Top B-School Students Come to Haas to Take on K-12 Education Challenges

Ten rival teams from some of the nation’s top business schools came to Berkeley at the end of February to compete in the Haas School’s annual Education Leadership Case Competition, helping develop strategies for a charter school system that recently expanded outside California to Memphis, Tenn.

This year the case focused on Aspire Public Schools, one of the nation’s highest performing school systems, which predominantly serves low-income students at 37 open-enrollment K-12 public charter schools in and California and Tennessee, where Aspire began operating two schools in 2013. Due to unpredictable budgets based on the state pupil funding rates, Aspire Public Schools sought guidance on how its management team could face future change—including new Common Core Standards, investments in technology and training, and new policies around teacher effectiveness—while continuing to provide the means for maximized student achievement.

Teams composed of students from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Graduate School of Education School took first and second, while Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in third. Other teams came from Berkeley-Haas, Columbia, Chicago Booth, Virginia Darden, and USC Marshall. Judges included two executives from Aspire.

“Aspire judges mentioned they left the competition with frameworks and solutions they are excited to start using,” says Erica Butow, MBA 14, co-president of the Education Club, which organized the competition.

In its eighth year, the competition is the country’s oldest MBA case challenge that brings business minds to education management. Past competitions have tackled problems faced by schools in such cities as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Pittsburg.

“The Education Leadership Case Competition brings talented student leaders together to develop innovative solutions for today’s education challenges,” says Fanzi Mao, MBA 14, one of the Education Club’s vice presidents. “In doing so, we hope to positively impact America’s public education system and develop stronger leaders for future education reform.”