Principals today increasingly have multi-dimensional roles — so much so that the role of the principal might be unrecognizable to those from the 1960s, ’70s, or ’80s, as the Center for American Progress states. Along with the expectation that they serve as instructional experts, principals also function as CEOs of their schools, with responsibilities that span from acting as organizational managers and change agents; to attracting, motivating, and retaining teachers; to planning professional development opportunities.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Harvard Business School (HBS) have collaborated on a new professional learning opportunity designed for the nearly 114,000 principals — as well as 78,000 assistant principals and 210,000 teachers aspiring to move into school leadership — across the United States. The Certificate in School Management and Leadership (CSML) seeks to improve their effectiveness in schools, and help leaders navigate the intricacies of their challenging profession.

“The unprecedented changes in the role of the school principal require new approaches to professional education for school leaders,” said HGSE Dean James E. Ryan. “CSML will help principals, at all stages of their preparation and careers, tackle the complex, growing demands on them and the schools they serve. HGSE faculty, in collaboration with talented faculty at HBS and across the university, bring expertise in both education and leadership, enabling the CSML to offer transformative professional education at scale.”

HGSE’s and HBS’s new certificate program will equip current and aspiring principals with key management and leadership skills needed to lead and sustain high-performing schools, and prepare them to set and meet high expectations for all children, create conditions for excellent teaching, and engage positively with families and communities. These leaders will have acquired improved capabilities to successfully address the many challenges facing the field of education today — and tomorrow.

This innovative collaboration between HGSE and Harvard Business School integrates best practices from both schools, combining expertise in managing teams and organizations with a commitment to school and instructional leadership. It also builds on HGSE’s and HBS’s proven track record of successful collaboration on the Doctor of Education Leadership Program and Public Education Leadership Project, and will tie together and adapt practical knowledge from the business, education, nonprofit, and government sectors to the specialized needs of principals.

“Leaders of K–12 institutions face daunting administrative and managerial challenges,” said Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria. “This program can provide present and future principals with powerful insights and tools that will help them to navigate the shifting landscape of public education, all using the innovative HBX platform.”

The program will be co-led by faculty members Mary Grassa O’Neill and Allen Grossman. O’Neill, formerly a school principal and superintendent, is an education expert and director of the School Leadership Program at HGSE. Grossman is an authority on nonprofit and school district management and retired professor of management practice at HBS. Together, joined by faculty from their respective schools and others across Harvard University, they have created a curriculum to provide a comprehensive, highly-actionable program for current and emerging school leaders.

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