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Harvard Announces New Educational Doctorate Experiment

The Boston Globe's online publication Boston.com is carrying a story on Harvard University's innovative new doctoral degree in education. It is an Ed.L.D. (as opposed to a PhD): a program that is meant to provide the skills for actual management careers in education administration rather than the knowledge and abilities to teach and conduct research in the field. The innovative program will feature faculty contributions not only from the University's Graduate School of Education, but also from the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School.

The program is also being offered tuition-free, a perk that has been made possible by a $10 million grant from the Wallace Foundation. The first two years of the program are spent in the classroom, while the third and final year will be an extended practicum: each student will be embedded in a major urban school district as a resident contributor.

Harvard University is recognizing the paradigm shift in education by introducing this new program. According the school's press release, "The degree is a practice-based doctorate designed to equip students with a deep understanding of learning and teaching as well as the management and leadership skills necessary to reshape the American education sector."

It is also the first new degree to be offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in three quarters of a century. It will enroll 25 students in its first year of operation, commencing in the fall of 2010. Certainly the nation's premier institute of higher education deserves a tip of the hat for its belated but well-constructed contribution to the rapidly changing education landscape. However it is also fair to say that, given financial constraints and academic enrollment requirements, the program will be producing a handful of talented new educational leadership candidates into a world where hundreds, if not thousands are needed.

There are also uncounted colleges and universities, both traditional and private schools with a campus-online blend, that have developed education leadership graduate programs in administration, in curriculum and instruction, in teaching technology, and in community college leadership. In none of these institutions did it take seventy five years to fight through faculty red tape and educational inertia to develop leadership programs for career-oriented education professionals. Nor, in most cases, has it required a grant to get those programs underway.

What is perhaps the most important facet of this story is that the education profession needs dedicated leadership more than aspiring education administrators need an Ivy League degree. Most school administrators today are still advancing to administrative positions from teaching roles, by combining additional education and experience in the classroom.

Teaching and education degrees are available today to help educators at all levels of experience and formal education advance into management positions within the educational infrastructure. That is how previous generations of educators have gained the opportunity to implement both the educational and the fiscal innovations that have kept public school systems afloat; soon the current crop will include a squad of graduates that have emigrated from Harvard Square.

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