This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Christopher Lehmann, founding principal of Science Leadership Academy, is one of three winners this year of the presigious Harold W. McGraw Jr. Prize in Education.
Lehmann was awarded the Rising Star award for his work in founding SLA, which opened in 2006, and pushing to open a second SLA campus at Beeber Middle School last year.
The press release announcing the award said that SLA "tackles the achievement gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects for highly qualified minority students. The school emphasizes college preparation and entrepreneurship through a technology-rich, inquiry-driven curriculum that is enhanced by a 1:1 laptop program." The school partners with the Franklin Institute.
Lehmann said he shares the award with the "students, teachers and parents who breathe life into a dream."
"It is wonderful to see the kind of education we value so greatly honored in this way," he said. "There is a huge need for the kind of empowering, inquiry-driven education we believe in."
Superintendent William Hite said that Lehmann is promoting the kind of education — collaborative, inquiry-based, driven by student interest, and rooted in solving real-world problems — that the District wants for all its students and teachers.
"He’s a leader in innovation and how we can change education to better serve all children," Hite said.
The release called Lehmann "a national ed-tech thought leader." The award highlights "innovators" and this year was focused on efforts to reduce the academic achievement gap among racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups. It is given by the McGraw Hill Financial Research Foundation.
Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education policy to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, won the Global Leadership Prize, and Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the National Math + Science Initiative, won the National Leadership Prize.
Previous winners include former U.S. secretaries of education Richard Riley and Rod Paige; Dr. James Comer, a child psychiatrist who developed an education model around child development; Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond; the founders of KIPP charter schools; and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp.
"I am incredibly honored," Lehmann said. "To be mentioned in same company as Dr. James Comer and Linda Darling-Hammond is astounding to me."