John Jong-Hyun Kim - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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John Jong-Hyun Kim

Senior Lecturer of Business Administration

General Management

John J-H Kim is a Senior Lecturer in the General Management unit of the Harvard Business School. Mr. Kim created and teaches the second-year course Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education, which explores ways in which entrepreneurs are pursuing the use of technology to transform education and achieve higher performance. He also co-teaches the Social Innovation Lab, a project-based course providing student teams an opportunity to build a social enterprise with the discipline of business tools and entrepreneurial techniques.  Previously, he taught Entrepreneurship and Education Reform.

Mr. Kim also serves as the Co-Chair of the Public Education Leadership Project (PELP), a joint project of HBS and Harvard Graduate School of Education. PELP was founded in 2004 to work with some of the largest urban districts in the U.S. to improve the management and leadership competencies and practices of public education leaders.  Additionally, Mr. Kim teaches in several executive education programs including Performance Measurement for Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations (PMNO) and Governing for Non-Profit Excellence (GNE).

Mr. Kim is the founder and CEO of The District Management Council (DMC), an organization that helps school districts achieve higher performance by improving their management practices. He is the founding editor of The District Management Journal, a publication which provides actionable insights related to leading and managing public school districts. Previously, Mr. Kim founded and led several firms in the education sector including a school management company that served more than 20,000 students in ten states. Additionally, he served as an Executive Vice President of Rakuten, Inc (JASDAQ: 4755), a global Internet services company, and was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company.

Mr. Kim currently serves on several non-profit and corporate boards including the National Governing Board of BELL, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged youths.

Mr. Kim received an A.B. with Honors from Harvard College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.


Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. Summit Public Schools (A)

    John J-H Kim and Aldo Sesia

    Summit Public Schools was a very successful charter management organization with schools in California and Washington State. The students came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, many from economically-disadvantaged households. While nearly all of its students were accepted to a four-year college, Summit’s leadership discovered that nearly half of graduates had failed at college. This was unacceptable to Summit’s leadership and they set out to create a new learning model that would enable its students to not only get into a four-year college but succeed there. The new learning model significantly altered the role of the teacher and brought technology to the forefront of student teaching. This new personalized student self-directed learning model was instituted to build knowledge and skills graduates needed to be successful in college. The case study describes the history of Summit and its evolution to this new learning model.

    Keywords: k-12; online learning; virtual learning; blended learning; Secondary Education; Middle School Education; Early Childhood Education; Learning; Business Model; Performance Improvement; Technology;


    Kim, John J-H, and Aldo Sesia. "Summit Public Schools (A)." Harvard Business School Case 318-067, March 2018.  View Details
  2. BYJU's The Learning App

    John Jong-Hyun Kim and Rachna Tahilyani

    BYJU’S The Learning App (BYJU’s) is India’s largest K-12 education app with about 300,000 annual paid subscribers. The mobile app uses a mix of video lessons and interactive tools to personalize learning for every student. Although there is room to grow exponentially in India, BYJU’s decides to enter the United States and other English speaking international markets. It believes that the United States has a large demand for “better learning,” a strong digital payment infrastructure, and a willingness to pay subscription fees. At the same time, winning in U.S.’s education market, where most students attend public schools and many ed-tech companies are proliferating, is challenging. Is it wise to expand to the U.S., even though India presents such a vast untapped opportunity with so many students in need?

    Keywords: Education; Mobile Technology; Growth and Development Strategy; Learning; Customization and Personalization; Education Industry; India; United States;


    Kim, John Jong-Hyun, and Rachna Tahilyani. "BYJU's The Learning App." Harvard Business School Case 317-048, March 2017.  View Details
  3. Uncommon Schools (B): Seeking Excellence at Scale through Standardized Practice

    John J-H Kim and Sarah McAra

    The (B) case provides an update to the (A) case by illustrating how charter school management organization Uncommon Schools responded to the disparity in its students’ 2013 standardized test results. In 2015, CEO Brett Peiser and his management team decided to align the previously decentralized network of schools around core practices. Now in 2016, the (B) case describes the new structure as Peiser and his team review their progress so far and determine if it is the right path forward as the team sets out to reach new expansion goals. This case allows students to analyze the opportunities and potential limitations of Uncommon’s new approach to alignment, innovation, and scaling while maintaining high levels of academic achievement. The (B) case can be used independently of the (A) case to focus on issues of growing school networks while maintaining quality.

    Keywords: education; charter schools; nonprofit organizations; strategy; early childhood education; middle school education; teaching; talent and talent management; innovation; organizational structure; Education; Early Childhood Education; Middle School Education; Organizational Structure; Performance Consistency; Growth and Development Strategy; Innovation and Invention; Education Industry;


    Kim, John J-H, and Sarah McAra. "Uncommon Schools (B): Seeking Excellence at Scale through Standardized Practice." Harvard Business Publishing Supplement, 2017. (Case No. PEL-080.)  View Details
  4. Uncommon Schools (A): A Network of Networks

    John J-H Kim and Sarah McAra

    In 2013, Brett Peiser, CEO of the charter school management organization (CMO) Uncommon Schools, is reassessing the nonprofit’s strategy. For nearly 10 years, Uncommon had fulfilled its mission to bring high-quality education to students in low-income, urban areas using a “network of networks” structure, where regional networks of charter schools operated independently, guided by Uncommon’s shared beliefs and practices. The autonomy built into the structure had allowed teachers and school leaders to develop innovative and effective practices that could then be rolled out throughout the network. But in the 2012–2013 school year, this strategy comes into question when students take the first standardized test aligned with the more rigorous Common Core State Standards. While the test results show that, on average, Uncommon’s students still perform well compared to their district peers, they also reveal a disparity in achievement across the schools and regions. The case gives students the opportunity to assess the benefits and challenges of Uncommon’s strategy so far, determine the best way to address the inconsistency in academic achievement, and consider the best way to consistently scale excellence.

    Keywords: education; charter schools; nonprofit organizations; strategy; early childhood education; middle school education; teaching; talent management; innovation; organization structure; Education; Early Childhood Education; Middle School Education; Organizational Structure; Performance Consistency; Strategy; Collaborative Innovation and Invention; Education Industry;


    Kim, John J-H, and Sarah McAra. "Uncommon Schools (A): A Network of Networks." Harvard Business Publishing Case, 2017. (Case No. PEL-079.)  View Details

    John J-H Kim, Lauren Barley and Allison M. Ciechanover

    The case explores Hadi Partovi’s mission to provide every K-12 student in the United States the opportunity to learn computer science. Students can assess how Partovi transformed his passion into an organization that reached millions around the globe through the launch of not-for-profit and its well-known awareness building event entitled “The Hour of Code.” The case provides students the opportunity to consider the organization’s multifaceted approach, its team, and partnerships strategy. A particular focus is on the path taken by this relatively young social enterprise to address issues of scalability and sustainability.

    Keywords: Nonprofit Organizations; Information Technology; Hardware; Software; Education; Education Industry; United States;


    Kim, John J-H, Lauren Barley, and Allison M. Ciechanover. "" Harvard Business School Case 317-008, July 2016.  View Details
  6. IMAX: Scaling Personalized Learning in India

    John Jong-Hyun Kim, Michael Chu and Rachna Tahilyani

    IMAX is a provider of comprehensive testing and personalized content across mid-range and low-cost private K-10 schools in India. It aims to improve learning outcomes by providing schools with an integrated product suite including textbooks, workbooks, assessments, feedback reports, personalized worksheets and teaching support material. Its founders, however, view their B2B strategy as a seeding strategy to eventually form a B2C education marketplace where they can collaborate with other education content companies and publishers to provide the right content to the right student in the right form at the right time. To fuel this rapid growth, IMAX has been scouting for investors. It has received an equity investment offer from a large Indian educational book publisher that has been rapidly acquiring companies to strengthen its hold in the education market. The founders must decide if they should accept the publisher's offer or continue to look for an investor who believes in their vision.

    Keywords: Curriculum and Courses; Learning; Acquisition; Business Strategy; Growth and Development Strategy; Education Industry; India;


    Kim, John Jong-Hyun, Michael Chu, and Rachna Tahilyani. "IMAX: Scaling Personalized Learning in India." Harvard Business School Case 316-108, February 2016. (Revised December 2016.)  View Details
  7. Ivy Academy: Blended Learning in Downingtown Area School District

    John J-H Kim and Daniel Goldberg

    In 2015, Downingtown Area School District (DASD), a suburban school district near Philadelphia, entered its second year implementing Ivy Academy, a blended learning program, in its two traditional high schools. Superintendent Larry Mussoline, having for several years worked to incorporate technology into student learning, hoped that Ivy Academy would deepen student learning, provide more rigorous courses, introduce more scheduling flexibility, and change the culture among teachers in his district. In Ivy Academy, classes meet two out of every six days in-person, and students are expected to work asynchronously online during the other days. In the first year, 341 students (out of 3,800 eligible) and 19 teachers (out of 240 eligible) participated in Ivy Academy; in the second year, the program grew. However, final exam results for students participating in Ivy Academy are mixed, and certain staff and parents remain skeptical of its effectiveness. This case explores whether DASD is ready to scale Ivy Academy and make it the primary way in which students learn.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Technology; Curriculum and Courses; Philadelphia;


    Kim, John J-H, and Daniel Goldberg. "Ivy Academy: Blended Learning in Downingtown Area School District." Harvard Business School Case 316-144, January 2016. (Revised September 2016.)  View Details
  8. Match Next: Next Generation Middle School?

    John J-H Kim and Daniel Goldberg

    This case is set in 2015 as a team at Match Education, a high performing charter middle school in Boston, explores new staffing and technology approaches in their quest to obtain what they term "jaw dropping" results. The team hopes to test and model for other schools solutions to specific educational problems. In 2013, the team began to think about the redesign, creating a school model in which students spend significantly more time reading, providing more individualized attention to students and families, addressing the challenge of finding outstanding teachers, and doing so in a cost-effective manner. In their redesigned school, Match Next, students receive all of their instruction from inexperienced newly minted college graduates called tutors, who are supervised by one master teacher, called a Director of Curriculum of Instruction (DCI). In addition, the Match Next team infuses technology into instruction (e.g., students watch instructional videos and complete online activities) and operations (e.g., school keeps track of student assessment results and select activities and problem sets from online databases). After the first year as a full-day program, results on the state test were very strong in math but below expectations in ELA (English Language Arts). The case explores questions related to designing the school model, interpreting early results, and assessing the team's ability to disseminate their model to other schools.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; general management; technology; education; k-12; charter schools; public schools; Edtech; Technology; Management; Public Sector; Education; Entrepreneurship; Education Industry; Boston;


    Kim, John J-H, and Daniel Goldberg. "Match Next: Next Generation Middle School?" Harvard Business School Case 316-138, January 2016. (Revised July 2016.)  View Details
  9. Rumie: Bringing Digital Education to the Underserved

    John J-H Kim and Amram Migdal

    In fall of 2015, the Toronto, Canada–based education technology nonprofit Rumie had distributed thousands of computer tablets preloaded with collections of thousands of pieces of curated educational content to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in some of the most impoverished countries around the world lacking in basic educational resources. Founder and executive director Tariq Fancy, with his team, were deciding whether to accept a large new order from an NGO in Pakistan that would require Rumie for the first time to provide ongoing services such as teacher training, performance monitoring, and other support. Some on the team felt that providing a full suite of bundled services would detract from their recent push to decouple Rumie's software and services from the physical tablets to achieve greater reach and scale. In October 2015, Rumie opened the LearnCloud, its proprietary online content curation portal for NGOs, to the public. Now anyone could discover, share, and rate free digital educational content from any source. Fancy considered, "Education access represents a big order and huge growth, but does it lead us into doing things we haven't done before, may not be good at, and may not be scalable to be used by different partners in different geographies?"

    Keywords: education; Edtech; education technology; social enterprise; technological innovation; nonprofit; education startup; Technological Innovation; Nonprofit Organizations; Social Entrepreneurship; Education; Business Startups; Education Industry; Canada; Africa;


    Kim, John J-H, and Amram Migdal. "Rumie: Bringing Digital Education to the Underserved." Harvard Business School Case 316-140, January 2016. (Revised January 2017.)  View Details
Education Technology
  1. School of One: Reimagining How Students Learn (B)

    John J-H Kim and Christine S. An

    This supplements the "A" case. Joel Rose and Chris Rush decide to spin-off from School of One to found New Classrooms Innovation Partners. Rose and Rush navigate the strategic complexities of the spin-off process to make their mission-driven product a reality. The case explores the co-founders' decision to pursue either a for-profit or nonprofit structure and their strategy for scaling their product, Teach to One.

    Keywords: education technology; ed tech; classroom innovation; entrepreneurs; entrepreneurship; patents; Spin-offs; non-profit management; scaling ed tech products; strategy;


    Kim, John J-H, and Christine S. An. "School of One: Reimagining How Students Learn (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 314-115, March 2014.  View Details
  2. Technology Innovations in K-12 Education

    John J-H Kim, Roniesha Copeland and Christine S. An

    This background note on technology innovations in education offers a market overview of the edtech sector and discusses trends, common challenges, and criticisms encountered in exploring edtech ventures. The note introduces the promise of educational technology as it directly affects classroom instruction and discusses the common growth drivers (e.g., school accountability, 21st century skills, and advanced technological innovations) and theories of change (e.g., personalization, access, and productivity) for edtech products and services. Furthermore, the note defines the conditions necessary for the success of innovations in educational technology in the classroom including adequate teacher training, funding, and technology infrastructure. The note also highlights several challenges, risks, and criticisms common to the edtech sector, such as the evolving role of teachers, issues of student privacy and data security, implementation challenges, and the limits of education technology's impact in the classroom.


    Kim, John J-H, Roniesha Copeland, and Christine S. An. "Technology Innovations in K-12 Education." Harvard Business School Technical Note 314-123, March 2014. (Revised August 2015.)  View Details
  3. Zeal: Launching Personalized and Social Learning

    John J-H Kim and Christine S. An

    Set in 2014, this case follows John Danner and his team at Zeal as they consider their product development strategy. In February 2013, serial entrepreneurs John Danner and Sanjay Noronha co-found Zeal, an education technology start up providing a web-based, mobile learning platform that helps students from Kindergarten to 8th grade build math and literacy skills based on Common Core State Standards through personalized learning plans.
    Having been a teacher and founder of a successful network of charter schools, Danner believes learning does not have to be limited to the classroom and wants to create a product that can connect students, parents, and teachers to facilitate individual student learning. Furthermore, he believes that offering a social, personalized learning tool can offer a fun way for students to learn and can also save time for teachers who want to provide differentiated instruction.
    Based out of the offices of the NewSchools Venture Fund in Palo Alto, Danner and Noronha work to rapidly develop the product with their founding team and their teacher partners at Rocketship Education, a K-5 charter school organization providing blended instruction combining technology and traditional methods. After several iterations, the Zeal team launches the latest version of Zeal in Fall 2014. While reflecting on their process to find product-market fit, Danner and his team wonder where to pivot next and seek an appropriate business model that considers their customer and user base. The case describes the student, parent, and teacher features offered by the evolving Zeal product, and how the team begins with a focus on personalized, peer-to-peer learning and, based on feedback, refines the product to add in-class features and create a teacher product. Students will have the opportunity to explore how an early SaaS start-up in the educational technology space can approach early product development, pilot in classrooms, and connect with different stakeholders.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship; education technology; MVP; product development; product market fit; monetization strategy; SaaS business models; education; personalized learning;


    Kim, John J-H, and Christine S. An. "Zeal: Launching Personalized and Social Learning." Harvard Business School Case 315-052, January 2015. (Revised April 2015.)  View Details
  4. Curriculum Associates: Turning the Page from Tradition to Innovation

    John J-H Kim and Christine S. An

    Set in Fall 2014, the traditional textbook publishing industry is being transformed by technological innovations and new student achievement standards. This case chronicles how Rob Waldron, CEO, and his team bring Curriculum Associates (CA), a traditional supplemental publishing company, up to date amidst the changing publishing landscape.
    Founded in 1969, CA established a reputation as a pioneering workbook company specializing in helping teachers deliver targeted intervention for students in the classroom. As Waldron stepped into his role as CEO in 2008, he set about leveraging CA's existing educational expertise and relationships with school districts to take it from a traditional supplemental publishing company to a competitive player in the educational technology space. Waldron and the CA team—through innovations in curricular design, investments in technology, and a rigorous understanding of the Common Core State Standards—landed on a hit modular digital assessment and print-based workbook series called Ready®, Ready® Common Core, and i-Ready® Diagnostic and Instruction.
    In 2014, as sales are booming, Waldron and his team wonder how CA can stay competitive in the rapidly evolving publishing and education technology landscape while growing sustainably and building on its existing competitive advantage. The case gives students the opportunity to explore how a small or medium-sized privately-owned company can leverage its strengths and innovate while grappling with the challenges of providing software-as-a-service in the education sector, a leap for a company used to selling directly to schools and school districts.

    Keywords: education technology; SaaS; turnaround; textbook publishing; innovation; competitive advantage; Sales cycle; HR strategy; privately-funded businesses; sustainable growth; product development strategy; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Technological Innovation; Competitive Advantage; Publishing Industry;


    Kim, John J-H, and Christine S. An. "Curriculum Associates: Turning the Page from Tradition to Innovation." Harvard Business School Case 315-053, January 2015. (Revised January 2017.)  View Details
  5. AltSchool: School Reimagined

    John J-H Kim, Kyla Wilkes and Christine S. An

    Max Ventilla and his team launches in 2013 AltSchool, a new network of tech-savvy independent K-8 "micro-schools." AltSchool is born out of Ventilla's frustration with the education options available for his young daughter. During his search, Ventilla comes to the conclusion that American schools are not adequately preparing students for the future.
    Ventilla leverages his network and his expertise in personalization developed during his time as a serial entrepreneur and a founding team member of Google+; he sets about recruiting engineers, educators, VC investors, and families to set in motion his mission to provide high-quality personalized education that will change the way parents, students, and educators experience the school day. Ventilla focuses on three aspects: 1) using technology to reduce operational costs of the traditional school, 2) intense focus on customer service and reframing school as a service for parents, teachers, and students, and 3) using technology and data in the classroom to create a continuous improvement cycle. As Ventilla and the AltSchool team wrap up their first year in operation, they reflect on lessons learned from their iterative process; they reflect on the best ways for the team to grow their network of schools, to demonstrate success to their investors, and to have an impact on changing education in America. The case gives students the opportunity to explore how an education technology company can build new education technology tools, and alter school structures and funding models to set the stage for a new model for the education sector.

    Keywords: education; education technology; school models; product development; entrepreneurship; talent development and retention; social impact investment; Technology; Business Model; Education; Business Startups; Customization and Personalization; Growth and Development Strategy; Education Industry; United States;


    Kim, John J-H, Kyla Wilkes, and Christine S. An. "AltSchool: School Reimagined." Harvard Business School Case 315-054, February 2015. (Revised June 2016.)  View Details
Education Reform
  1. Career Pathways, Performance Pay, and Peer-review Promotion in Baltimore City Public Schools

    Susan Moore Johnson, John J-H Kim, Geoff Marietta, S. Elisabeth Faller and James Noonan

    In the fall of 2012, Dr. Andres Alonso had much to celebrate about in his five-year tenure as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, including the approval and implementation of an innovative teachers' contract with a jointly-governed four-tier career pathway that tied teacher pay and promotion to performance and peer review. Nonetheless, Alonso was concerned about the future of the contract and the reforms it introduced. It took two votes before the teachers ratified the contract in November 2010. Since then, implementation had been laborious, complicated, and uncertain. Many questions would have to be answered in the coming months. Was the district making the transition to a contract that rewarded "engagement" in a career pathway rather than passive reliance on steps and lanes? Were the processes for earning Achievement Units and progressing through the pathways rigorous enough so that the contract wouldn't default to the past practice where everyone moves up and earns more money? Were the joint governance structures established to direct and manage the career pathways, pay system, and peer-review process working effectively? How did the new system support the district's underlying theory of change? This is a Public Education Leadership Project (PELP) case study.

    Keywords: labor management; public education; PELP; union; compensation; collaboration; Public Education Leadership Project; Education; Labor; Compensation and Benefits; Education Industry; United States;


    Johnson, Susan Moore, John J-H Kim, Geoff Marietta, S. Elisabeth Faller, and James Noonan. "Career Pathways, Performance Pay, and Peer-review Promotion in Baltimore City Public Schools." Harvard Business Publishing Case, 2013. (Case No. PEL-071.)  View Details
  2. Ensina!

    John J-H Kim, Alejandra Meraz Velasco and Christine An

    In 2011, a group of passionate social entrepreneurs in Rio de Janeiro, with the support and encouragement of several prominent philanthropists and members of government, launch Ensina!, seizing Brazil's unprecedented economic growth and national commitment to education. The new independent educational non-profit is to be part of Teach For All, a global network of organizations inspired by Teach For America. While Ensina! is quickly able to raise the initial capital, recruit graduates from top colleges, garner positive press, and demonstrate early success in increasing student performance, the organization runs into a number of operational challenges in implementing its programs in schools. After pursuing various avenues to address obstacles for Ensina!'s execution found in navigating national education policy and funding, forging partnerships with municipal and state governments, confronting widespread cultural perspectives on teaching as a profession, and managing relationships with local school administrators and staff, Ensina!'s staff and board, despite some success and demonstrated impact, decide to suspend the program in January. Following this decision, Fabio Campos, the most recent CEO of Ensina!, contemplates the possibility of relauching a restructured Ensina! to help bring about enduring, transformative reform to Brazil's public education system, which he believes to be crucial to the future success of Brazil as a nation. The case presents students the opportunity to explore conditions necessary for successful collaborations between non-profit organizations and the government, grapple with the challenges of long-term large-scale performance improvement in public education, and examine Ensina!'s goals in public education reform and different operational strategies for organizations like Ensina! to consider implementing in the future.

    Keywords: Social Entrepreneurship; Teaching; Business and Government Relations; Education Industry; Brazil;


    Kim, John J-H, Alejandra Meraz Velasco, and Christine An. "Ensina!" Harvard Business School Case 413-121, June 2013. (Revised June 2016.)  View Details
  3. DaVita HealthCare Partners and the Denver Public Schools: Creating Connections

    John J-H Kim and Christine S. An

    In 2011, DaVita HealthCare Partners (DaVita)—a Fortune 500 healthcare services company specializing in kidney dialysis services—and the Denver Public Schools (DPS)—the largest school district in Colorado—forged a plan to incorporate greater intentional focus on culture and leadership within the district. A few months into the 2013-2014 school year, DaVita "Mayor" Kent Thiry, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, and members of their teams gather to review and assess the overall progress, impact, and challenges of their unique corporate-community partnership focused on leadership development and culture over the past two years. With the partnership showing great promise, Thiry and his team wonder how they might create new partnerships and grow their social impact as a company without detracting from DaVita's own growth and expansion and the needs of its own "teammates." The case gives students the opportunity to explore how a mission-driven Fortune 500 company can leverage its own resources and HR expertise to partner with non-corporate entities to create social value and support success in American public education.

    Keywords: corporate-community partnerships; k-12; school districts; DaVita; Kent Thiry; Tom Boasberg; Denver Public Schools; Wisdom Team; DaVita Way; Creating Connections; social enterprise; leadership development; community impact; education reform; public schools; culture; Leadership Development; Partners and Partnerships; Social Entrepreneurship; Education; Business and Community Relations; Culture; Education Industry; Health Industry; Colorado;


    Kim, John J-H, and Christine S. An. "DaVita HealthCare Partners and the Denver Public Schools: Creating Connections." Harvard Business School Case 315-047, December 2014.  View Details