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“Leading and managing in the complex and dynamic environment of an urban K–12 school system is an incredibly difficult challenge,” observes HBS Dean Kim B. Clark. “One of the toughest problems is that although there are many excellent individual schools in this country, there are very few urban school systems that have achieved a high level of excellence overall.”

To address this situation, HBS and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education have launched a three-year joint venture with nine urban school districts representing more than one million students from cities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, and San Francisco. The Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), which is principally funded by the HBS Class of 1963, will coordinate research in each district aimed at identifying the key forces that are shaping educational leadership in urban school systems. It will further aim to develop a set of ideas that enable district leadership teams to create high-performing systems. Beginning this summer, a weeklong Executive Education program will be held on campus each year to allow the leadership teams of the districts to learn from each other’s experiences while developing strategic improvement goals for the coming year.

In recent years, HBS, with its expertise in leadership and management issues, has become more and more committed to education reform. Stig Leschly’s MBA course, HBS professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s Program for Change Leadership (a three-day Executive Education offering for senior-level public education officials), and the increasing involvement of the Social Enterprise Initiative in education issues are all contributing to — and becoming familiar parts of — the School’s academic landscape.

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