a way for these pockets of excellence to become the norm rather than the exception. This is one of the greatest challenges facing American education today.

What does an urban school district that enables systemwide improvement look like? How is the district organized, and how does it implement a comprehensive strategy to improve student learning? To help leaders of urban school systems answer these questions, 12 faculty members from Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education launched the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) in 2003. The PELP team set out to identify effective leadership and management practices from both the business and nonprofit sectors that could be adapted to the unique needs of urban districts. The team also spent hundreds of hours observing 15 urban districts of varying sizes across the United States. Twelve district teams, composed of the superintendent and other leaders, have participated in the PELP programs, discussing a series of leadership and management cases drawn from settings within and outside education.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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