Greater Net Impact on Education

At the Net Impact conference last fall, I was pleased to see the number of MBA students interested in education entrepreneurship. It appears that “green business” is the leading draw for B-schoolers that want to “do well while doing good;” however there were many well-attended sessions on education, and the exhibit hall included several of the usual edsuspects looking for fresh talent.

I was surrounded by talented, and educated MBA students motivated to make a positive impact on the world. Leading a school is a great opportunity, but what are the options if you haven’t already been a teacher?? Go back and get another Masters in education, incur even more student loans, and then spend 2-3 years teaching first??

I say an Education X-Prize for the person that can fix this one.

-Guestblogger Michael Robbins

13 Replies to “Greater Net Impact on Education”

  1. While I think its great to see MBAs and other such high flyers trying to help fix the education problems we have, I continue to be somewhat saddened by the almost nonexistent participation by young, poor, black and latino students. All the top names in education reform seem to belong to people who aren’t a part of this new generation. Is it any wonder a solution hasn’t been found?

  2. The Broad Foundation has a program designed to provide support for MBAs to make the transition to K-12. I am a Broad Resident and have been incredibly impressed by the support I have received. Here is a description from their website and a link for more information:

    The Broad Residency in Urban Education is a management development program for emerging executives seeking a career in management that makes an impact. The program is designed for graduates from business, public policy, and law schools who have at least four years of work experience in the private or public sector. The Broad Residency provides immediate placement into full-time management positions in urban school districts and charter management organizations (CMOs), while providing two years of professional development and access to a nationwide network of education leaders.

  3. Building Excellent Schools provides a one year fellowship to train and support school leaders in the founding of charter schools. Fellows receive a pretty substantial salary, intensive instruction in charter school governance and management, and guidance in building community support and sheparding charter applications through the authorizing process. It’s a great opportunity for people with entrepreneurial spirit, and they’ve helped start schools across the country.

  4. The Broad Residency and Building Excellent Schools are great efforts, but Broad puts folks on a path to central administration and BES gets people into leading charter schools. The real atom to crack here is getting these folks directly into leadership roles in traditional public school buildings.

  5. Uncommon Schools just launched the Hollyhock and Howitt fellowships for Instructional and Operations Leadership. These paid fellowships were created specifically to provide a path to direct school leadership at an Uncommon School.

    During this fellowship, future leaders will receive ongoing professional development and one-on-one mentoring from Paul Bambrick, John King, Doug
    Lemov, Brett Peiser, and Evan Rudall, founders and leaders of high-performing schools such as Boston Collegiate, North Star Academy,and Roxbury Prep. They will work on concrete, rigorous projects throughout the year and work to build the blueprint for their school to launch in the following year.

    The deadline for the next round of applications is March 1 – you can find out more at

  6. I don’t see that cracking the atom requires working within traditional public school buildings. How many traditional public school leaders operate in districts which allow them room to be truly entrepreneurial? I can’t see why a bright MBA type would want to go work in an organization that doesn’t provide him or her with the power to hire and fire, allocate their budget as they see fit, build their own schedule and curriculum, etc. The only place I know where this is remotely possible is within systems such as Boston that allows pilot schools, which are essentially locally authorized charter schools. The atom is being cracked from the outside by organizations like Green Dot which start highly successful charter schools to pressure the district into change. So I’d encourage the talent out there to bombard the atom with an external source of energy: great charter schools. When they reach critical mass, the traditional public schools will have no choice but to follow.

  7. I hope Broad does an honest “lessons learned” of the recent experience in Oklahoma City. The superintendent was a Broad grad, and he shook things up, and was forced out in seven months. The saddest thing is that he could have been good if he had taken time to listen and learn. Did Broad encourage that impatience?

  8. Whay do I get the idea that people think it is below them – heavens forbid – to teach. Is this part of the ABT – Anything But Teach movement? One of the major gaps is a lack of respect for teachers. That is why everyone should spend 5 years teaching before they think of running a school.

    I was plenty entrepreneurial as an elementary classroom teacher for many years – at least until a new principal started making everyone teach to the test.

    Instead of going to Broad Academies go to an urban school to teach and try to make a direct difference in the lives of kids.

  9. As a BES alumni who started a charter school, I can speak to its effectiveness to give people an opportunity to get involved directly. But as the comments above reveal, starting a single school, training to be a superintendent, or getting new teachers in a classroom are only parts of the fix. We have a severely broken system that resists real change. Further the educational crisis continues to call for quick fixes that do not work. After close to 10 years of charters, TFA, Broad, New Leaders (and all the others of this ilk) training outsiders to come save the system…we have not saved it yet. I don’t see a “silver bullet,” a “watershed moment,” nor do I see the “burning platform” that might lead to radical change. The very clear message is that it takes time, consistency, commitment, and investment to change such a system. Let’s do what we can to empower and reward the people who can and want to do this hard work well. It’s not a small select group who will save education (this is not a sustainable model for reform). It may take a small group to spark a revolution but it will require a broad spectrum of committed people to create a new system. let’s remember the bigger picture too.

  10. I don’t disagree with any of the above but I’d still like to hear from Broad and/or other people who do similar things. Is there a lessons learned process?

  11. Go teach at a charter school first (to avoid immediate issues of certification). If you’re still interested in being an adminstrator after a few years, then do something like NLNS, BES, Broad, or the new Uncommon Schools program. But really, it’s important to teach first…not everyone is cut out for education, just like not everyone is cut out for I-banking or retail, regardless of degrees, intelligence, passion, etc.

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