• A joint venture of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and the Curry School of Education, the Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education (PLE) was established to support the leaders developing our nation's future.

    Drawing on the most innovative thinking in business and education, the PLE addresses the challenges and needs of education leaders in eliciting system- and school-level improvement, as well as inspiring educators and students to achieve their fullest potentials.

    In the summer of 2003, the PLE launched a program designed to develop senior education leaders' and community partners' capabilities in decision-making, change leadership and team-building. Since then the PLE's offerings have expanded to include several programs and executive development opportunities for school board members, legislators, education leaders at the state, district and building level.

    As a result of the lessons learned over the past decade, the PLE now places more emphasis on pursuing system-level change to make school-level change possible and sustainable, and ensuring that we provide our partners with intensive implementation-focused follow-up support.


    Our mission is to raise educational outcomes significantly by building on the capabilities of the Darden School of Business and the Curry School of Education in order to strengthen district and school leadership.

    The PLE believes the limited effectiveness of school system leadership and K-12 organizational design is at the root of our national education challenges.


    Our vision is to be a nationally recognized source for insights and delivery capacity, to help school systems develop their leadership capacity and to create the conditions in which these leaders can sustain success.

    Organizational Beliefs

    • Transformational leadership is a primary lever and a necessary component of any lasting K12 system or school change.
    • Leadership is not based on title; K12 system stakeholders at all levels underestimate their ability to inspire others to confront difficult challenges, equip teams to enhance their practice, and enrich cross-organizational collaboration.
    • System-level leaders must take ownership for addressing the root causes of its system’s challenges and creating conditions in which schools can achieve remarkable, scalable, and lasting improvements.
    • By coupling bold, paradigm-shifting moves with a capacity-building approach, school systems can empower remarkable, lasting results in previously underserved environments.
    • System-level change is most successful when informed by and in service to reality at individual schools while identifying opportunities to design and scale services that meet the needs of many schools.
    • Organizational change will be more successful when educational leaders compare their current conditions and practices to the research-proven system conditions and practices that empower rapid and sustainable school improvement.
    • A tailored approach to change is a critical component of empowering local leaders to identify and confront priorities based on their context and ultimately own the path forward.
    • School systems operate in a societal context marked by institutional racism, economic injustice, and other systemic inequities. Educational leaders are at the forefront of addressing systems of inequity and the challenges our communities face.
    • School system leadership should be committed to equity and to prioritizing the needs of underserved students.
    • There is immense power in diverse stakeholders coming together to pursue a common purpose with shared ownership, mutual respect, and inclusivity.
    • Educational leaders are at their best when they are reflective and data-driven on what they need to do differently to achieve the goals of their organization.
    • Student outcomes are the single most important measure of our partners and our success.


      The PLE is distinguished by our focus on the systemic nature of leadership. We seek to:

      • Build systemic leadership capacities at the district and state levels that enable education delivery systems to establish necessary conditions
      • Develop more effective leadership practices at the school level that enable teachers to dramatically improve student outcomes
      • Ensure that leadership is seen as a primary driver of student outcomes in the field of education
      • Contribute research-based insight that strengthens leadership systems

      We believe change in the education sector is possible by:

      • Providing district and school leaders with world-class leadership development and capacity-building
      • Utilizing, conducting and disseminating research related to the drivers of effective leadership systems and demonstrating their impact
      • Helping our partners create cohesive and innovative leadership cultures
      • Building district capacity to create the right talent conditions for school transformation across the following four critical areas, also referred to as levers: leadership, differentiated support and accountability, instructional infrastructure and talent management

      Learn more about the PLE leadership team.