What type of formal education makes great CEOs? According to Forbes magazine, chief executives earn shareholders similar returns whether they have a Ph.D., MBA, J.D., master's degree, or even just a bachelor's degree. What type of formal education makes great principals? Nobody knows, because until now they've mostly come from the same place: schools of education. Several programs (such as New Leaders for New Schools and KIPP) have bucked this trend, and now higher education is getting in on the action, too. Rice University, in Houston, is launching an MBA program specifically to train principals. Although candidates must have some classroom experience, the curriculum involves no instructional training (Rice doesn't have an ed school) and focuses, instead, on administrative issues. Prince George's County Superintendent John E. Deasy finds the approach promising and notes that many school leaders manage a "$5 million payroll and a plant worth $90 million. That is a job for an MBA." Some rightly fear that business-minded principals will be ineffective instructional leaders, of course. And there's a real risk that MBA-school leaders who find their hands tied won't stay in bureaucratic k-12 systems. But there's only one way to find out if such concerns are valid: Give the MBA approach a try and see what happens. Such is the kind of innovation and experimentation that public schools need.
"Rethinking Principal Priorities of Training," by Jay Mathews, Washington Post, January 21, 2008