The Wallace Foundation Awards $5 Million Grant to University of Virginia to Draw on Faculty Expertise From Graduate Schools of Education and Business

June 28, 2006 --The Wallace Foundation and the University of Virginia jointly announced today the launch of an unprecedented executive training program — drawing on the multiple perspectives of faculty from U.Va.’s graduate schools of education and business — for senior teams of state and district education leaders, beginning this summer.

In an era when education leaders are held accountable for raising the academic performance of all students, the job of leading today’s schools has seriously outpaced the available training, especially for state and district leaders who set policy for and lead complex urban districts. The Executive Leadership Program for Educators at the University of Virginia in association with The Wallace Foundation will emphasize mid-career development of teams of high-level education leaders who share responsibility for making changes in their organizations and across their states to improve school leadership and its impact on student achievement.

Wallace awarded a grant of $5 million for up to five years to U.Va. to have its Curry School of Education and Darden School of Business jointly offer their varied leadership perspectives and expertise to create an unmatched training opportunity. The program will be presented by U.Va.’s Darden-Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education. A second $5 million grant will also go to Harvard University, involving its graduate schools of education, business and government.

“School leadership is as demanding a profession as any business or public sector job,” said Curry School Dean David W. Breneman, University Professor and the Newton and Rita Meyers Professor in Economics of Education. “We recognized several years ago at U.Va. that executive education is as valuable for mid-career education leaders as it is for business leaders. The Darden-Curry Partnership has established a track record of achievement in this unique form of collaboration, and the Wallace grant will carry our activities to new levels of performance and civic contribution.”

“There are many training programs for school principals, but few exist for top state and district education leaders who establish policies, incentives and cultures that enable those principals to succeed in lifting student achievement,” added M. Christine DeVita, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Wallace recently commissioned a survey that reveals a strong demand for this kind of executive training, particularly if it can overcome barriers of cost and time. This new partnership with Harvard and U.Va. aims to address these barriers and offer a quality experience for very busy people who, working together, can greatly improve public education in their states and districts.”

U.Va. and Harvard will each work with two states, and four urban districts within each state, to form the first cohorts of leaders to participate in the programs. Leadership teams from Delaware and Indiana will participate in U.Va.’s program; and teams from Kentucky and Ohio will attend the program at Harvard. All states are currently participating in the Wallace education leadership initiative.

The executive leadership training programs will provide an opportunity for participating state and district teams to work more collaboratively in such areas as leading change and team development; leadership for instructional improvement; methods to accelerate leader performance, including data-driven decisionmaking; addressing stakeholder engagement around critical state and local issues; and sustaining improvements in school and student achievement.

“The spirit of the Darden-Curry collaboration is motivated by our faith that best administrative practice knows no professional boundaries,” said Darden School Dean Robert F. Bruner, the Charles C. Abbott Professor of Business Administration and Distinguished Professor of Business Administration. “The Darden and Curry Schools blend their expertise about high-performance leadership in common cause to lift our nation’s schools.”

The U.Va. and Harvard programs may also provide valuable lessons to other colleges and universities on how to build sustainable leadership programs – drawing on the expertise of their education, business and other schools – that can fill the unmet demand for high-quality, job-relevant training for senior education leaders, while being feasible in terms of the time and cost to participants.

The program at the University of Virginia

Over the next five years, U.Va. will provide training to three cohorts of approximately 100 leaders each, for a total of up to 300 participants from six states and approximately 24 districts. Each cohort will consist of five ten-member teams of state and district leaders, which will include chief state school officers, state board members, district superintendents and their senior staff, school principals, board members, and possibly civic and union leaders.

U.Va.’s executive leadership training program will build on the education and business schools’ successful executive education program and the state’s Wallace-supported “turnaround specialist” training program for a select cadre of principals that have successfully integrated education and business content.

Each year, beginning this summer and continuing through the next two years, the Delaware and Indiana teams will attend a five-day summer campus residency and a two-day training session in their home states. The program also includes on-site coaching and an annual alumni network gathering following the program’s second year.

U.Va.’s business and education schools will customize program offerings to the state-district teams based on a detailed analysis of local contexts and needs. The focus will be on building capabilities within participating teams, using action projects, case methodology, computer simulation and coaching to train participants to lead organizational change. Team progress will be regularly measured and assessed, status reports provided and changes made to ensure long-term success. U.Va. intends to sustain the program through a variety of means, including working with private funding sources and corporate sponsors.

By the end of two years, the goal is for each state and district team to have well-trained leaders who have had extensive practice in effective problem-solving approaches and to apply them in ways that result in significant improvements in education leadership practices and student learning at the state, district and school levels.

The Wallace Foundation seeks to support and share effective ideas and practices that expand learning and enrichment opportunities for all people. Its three current objectives are:

• Strengthen education leadership to improve student achievement
• Enhance out-of-school learning opportunities
• Expand participation in arts and culture

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