01 Jun 2013

Lesson Plans

Alumni working in every corner of education weigh in on the best path forward




"One of our anchors is personalized learning, which comes out of what we've learned about the effects of one-to-one tutoring—that in a live environment with one great teacher and one student, you get amazing outcomes relative to group instruction. The challenge is that we can't afford one great teacher for each of the 55 million students in the United States. As a result, much of the recent innovation has come from technologists and pedagogical talent working together to create an environment where the teacher can focus solely on trying to understand what a student knows and what he or she needs next."


"It's wrong to imagine that students in lower-income neighborhoods don't have the potential to succeed or aren't capable. It's much more about decades of underinvestment and a lack of attention to what we say we're all about as a society—namely, that no matter where you come from, you have the opportunity to live out the American dream. If you look at the numbers, that's becoming less and less true."
—Stacey Childress


"Our old system worked well enough for an industrial-based economy. In a knowledge-based economy, we need an individualized, personalized approach that can educate every child to his or her fullest potential. Blended learning looks like the vehicle to do a lot of this, but we're thinking of it more as a student-centric system that allows for mastery-based learning. Undergirding that approach with technology is the most scalable way to do it well. I think we're talking about a 10-year play if we're being honest."
Michael Horn (MBA 2006) Education Executive Director, The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, San Mateo, California


"School districts can be just as big as Fortune 500 companies, requiring the same critical, honest thinking about leadership development. Improving the cross-fertilization between business and education would help. It'd be great to have a kind of CEO-in-residence be part of the decision-making team to change an entrenched culture. To have someone on site who has lived that turnaround experience and done it with confidence would be extremely powerful."
—Carl Christopher



"The US education system is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. Sal Khan (MBA 2003) and his online Khan Academy is an example of what can push the system to a new approach. Another example, which I plan to visit, is Rocketship Education, a charter school system where students spend the first few hours of the morning in a computer learning lab and the rest of the day interacting with teachers. That sort of blended model is where we need to get to—fast."


"Principals are the most effective lever for creating change in a school. A principal is a pure manager-leader, dealing with a myriad of issues: human resources, student discipline, parents, scheduling, budget, and fundraising. They are so overworked, yet there's a huge gap in quality training for them."
Anthony Priest (MBA 1996) Program Specialist, Office of Career and Technical Education, District of Columbia Public Schools


"We are beginning to see movement away from the model of 25 students sitting in front of a teacher and a chalkboard, to an approach to teaching that focuses on individualized attention. It's clear that the private sector has a role to play in achieving that new paradigm, one that will depend on investments by the business community to accelerate innovation and the capacity of technology to support great teaching. It can't happen quickly enough."

"Education is our generation's civil rights cause. It is the work that will do the most to enable the change that communities desperately need and want."
—Marc Sternberg


"Essentially, the past decade has been devoted to R&D in education reform, and now is the time to implement those reforms that have been effective. The issue is finding the dollars and the leadership to do that."


"It's difficult to recruit the skill level we need for district-level finance positions when most people capable of overseeing a $100 million–plus budget can make a much higher salary elsewhere."

"It's not just a question of moving the relatively small percentage of consistently ineffective teachers out of the schools. As in any profession, we should help all teachers improve their practice. You provide the tools for improvement for all employees."
—Photeine Anagnostopoulos


"Businesses tend to support individual programs or schools. The impact could be much larger if corporations partnered to take collective action on a specific education issue. The Central Square Foundation in India uses a venture philanthropy model that makes early- and growth-stage investments in NGOs focused on high-quality, affordable schools; human capital development; technology in education; and school accountability."

"When the business community speaks with one voice, politicians listen. Recently, groups such as the Global Business Coalition for Education have been pushing governments to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals around education."
—Ashish Dhawan


"I do not see charter schools becoming the majority of public schools, but charter schools can experiment, analyze the data, and partner with school districts when they find approaches that work."

"I encourage MBA students and young alumni who are interested in education to seriously consider school-based roles, which require an impressive amount of leadership. Immediately after graduating, I have been able to manage a team in a high-stakes environment every day. This role requires that I look at data regularly to identify what practices are working and coach each member of my team to consistently improve. Daily, I have to ask myself, what insights can I see in our student performance data? How do I help weak performers improve quickly? How do I coach our strongest performers to become even stronger?
Lauren Moore Park (MBA 2011) Principal-in-Residence, Achievement First, Brooklyn, New York

What needs to change in education?

C.J. Cash (MBA 2007) @cjcashjr: US ed problems are quantifiable but qualitative, cultural yet financial, personal but pandemic. In short, it's complicated.

Do you think business leaders can help tackle any of these problems, especially the financial ones you point out?

@cjcashjr: It's imperative that biz participate in ed reform esp @ local level. It is today's students who become tomorrow's employees.

Rohit Jain (GMP 5, 2008) @followrohit: Parents need to be involved in their child's education and school. Starts at home and have a working relationship with the teachers ... grow the school districts organically rather than expect the govt to perform miracles.

Do you think business leaders can help with education reform efforts?

Serge Vartanov (MBA 2012) @svartanov: Absolutely! HBS alums help by joining nonprofit/charter boards, running for school boards and volunteering to help in schools!

Jonas P. Akins (MBA 2012) @54Putnam: I'm teaching and coaching at a boarding school. Ed reform could come through alums actually educating?

Why do you think more alumni don't go into education-related fields? Is it solely financial (i.e., salaries)? Other reasons?

@54Putnam: Partially financial. Teaching is also viewed as insufficiently managerial. More likely to do education strategy or operations.

How will online learning change the education establishment?

Stephan Liozu, PhD (TGMP 15, 2005) @StephanLiozu: Disruption in educational market will require adaptation, biz model innovation & new segmentation work for traditional schools.

Stever Robbins (MBA 1991) @GetItDoneGuy: Too much online learning could kill revenue model for colleges, reducing long-term supply of knowledge creators. …In short term, however, online learning is a potential huge boost to educated populace, IF learners work hard to master material.

So-Young Kang (MBA 2004) @soykang: The role of the teacher will hv to evolve to that of facilitator and mentor vs the one who provides the answers.

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2000, Section E
follow @NextGenStacey
Class of MBA 2006, Section J
Class of MBA 2003, Section D
Class of MBA 1996, Section C
Class of MBA 2000, Section B
Class of MBA 1985, Section G
Class of MBA 1997, Section A
Class of MBA 2011, Section B
Class of MBA 2007, Section A
follow @cjcashjr
Class of GMP 5
follow @followrohit
Class of MBA 2012, Section I
follow @svartanov
Class of MBA 2012, Section F
follow @54putnam
Class of TGMP 15
follow @StephanLiozu
Class of MBA 1991, Section C
follow @GetItDoneGuy
Class of MBA 2004, Section A
follow @awakengroup

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