“If we don’t do things differently, our classrooms will look the same in 20 years as they do now,” warned Senator Michael Bennet (D. Colo.) during a discussion on Wednesday at AEI about his proposal for a new education research and development (R&D) project. While nearly every other sector in the economy devotes 10 to 20 percent of its budget to R&D, only 0.2 percent of the federal education budget is allocated to research and development. Sen. Bennet proposed his Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) as a way to align the interests of school districts and technology strategists to individualize instruction. Jim Shelton of the U.S. Department of Education pointed out how closely the federal government’s investment in education R&D is tied to America’s competitive advantage. Drawing from his experience at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Ken Gabriel urged those in the education space to consider what ARPA-ED must do to enact the same fundamental changes in education as DARPA has had on defense. He stressed the importance of a sense of urgency and focus on R&D as a way to ensure the efficacy of an ARPA-ED. John Easton of the Institute of Education Sciences agreed that there is a need for increased R&D in education, but cautioned against overpromising: ARPA-ED should not be seen as a silver bullet, but should be considered in the larger context of current education research efforts.
Education innovation has a bad reputation, and deservedly so. Most heralded “innovations” in education prove neither innovative nor educational. Much of the blame is due to the dismal state of research and development (R&D) in education. One notable effort to upend the status quo has been put forward by Senator (and former Denver superintendent of schools) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who has called for the formation of an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education. Drawing inspiration from the famed Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), credited with nurturing breakthroughs including the Internet and ballistic missile defense, Bennet proposes to create a similar agency focused on education. Join us for a discussion with Senator Bennet; John Easton, commissioner of the Institute of Education Sciences; and Ken Gabriel, deputy director of DARPA; and Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.
FREDERICK M. HESS, AEI
SENATOR MICHAEL F. BENNET (D. Colo.), U.S. Senate
JOHN Q. EASTON, Institute of Education Sciences
KEN J. GABRIEL, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
JIM H. SHELTON, U.S. Department of Education
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Michael F. Bennet, the junior U.S. Senator from Colorado, was elected to his first full term on November 2, 2010. Sen. Bennet’s understanding of and leadership on complex financial, economic and education issues enable him to bring common-sense solutions to Washington. In his short time in the Senate, he has earned a reputation as an effective, thoughtful senator who reaches across the aisle to get the job done. A former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Sen. Bennet introduced an amendment to establish an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED) program in the bill to fix No Child Left Behind, which passed committee. ARPA-ED is an education research program based on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Before joining Denver Public Schools, Sen. Bennet was chief of staff to then Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and served as a managing director at the Anschutz Investment Company.
John Q. Easton is director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), where he started his six-year term on June 1, 2009. Mr. Easton came to IES from Chicago, where he was most recently executive director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago. He was affiliated with the consortium since its inception in 1990, and became its deputy director in 1997. He also served a term (2003-2007) on the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policies for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Mr. Easton is the author or co-author of numerous reports and articles, as well as two books, entitled “Charting Chicago School Reform: Democratic Localism as a Lever for Change” and “Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago,” published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010.
Ken J. Gabriel is the deputy director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Most recently, Mr. Gabriel was the founder, chairman and chief technical officer of Akustica, a semiconductor company commercializing Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors for consumer electronics products. After he founded the company in late 2001, his responsibilities focused on managing continued technology innovation, product development, manufacturing and business execution. He is the co-founding executive director of the MEMS Industry Group, the principal trade organization representing the MEMS industry globally and is widely regarded as the architect of the MEMS industry. In 1992, he was recruited to start DARPA’s MEMS program, and is credited for growing the effort to more than $80 million a year with more than 70 projects. He was promoted to director of the Electronics Technology Office (1996 – 1997), where he was responsible for nearly $450 million annually in electronics technology programs. Mr. Gabriel counts among his honors the Carlton Tucker Prize for Excellence in Teaching from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and appointment to the Senior Executive Service. He was also a visiting associate professor at the Institute of Industrial Science, University of Tokyo, where he led joint projects at IBM Japan Research, Toyota Central Research Laboratories and Ricoh Research Park.
Frederick M. Hess is resident scholar and director of education policy studies at AEI. An educator, political scientist, and author, he studies a range of K-12 and higher education issues. He pens the Education Week blog “Rick Hess Straight Up;” has authored influential books on education including “The Same Thing Over and Over,” “Education Unbound,” “Common Sense School Reform,” “Revolution at the Margins” and “Spinning Wheels.” He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, urban school reform, how to stretch the school dollar, education entrepreneurship, the federal role in education reform and No Child Left Behind. He also serves as executive editor of Education Next; as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program; on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education; and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 Schools and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high school social studies teacher, Mr. Hess has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University.
Jim H. Shelton is the assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. He manages a portfolio that includes most of the Department’s competitive teacher quality, school choice and learning technology programs. Previously, he served as a program director for the education division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr. Shelton has also been a partner at and the East Coast lead of NewSchools Venture Fund and co-founded LearnNow, a school management company that was later acquired by Edison Schools. He spent over four years as a senior management consultant with McKinsey & Company in Atlanta, where he advised CEOs and other executives on issues related to corporate strategy, business development, organizational design and operational effectiveness. Upon leaving McKinsey, he joined Knowledge Universe Inc., where he launched, acquired and operated education-related businesses.