Innovation in Education Reform

by Lynn Bell

An innovative new executive program at the University of Virginia is designed for a new generation of education reform leaders for whom business skills are invaluable and for business leaders who have a special interest in education reform.

The Curry-Darden MBA/M.Ed. dual degree for Innovation in Education Reform is the only one of its kind in the country, said Robert C. Pianta, Novartis US Foundation Professor of Education and dean of the Curry School.

Our vision is to prepare leaders who can take on the challenges plaguing our education system with fresh eyes.

“Never before have two schools come together to create a program with such promising impact,” said Pianta. “The idea to train the next generation of education leaders in a full curriculum of business and education concepts has the potential to radically change how children receive their education in this country. Our vision is to prepare leaders who can take on the challenges plaguing our education system with fresh eyes, an entrepreneurial spirit to try new things and the vision to understand how those new ideas will translate into real learning gains for students.”

“Darden’s program accelerates personal and professional growth and provides an entrepreneurial ecosystem that inspires innovation,” said Robert Bruner, dean of the Darden School of Business. “Our two schools’ combined efforts to develop a new crop of educators grounded in the principles of school instruction and administration and in business leadership will be a boon for positive education reform. We also believe it will be of great benefit to students and ultimately, the world that they will inherit. ”

Darden, one of the world’s top-ranked business schools for student experience, is already attracting students actively interested in education. Its Education Club presents career pathways for business students interested in education, raises awareness of education issues among future business leaders and promotes cross-curricular opportunities with the Curry School.

The dual degree program builds on the Curry School’s successful partnership with Darden in the School Turnaround Specialist Program. It combines Darden’s case method instruction, strength in team building and entrepreneurial approach with Curry’s evidence-based work in teacher effectiveness, curriculum innovations and measureable student gains.

Students will earn credits in a residency/internship with partners who provide real-world settings in education, charter schools and charter management organizations, state agencies, and large high-need urban school districts.

The 24-month degree program will total 82.5 credit hours, with 52.5 credit hours from Darden and 30 credit hours from Curry. Students will examine contexts for applying business approaches to education settings. Courses including finance, marketing, leadership and accounting will be offered to give students a wide knowledge base of business and leadership. Curry will offer courses in school finance, education policy, and curriculum and assessment. Students will also choose electives within both Curry and Darden depending on their interests.

Graduates from this program will likely go on to work in a variety of education environments such as large, high-need urban school districts, large charter schools and charter management organizations, and other for-profit and non-profit education reform organizations.

The first cohort in the dual degree program is scheduled to begin classes for this summer.

For more information about the dual degree program, visit