November 29, 2011 — Current statistics show that three in 10 American students will not graduate from high school. After a decade of standards-based reforms and tests, National Assessment of Educational Progress scores are flat and in some districts declining dramatically.
Rising to this national challenge, the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education and its Darden School of Business have created a unique and innovative education executive program, the only one of its kind in the country.
The new Curry-Darden MBA/M.Ed. dual degree is designed for a new generation of education reform leaders for whom business skills are invaluable, and for business leaders who have a special interest in education reform – one of the fastest-growing business markets in the United States. The aim of the program is to create a supply chain of innovators and innovations in K-12 education.
Curry Dean Robert Pianta and Darden Dean Robert Bruner said this program has the potential to create significant positive change in education.
"Never before have two schools come together to create a program with such promising impact," Pianta said. "The idea to train the next generation of education leaders in a full curriculum of business and education concepts could radically change how children receive their education in this country. Our vision is to prepare leaders who can take on the challenges plaguing our education system with fresh eyes, an entreprenurial spirit to try new things and the vision to understand how those new ideas will translate into real learning gains for students."
Bruner said, Darden's program accelerates personal and professional growth and provides an entrepreneurial ecosystem that inspires innovation. "Our two schools' combined efforts to develop a new crop of educators grounded in the principles of school instruction and administration, and in business leadership, will be a boon for positive education reform. We also believe it will be of great benefit to students and ultimately, the world that they will inherit."
The groundbreaking program combines Darden's case method instruction, strength in team-building and entrepreneurial approach with Curry's evidence-based work in teacher effectiveness, curriculum innovations and measureable student gains. Students will earn credits in a residency/internship with partners who provide real-world settings in education, such as the Darden-Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education; charter schools and charter management organizations; state agencies; and large, high-need urban school districts.
Darden, one of the world's the top-ranked business schools for student experience, is already attracting students actively interested in education. The Education Club at Darden strives to generate energy, appreciation and focus around the education industry. The Education Club presents career pathways for business students interested in education, raises awareness of education issues among future business leaders and promotes cross-curricular opportunities with the Curry School.
The Curry School has positioned itself as one of the premier schools for educational leadership development in the country. Its selection as the headquarters for the University Council for Educational Administration, a national consortium of fewer than 100 research universities to advance educational leadership, points to Curry's excellence in the field.
Letitia Green, a current M.Ed. student at the Curry School, earned her MBA in 1989. "If you subscribe to the theory that school systems are mini-corporations – each running a bus system, a huge HR division, an employment agency and a multi-location facilities organization, among other divisions – the MBA/M.Ed. provides the MBA student with the background and tools necessary to be effective education administrators, and provides the M.Ed. student with the business skills helpful to the effective management of large and sometimes unwieldy dynamics of education organizations," she said.
"Education reform is a hot topic in the business world," said Ryal Tayloe, a second-year Darden MBA student and president of the Darden Education Club. "For business-minded people like me who haven't taught in schools or held a career specifically in education, this dual-degree program promises incredible exposure to the Curry School and more opportunities to get in and make a difference in the education world."
The 24-month program will total 82.5 credit hours, with 52.5 credit hours from Darden and 30 from Curry. Course work is spread out over five modules. Students will understand the context for applying business approaches to education settings. Courses including finance, marketing, leadership and accounting will be offered to give students a wide knowledge base of business and leadership. Curry will offer courses in school finance, education policy, and curriculum and assessment. Also, students will choose electives within both Curry and Darden depending on their interests.
Graduates from this program can go on to work in a variety of education environments such as large, high-need urban school districts; large charter schools and charter management organizations; and other for-profit and non-profit education reform organizations. In these organizations, dual-degree graduates will use their knowledge of the value of human capital, the importance of data-driven decisions and the necessity for education systems to be measured on meaningful outcomes.
Darden and Curry will host their first class in the dual-degree program in the summer of 2012, aiming to enroll 15 students.