Investing in Improvement: Strategy and Resource Allocation in Public School Districts

The operating environments of public school districts are largely void of the market forces that reward a company's success with more capital and exert pressure on it to eventually abandon unproductive activities. Stacey Childress describes the strategic resource decisions in 3 of the 20 public school districts that she and colleagues have studied through the Public Education Leadership Project at Harvard. The stories in San Francisco, New York City, and Maryland's Montgomery County occurred largely before the districts faced dramatic decreases in revenues, though they show the superintendents facing budget concerns near the end of the narratives. Even so, the situations share common principles that superintendents and their leadership teams can use to make differentiated resource decisions—reducing spending in some areas and increasing it in others with a clear rationale for why these decisions will produce results for students. Read More

Business Summit: The Role of Social Entrepreneurship in Transforming American Public Education

Amid formidable barriers, a set of passionate social entrepreneurs are disrupting the status quo in education with innovative and effective approaches that are producing measurable results. The challenge now is to build support so these solutions can be applied elsewhere. Read More

HBS Cases: Reforming New Orleans Schools After Katrina

The New Orleans public school system, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is now getting a boost from charter schools—today about half of the city's 80 schools are charter schools, says HBS lecturer and senior researcher Stacey M. Childress. She explains what New Orleans represents for entrepreneurial opportunities in U.S. public education. Read More

Public Education Goes to School

Harvard's schools of Business and Education are bringing management skills to nine school districts across the country—and positive results are starting to show. Read More

Promoting a Management Revolution in Public Education

Public school districts are difficult to lead and manage, and the idea of applying business principles to school reform is popular. But is it practical? This paper describes the work of Harvard's Public Education Leadership Program as it helps school districts grapple with performance challenges, including student achievement that compares unfavorably with other countries, and a significant performance gap between white and minority students. Complicating the picture: The concept of managing for accountability is new in education. The authors studied the effects of improved management on public school student performance by comparing fifteen large urban school districts with similar peer districts. Read More

The Hard Numbers on Social Investments

The field of social-purpose investing is growing and becoming more sophisticated. Should investors expect lower returns to benefit society? A new Harvard Business School study examines the question. Read More