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Does Your Principal Need an MBA?

A couple of months ago, I came across an interesting Bloomberg Businessweek story about a business school program at the University of Virginia designed specifically for K-12 principals. The idea behind the program is that today's principals, particularly those leading struggling schools, need management training as much as (if not more than) education experience.

The program participants, according to the story, "examine case studies on companies such as General Electric (GE) and Walt Disney (DIS), study organizational behavior, and learn how to analyze data." Many schools whose leaders have completed the program have reportedly seen strong test-score gains. "I took the best business practices and translated those into education," says one program grad whose school's reading and math scores have jumped by nearly 30 percent.

I meant to post something about this idea when I first read about it and somehow forgot. But now, as chance would have it, middle school educator Bill Ferriter has stumbled upon the same story. His take: It all sounds well and good perhaps, but from a teacher's perspective, the program's $75,000 price tag is a little hard to stomach:

Just the cost of the program ALONE is amazing, isn't it? I'd bet that our ENTIRE SCHOOL hasn't had $75K to spend on professional development in the better part of a decade—let alone $75K to invest in ONE person for TWO years.

He also questions the program's apparent focus on driving up standardized test scores. Gone about in the wrong way (that is, when it pits teachers against one another), he warns, this can result in the death of collaboration within a school—not exactly a prized management goal.

But you have to hope that, for $75 grand, the programs leadership's lessons are more nuanced than that.


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