Lilly Endowment pumps $14.5M into MBAs for school leaders

The Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. has pledged $14.5 million to expand educational MBA programs to train school leaders, according to an announcement Wednesday.

The Endowment will give the money to the New Jersey-based Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which last year gave $3 million to the University of Indianapolis to create its first educational MBA program.

UIndy enrolled 15 educators in that program this summer, giving each a $50,000 stipend to spend one year earning an MBA degree with a concentration in educational leadership. Each graduate of the program will then receive three years of “executive coaching” as they take on leadership responsibilities at the school districts from which they came.

The Endowment funding will allow the Woodrow Wilson foundation to add two more Indiana institutions to the educational MBA program. It expects to select those institutions by year’s end.

The new funding will also allow UIndy to extend its program to more educators and for more years than the three-year term funded by the Woodrow Wilson foundation.

“A degree that applies the curriculum and content of an MBA to education promises to prepare a new generation of principals and superintendents to lead our schools and school districts in an era of dramatic change,” Wilson President Arthur Levine said in a prepared statement. The foundation hopes the educational MBA becomes the new model for training principals and superintendents in public school districts.

Instead of teaching students how to lead an organization to maximize profits, as traditional MBA programs do, the UIndy program will teach its fellows to lead an organization to maximize student achievement.

But the methods for figuring out how to do that and making it happen will largely be the same as in traditional MBA programs. UIndy students will learn how to do sophisticated data analysis, including benchmarking against national norms, competitive analyses versus other schools or districts, and cost-benefit analysis for deciding which programs are showing the biggest gain in student achievement relative to the resources they use.

UIndy drew its initial crop of fellows from 11 school districts in central Indiana and one charter school in Gary.

“This program gives me the opportunity to create systems and processes for schools that will allow our students to gain skills in order to compete globally,” said Kari Serak, an English teacher at Brownsburg West Middle School, who is one of the first UIndy fellows.

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