Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities
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About This Event

Entrepreneurship is often practiced in education, but rarely is it subjected to careful consideration. Though today’s entrepreneurs are gradually remaking the face of K-12 education, most accounts of their work either celebrate successes or bemoan their excesses. Seldom do observers stop to examine the challenges and opportunities in store.

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Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities (Harvard Education Press, August 2006), Frederick M. Hess of AEI and a team of savvy contributors tackle the hard questions that have too long gone unasked: What is educational entrepreneurship and what does it look like? Who are the educational entrepreneurs? What tools and policies do they need to be successful? What are the roadblocks that they face?

Please join Hess as he discusses these questions with three trailblazing educational entrepreneurs: Michael Feinberg, cofounder of KIPP Schools; Michelle Rhee, chief executive officer and president of The New Teacher Project; and Chris Whittle, founder and chief executive officer of Edison Schools.

Agenda
3:45 p.m.
Registration
4:00
Presenter:
Frederick M. Hess, AEI
Discussants: Michael Feinberg, Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)
Michelle Rhee, The New Teacher Project
Chris Whittle, Edison Schools
5:30
Wine and Cheese Reception
6:30
Adjournment
Event Summary

September 2006

Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities


Entrepreneurship is often practiced in education, but rarely is it subjected to careful consideration. Though today’s entrepreneurs are gradually remaking the face of K-12 education, most accounts of their work either celebrate successes or bemoan their excesses. Seldom do observers stop to examine the challenges and opportunities in store.

In Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, Possibilities (Harvard Education Press, August 2006), Frederick M. Hess of AEI and a team of savvy contributors tackle the hard questions that have too long gone unasked: What is educational entrepreneurship and what does it look like? Who are the educational entrepreneurs? What tools and policies do they need to be successful? What are the roadblocks that they face?

Frederick M. Hess
AEI

Discussions of educational entrepreneurship are rare and tend to happen around the margins of educational reform efforts. This is troubling because entrepreneurship is vital to both accountability and choice-based school reform. Entrepreneurship is more than simply charter schools—it is about increasing flexibility, creating greater educational opportunities, and fundamentally reinventing how U.S. education is run. It is a process of purposeful innovation intended to improve educational quality, efficiency, and productivity. Entrepreneurship is also essential because we can never accurately predict the successes of the future. Thus, new ideas should be allowed to play themselves out.

Michael Feinberg
Knowledge Is Power Program

Educational entrepreneurship requires overcoming challenges and refusing to go with the flow. When the KIPP school system was started in 2000, its cofounders recognized the need to implement true school reform. The program that initially started as strictly a fifth grade program now operates 52 schools and has long waiting lists of students. KIPP’s goal is to help children thrive, and its strength is its emphasis on results. This results-orientated approach can provide data and leverage to influence public policy. KIPP seeks to expand by creating ten to fifteen new schools each year and making its existing schools larger. So can entrepreneurship apply to education? The creation of FedEx forced the U.S. Postal Service to improve the quality of its service only because it focused on results. If quality can be controlled in education and if new ventures are similarly focused on results, entrepreneurship can have a positive effect on the system.

Chris Whittle
Edison Schools, Inc.

There is no difference between entrepreneurship in education and in any other sector; in fact, educational entrepreneurs are typically social revolutionaries who would have worked in another sector. They simply introduce new thinking into the system. Entrepreneurship will be explosive in the future as the lessons learned from current efforts will help to shape a whole new wave of schools all over the world.

When discussing public policy, two issues come to mind: 1) Educational and structural protectionism should be eliminated. For example, charter schools shouldn’t be expected to achieve higher test scores when they receive less than full funding and are not allowed to replicate successful models. 2) The federal government should increase education funding for research and development and enhance public-private partnerships.

Michelle Rhee
The New Teacher Project

TNTP contracts with public school districts to recruit qualified teachers to urban schools through non-traditional routes. At the start, the program had difficulty getting districts to sign, but its contingency model for payment was attractive to many districts. This model requires that the contracted number of teachers be recruited or the school district is not obligated to pay. TNTP differs from the traditional recruitment methods of public schools because it generates revenue through its efficiency and its results-based services.

Like KIPP, TNTP had no intention of affecting public policy when it began. However, two reports issued by the program have affected education policy. The first report finds that the current shortage of qualified teachers could be eliminated with better recruitment strategies. And the second report finds that teachers unions’ collective bargaining agreements prevent districts from hiring the most qualified teachers and then prevents them from teaching where they are most-needed. This data brought the issue to policymakers’ attention and helped change collective bargaining agreements in California and New York City.

AEI intern Peter Mui prepared this summary. 

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