Harvard Institutes

Essay Questions

Applications Have Closed

Thank you for your interest in the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Program — a partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Programs in Professional Education. The admissions process is designed to assist us in identifying talented public school principals who have the capacity to drive impact on their campuses and who embody a commitment to serving students through public education.

Applications have closed.


By submitting an application, you confirm you have read and agree to meet the following expectations for principals selected for the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Program



  • Eligible applicants must be a current Texas public or public charter school principal. (Sorry, assistant and associate principals do not qualify for support.)
  • Applicants must be a current Texas public or public charter school principal. If you are not currently a public school principal, but have secured a principalship for the 2016-2017 school year, you are eligible to apply.
  • If you participated in the Leadership Program through Raise Your Hand in 2015, you are ineligible to apply at this time.
  • Individuals who participated in the Leadership Program through Raise Your Hand in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014 are eligible to apply at this time.
  • Applicants who apply directly to The Principals’ Center, Harvard Graduate School of Education will not be eligible for funding from Raise Your Hand Texas. Eligible Raise Your Hand applicants must complete the application on the Raise Your Hand website and do not need to complete an additional application to The Principals’ Center.
  • If you previously attended The Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education through an organization other than Raise Your Hand Texas, you may apply.
  • On the application, you will be asked to submit the e-mail address of someone who can support you by filling out an online recommendation form. This person should be a supervisor who is well acquainted with you and your work.


If selected for the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Program, we ask that participants:

  • Develop goals for summer learning.
  • Communicate with Raise Your Hand Texas staff on program deadlines, travel, and other logistics.
  • Submit and complete any pre-work required by Raise Your Hand Texas or Harvard.

During Harvard

  • Attend all classes at Harvard during selected course.


  • Construct and submit a prospectus to Raise Your Hand Texas for your plan to implement your summer learning.
  • Make any revisions necessary to your plan and keep Raise Your Hand Texas updated on progress throughout the school year.
  • Present summer learning to principal colleagues in the district and district administration, and invite the Raise Your Hand Texas team.
  • Participate in the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Symposium.
  • Grant Raise Your Hand Texas access to your campus data for internal program evaluation.
  • Make yourself available to host and attend Raise Your Hand Texas alumni site visits.


The first step of the application is to complete the online application and essay questions by January 29, 2016.


The application has a four-step admissions process which include:

  • Step 1: Application and Essays
  • Step 2: Critical Thinking Exercise
  • Step 3: In-Depth Interview
  • Step 4: Group Interview


  • Only a select group of applicants will be considered and sponsored.
  • Chosen applicants will be notified by April 28, 2016.
  • If you are selected, Raise Your Hand Texas will provide travel, hotel stay, tuition, and a modest discretionary spending allowance.
Participants are selected through a competitive process. Should you be selected to attend the 2016 Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Program, we cannot guarantee you will be offered the Institute of your choice.


In order for you to be considered for the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Program, we must receive a recommendation for you from a professional supervisor. We request that the person you select be a direct supervisor who knows you well professionally and can speak very specifically about your experience and performance. Applicants who advance to the Group Interview stage (step 4) will be asked to submit a recommendation.


Raise Your Hand Texas often shares content – photographs, videos, stories, media materials, etc. – related to leadership program applicants and the leadership development programs. By applying to an Institute, you consent to having content related to you being used in promotional materials.

I give Raise Your Hand Texas permission to use my name, likeness, and story content for purposes of promotion, publication, advertising, or any other reason, now or at any time in the future. I understand and agree that Raise Your Hand Texas may use this content in any media channel or format, with or without my name, without compensation, and without the need to notify me.


Contact the Programs team at Raise Your Hand Texas, at programs@ryht.org.

Harvard Institutes Summer 2016

Leadership: An Evolving Vision

July 10 – 16, 2016

This institute provides tools and strategies to help you become more adaptive and responsive to constantly changing school environments. You will connect theory to practice in an effort to improve individual, group, and organizational performance within the context of your school. Through plenary sessions, group discussions, and personal reflection, you will assess the effectiveness of your leadership style and strengthen your skills to be better positioned to meet current and future challenges. The highly interactive environment will help you strengthen your leadership and management skills and revitalize your personal vision of leadership. This institute is designed for all school leaders.

I think we all go into that week at Harvard looking for something different. Regardless, it really is the experience you need in your career.

Susan Cleveland

2014 Alumna

Principal Susan Cleveland, Boerne Middle School, Boerne ISD

National Institute for Urban School Leaders

June 20 – 25, 2016

This institute will examine best practices and research-based techniques that support student achievement. It provides an in-depth exploration of the leadership skills necessary to enhance and sustain learning outcomes. You will examine schools in relation to the broader community contexts — exploring race, culture, equity, socioeconomic status, and social justice in today’s diverse urban classrooms. You will focus on strategies for improving teaching and learning, and building community support for the work of schools. When you leave, you will be better prepared to transform your learning landscape to support higher student achievement and successful outcomes for all students.

Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership

June 26 –  July 2, 2016

This institute helps you identify areas of school improvement, establish priorities, develop strategies, and build a base of support around a change initiative. You will explore successful models for school improvement, learn how to lead and manage change, and understand how to implement curriculum innovation. Through research-based curriculum, you will focus on effective supervision and evaluation, multiple approaches to solving leadership challenges, and how to best support teaching and learning in the classroom. Upon completion of the program you will have examined your own leadership challenges in the context of instruction improvement and learned methods to lead and manage your school more effectively. This institute is designed for all school leaders and is particularly suited for those in the early years of their careers.

School Turnaround Leaders

June 6 – 10, 2016

This institute will allow you to analyze elements critical to your school’s turnaround plan. You will gain key leadership skills and learn strategies for successful implementation. Specific topics include understanding the importance of high instructional quality and expectations, translating data into action, developing effective teams, leading a change effort, and creating meaningful engagement with community and external partners. By the end of the program, you will understand how to transform school culture, identify and achieve early success, measure results, understand how to best align school-level efforts with district and state goals, and implement a new theory of action.

Closing the Achievement Gap

June 27 – July 1, 2016

This institute focuses on contemporary frameworks used to understand instructional quality, student engagement, youth development, parenting and leadership in racially diverse communities. Challenges of responding effectively to racial, ethnic and socio-economic differences within school communities will receive special attention. Using a socio-ecological approach, you will consider the interdependence of each stakeholder’s role in raising student achievement and closing gaps. You will gain a firm understanding of how your school community can strategically and effectively work together with shared goals for improved student outcomes. Prior to the program, you will have access to a Harvard-designed online research tool you can use to collect perspectives from local stakeholders on key issues in your school or district. Using ideas from the program and the survey data, you will outline an action plan to engage others in accomplishing your goals when you return home.

Family Engagement in Education

July 25 – 28, 2016

This institute will prepare you to establish a culture and practices that genuinely honor and respect the knowledge that families bring to school improvement. It will familiarize you with research in the U.S. and internationally which indicates that family engagement is critically important to student achievement. You will learn to design family engagement strategies that are directly connected to student learning. Led by Harvard faculty who are seasoned practitioners, as well as district and community leaders, you will join educators who are committed to embracing families in their efforts to improve educational outcomes for all.

Essay Questions


Essay #1: Explain a decision you have made in this school year that you feel has had the most impact on your campus? How did you come up with the idea that prompted the decision? How did you evaluate the outcomes? (1000 word limit)

Essay #2: Answer ONLY the question associated with the specific institute for which you are applying. Please clearly indicate in your document which essay/institute you are selecting. (1000 word limit)

ESSAY #2 - School Turnaround Applicants Only

Essay question: Discuss the top three focus areas that should be addressed by every school in their turnaround plans? What choices and/or opportunities can turnaround schools leverage to succeed?

ESSAY #3 - Leadership: An Evolving Vision Applicants Only

Note: Applicant must have at least three years of experience as a principal.

Essay question: According to several education researchers, the role of the school principal is continually evolving. What do you consider this emerging role to be? What are the challenges in meeting multi-varied demands?

ESSAY #4 - National Institute for Urban School Leaders Applicants Only

Essay question: “At risk” is a term that is used by educators to describe a targeted demographic of a school’s population. What is your interpretation of this group of students? Is the label “low-income” synonymous with the term “at-risk?” Explain.

ESSAY #5 - Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership Applicants Only

Essay question: Discuss the common expectations every principal/school should accomplish. What opportunities would enhance those expectations?

ESSAY #6 - Closing the Achievement Gap Applicants Only

Essay question: How do disadvantaged urban youths differ in their educational goals and achievements than those with some level of privilege? What have you done as an urban practitioner to close the achievement gap?

ESSAY #7 - Family Engagement Applicants Only

Essay question: How do you identify the educational needs and values of the community where your school is located? What role do you feel parents should play in the operation of the school? What methods do you utilize to engage them?

Applicants must apply through the Raise Your Hand Texas website and not through Harvard directly. If you apply on the Harvard website, you will not be considered for a Raise Your Hand Texas sponsorship.

(Applications have closed.)