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The Politics of Education Innovation

Ohanian Comment: Grab your barf bag. Vander Ark has a few typos here, but any criticism of that would be the pot calling the kettle black. . . though I would guess he has a staff. However, typos is the very least of the problems with this piece. You thought Klein was already on the dark side? Look at him now. And much much more at this conference of self-serving, technophilic, teacher-hating, money-hungry hypocrites.

About edReformer--in their own words: edReformer is a project of Vander Ark/Ratcliff, a full service strategic consulting firm, that focuses on serving the education and non-profit sectors. EdReformer was incubated by New Schools Venture Fund with support from a donor committed to innovations in learning.

Founding blogger Tom Vander Ark is CEO of Open Education Solutions, and a partner in VA/R and Learn Capital a early-stage learning venture fund. Tom is a former public school superintendent, grant-maker, and business executive. He chairs iNACOL and is a director of several nonprofits including MLA Partner Schools, and Strive for College.

Funny he doesn't mention having been Executive Director, Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Oh well, his words below speak for themselves, not to mention what Joel Klein has to say.

Take a look at the Education Innovation Advisory Board Members:

Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University (Co-Chair)

Michael Moe, NeXt Advisors (Co-Chair)

Curt Allen, President, CEO, Agilix Labs, Inc.

Jeanne Allen, President, Center for Education Reform

Stephen Arnold, Vice Chairman, George Lucas Educational Foundation

Mark Atkinson, Chairman, CEO, Teachscape

Cathleen Barton, US/SW Education Manager, Intel Corporation

Larry Berger, Co-Founder, CEO, Wireless Generation

Wallace Boston, President & CEO, American Public University System

Bob Bowen, Chairman & CEO , Scientific Learning

Jim Bowler, CEO, Adaptive Curriculum

Stacey Childress, Deputy Director of Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Phil Clough, Managing General Partner, ABS Capital Partners

Ryan Craig, Director, Wellspring

John Danner, Co-Founder and CEO, Rocketship Education

Edward Fields, CEO, HotChalk

Paul Freedman, President, CEO, Altius Education

Miles Gilburne, Board Member, ePals

Lisa Graham Keegan, Principal, The Coalition for Educational Freedom, and former Superintendent of Public Instruction of Arizona

Michael Horn, Executive Director, Innosight Institute

Doug Kelsall, CEO, ESM

Marguerite Kondracke, President and CEO, America's Promise Alliance

Matt Leavy, CEO, eCollege (Pearson)

Margery Mayer, President, Scholastic Education, Scholastic Inc.

Ted Mitchell, CEO, New Schools Venture Fund

Ron Packard, CEO, K12

Bill Pepicello, President, University of Phoenix

Daniel Pianko, Founder and Managing Member, Noah Fund, LLC

Matthew Pittinsky, CEO, Parchment, and Co-Founder and former Executive Chairman and CEO of Blackboard

Deborah Quazzo, Founder, NeXtAdvisors

Mickey Revenaugh, Senior Vice President, Connections Academy

John Robinson, Founder and Chairman, rSmart

Julia Rosen, AVP for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, ASU

Steve Seleznow, President and CEO, Arizona Community Foundation

Alan Todd, Chairman, Corp U

Tom Vander Ark, Managing Partner, Revolution Learning

Ben Wallerstein, Managing Director, Dutko Worldwide

Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO, DreamBox Learning, Inc.

Julia Rosen, AVP for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, ASU

Patricia Reiter, Principal, Enterprise Design4 IMPACT

Think about who's missing.

By the way Pearson is the "Presidential Sponsor" for this event. You can see other sponsors here.

A sponsor for a session at which James Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary, US Department of Education, spoke was American School Choice Week.

by Tom Vander Ark

The best advocate for kids in America, Joel Klein, former NYC chancellor, closed the ASU Education Innovation Summit. Klein is convinced that education is the most important issue this country faces and that the fountain of incrementalism won't work for our kids or our nation.

A few months into his new role at News Corp, Joel opened his discussion with Marguerite Kondracke with three observations:

1. Innovation doesn't happen with monopoly providers--it can't and won't. Joel noted that everyone at the summit demands educational choice but assign income families to a school. The neediest kids deserve options just like affluent kids.

2. We must professionalize teaching. Joel said it rubbed him the wrong way working in an environment where excellence did not matter--a pension and seniority driven system where people did not think about getting better every day.

3. Education reform is not sufficient--the delivery system is broken. Joel points to the 2.5x increase in investment and 75% increase in staffing over the least three decades with no improvement in results. "If you don't change the delivery system, you won't get different results."

Joel continued, "The system works the way it was designed, life time tenure, unmatched pension benefits, and a raise for working every year-- and a real college ready graduation rates of about 35%." Klein is convinced that it's a national security risk "if we have smaller entrepreneurial class and larger working class."

Joel was very complementary of Jeb Bush's "heroic leadership" in Florida and now nationally (through Foundation for Excellence in Education and Digital Learning Now). And speaking of leadership, a big part of Klein's legacy is an extraordinary cohort of leaders now leading reform in other cities: John White, Chris Cerf, Andres Alonso, Garth Harries, and JC Brizard (to name a few).

Kondracke asked Klein about what's next from News Corp. Joel discussed the learning transformation to come and the five key drivers:

1. The shift print to digital: dynamic and interactive instructional content is coming fast.

2. Data driven system: with digital learning and more instant feedback, we can try a dozen lessons and see what works best, test empirically whether fractions should come before decimals or whether it matters whether physics comes before biology. Klein thought Wireless Generation (a News Corp company) was well positioned in this regard.

3. The shift from classroom-centric to device-centric learning unbound by time and place.

4. Customization by level and approach.

5. Human capital: the ability to focus on the value-added and really inspirational part of learning, and not asking every one to do the same stuff (like build lesson plans).

Joel mentioned The Race Between Education and Technology, Katz and Goldin, and Special Interest, Terry Moe's new book,[Take a look at who raves about this book] as two important reads. He thought they illustrated why we need to be disruptive--because the future won't be kind.

Klein's advice on innovation, "Hold on to big dreams, find someone to fund them, and have as few meetings as possible."

Politics, Pundits, and Poor Schools. Carols Watson, Goldman Sachs, moderated a panel of education reformer that kicked off the second day at Sky Song.

Jon Hage, Charter Schools USA, has quietly built a large high performing school network across Florida. Hage is an organizer and recently played an instrumental role in restarting Florida Charter School Alliance. Like National Heritage and Mosaica, CSUSA has rehabilitated the image of for-profit school management companies. Hage's results give him some political capital in Tallahassee.

Adrian Fenty, former mayor of Washington DC said, "The results speak for themselves,"--about the Rhee agenda, "After three years there was dramatic improvement in all indicators." But Fenty lost a close election last year--a case where Rhee and Fenty spent more political capital than was in the bank.

Ron Huberman, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools sought to explod three common myths:

1. More money will fix the problem: we've proven that spending more doesn't improve outcomes.

2. Reformers will win the ground fight: that will never happen. Families (and organizers themselves) have been poorly served for decades and don't have expectations for dramatically better schools.

3. The problems are all on the teachers union: a flawed governance structure is a more fundamental problem.

Ron suggests we need massive change forced top down. Schools should win the right to educate children based on a track record of performance. Bad schools should be closed and replaced. "Unless we address these we'll be in the land of incrementalism." Huberman said "It's not the money, it's not the unions," and "it's about leadership."

Huberman's call for aggressive top down reforms drew applause from the audience of edupreneurs but aggressive reforms take political capital--someone has to have a reserve that they are willing to spend to push top-down reform. Klein and Huberman had the opportunity to work under mayoral control with mayors that had some political capital that they were willing to spend on a strong reform agenda. Few other leaders have that sort of reservoir of capital to draw upon.

Phil Handy, former state board chair in Florida, noted that aggressive reform takes political support and political support costs money (e.g., a reform PAC) Phil also pointed out that key state key chief positions are open in Florida, Colorado, and Ohio.

The key takeaway from these bookend sessions that opened and closed day two at Sky Song is that we need aggressive reforms--in fact we need to replace an obsolete system with web of personal digital learning opportunities. This massive and historic shift will require a great deal of political capital to overcome a resilient system.

The ASU team did a great job supporting the Summit. Moe and Quazzo invited an interesting list of companies. ASU appreciates the potential to build an edtech cluster in PHX that could be as important as biotech is to Boston or San Diego.

— Tom Vander Ark





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