Sophie Lippincott Ferrer (MBA 2006) is a senior consultant with Education First, a national policy and strategy consulting firm that partners with education leaders to design and accelerate policies and plans that help all young people, particularly students of color and students in poverty, succeed in college, career, and life. In this interview, she discusses the need for helping teachers and principals develop new strategies to empower and support teachers to share in the leadership of their schools.
“I was inspired to work in education. A few years out of college, I began volunteering at a large failing school in the Bronx. Seeing the students have to walk through metal detectors, seeing the teachers struggling to teach with even the most basic resources lacking, really inspired me on an emotional level that this is something I want to do.
“Education First’s mission is to close the achievement gap, to improve outcomes for students, particularly those of low-income neighborhoods and families, so they have a better chance of life and career success. We work towards that mission by helping state agencies of education, public school districts, institutions of higher ed, and foundations that support all of those entities. We help those organizations design and implement changes and initiatives that improve the work that they do every day, serving schools, teachers, and students.
“One thing that I am focused on is teacher leadership—better engaging teachers with opportunities to lead in their schools. Principals cannot do it all. The bar is higher now, the challenges are greater, and we want to support principals to support their teachers to become better leaders of the school, teaching other teachers, leading teams. I think that will be the strategy for adopting new innovative technologies, for implementing higher standards, for providing better feedback and support to teachers.
“HBS gave me the skills by helping me to think as a systems thinker. By that I mean to consider the marketing angles, the leadership angles, strategy, finance, economics. You have to think about all those dynamics when you have to think about education reform in the work that I do. It was really the first time that I got that big picture thinking about systems that I bring to my work all the time.”
(Published March 2017)
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