Globe 100 Innovators | Law and Education

Class leader

Kathleen McCartney of the Harvard school of ed is top education innovator

Kathleen McCartney Kathleen McCartney (Illustration by Joel Kimmel for The Boston Globe)
May 22, 2011

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1. Kathleen McCartney, dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education Kathleen McCartney wants to get students out of the classroom as soon as she can.

Why? Not everyone who implements innovative educational ideas needs a PhD, she said.

To that end, McCartney and her faculty worked with Harvard’s schools of government and business to invent a professional doctorate — like a JD, MD, or MBA — for those who want to work in education. They came up with a three-year degree, called a Doctor of Education Leadership, or EdLD. It combines classes in education, business, and public policy that train students to lead large school districts, head government education agencies, or work for nonprofits like Teach for America.

The program’s first class of 25 — culled from more than 1,000 applicants — started last year.

“I’m guessing these folks are going to invent jobs for themselves that we couldn’t even imagine,’’ said McCartney, 56. “The idea is not to develop people who will lead the system as it is; the idea is to develop people who will lead system transformation.’’

The best part, according to McCartney: The program is tuition free.

“If you’re trying to entice the best and the brightest to enter the education sector, you can’t expect them to leave [school] with large debt,’’ she explained. “These are not jobs that pay a lot of money.’’

– Erin Ailworth

2. Margarita Muñiz, principal, Rafael Hernández School, Boston Public Schools Innovation gave birth to the Rafael Hernández School in the stormy racial and cultural battles of the 1970s, when Latino community activists petitioned the city for a school that addressed their children's needs.

Margarita Muñiz became Rafael Hernández's principal 28 years ago; now it is considered the premier dual-language school in Massachusetts. Muñiz credits the high level of cooperation between dedicated teachers and invested parents.

Recently, when teachers determined that reading and writing was suffering because students were not reading during the summer, they established workshops in public libraries throughout Boston the school's 400 prekindergarten through eighth grade students come from all over the city to educate parents about how to inspire their kids to read.

"They did all of the work," said Muñiz , 60.

Muñiz called the project a practical demonstration of how dual-language education can succeed not only in the classroom, but can also serve as a draw for parents from groups who often don't participate in schools where their language isn't welcome, she said.

Such efforts, sensitive to the needs of the community served by Rafael Hernández School, appear to be welcomed by parents. According to Muñiz , there are often more than 200 names of students on the waiting list to enroll in the school.

– John Dyer

3. Margaret Marshall, former chief justice, Supreme Judicial Court The first female chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret Marshall will go down in history as presiding over "Goodridge v. Department of Public Health," the case that led to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

"The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals," Marshall, 66, wrote in the court's majority opinion in 2003. "It forbids the creation of second—class citizens."

Appointed to the court in 1996, Marshall became chief justice in 1999.

Marshall's background influenced her deep commitment to equality. A South African native who opposed Apartheid, she settled in Boston and married Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist and progressivist. Growing up in a country that stifled civil rights showed her the importance of preserving justice in the United States, she said at her retirement announcement last year.

"One can look at the progress of the law as always innovative," she said. "It responds to initiatives, it replies to claims."

Marshall was also a reformer. A few years after becoming chief justice, she used her power to enact measures to increase transparency in the court system, streamlined time frames for different case types, and adopted standards to measure court operations with objective data.

In more recent years, she vehemently defended the court from politicians who sought to save money by cutting the judiciary's budget — preserving resources at the institution where she helped write history.

– John Dyer

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