Sara Mead and I have a new paper out from Brookings about changing the federal role in education innovation based on the experience of the past few years as well as broader changes in the field.   You can read the entire paper here (pdf) or a policy brief version here (pdf).   The paper obviously gets much deeper into the challenges and opportunities here.  More on all this later because it seems likely to be a theme of the next administration, especially if that administration is an Obama Administration.  Though it’s challenging, as a field we need to get better at this to see the kinds of changes that people on all sides of most of these various debates want to see.  Sara has more here.

6 Replies to “Innovate!”

  1. Government Entrepreneurship = OXYMORON!

    Government means the absence of entrepreneurship. Only private owners of capital take true risks and suffer the consequences of failure. Government does not risk its own capital and can pass on failure to the taxpayer. Your torturing of the the word ‘entrepreneur’ is downright Orwellian.

    When I read about your proposal for OEEI, the “Office of Educational Entrepreneurship and Innovation (OEEI) within the U.S. Department of Education” I want to vomit. You must worship the state?

    I laugh when you claim that this office will be “small and nimble”. At best it will achieve the same status as military special forces- who are tools of imperial interests and get hampered by bureaucrats, sent into immoral wars that cause more problems than solve, and are deployed with wrong intel, at the wrong time, and at the wrong place- which causes many innocents to suffer and die. Well, at least these elite units are “small and nimble”!

    What you educrats need to learn is that government is not a mechanism for rational distribution of resources due to its inability to engage in economic calculation and its inherent lack of proper incentives to do the right thing. Only in a market can truly “small and nimble” providers emerge. Market actors respond because they have the most clarity concerning consumer demand as well as the most incentive to serve them properly. That is where to find real entrepreneurs!

  2. Very impressive report. I can’t wait until my wife gets my printer working so I can read it at leisure. Struggling to read on the screen, and use the cut and paste function whenever I came across something exceptionally profound, I made a complete mess. You simply had too many good ideas for this helpless male to handle.

    I loved your big picture, to GROW what works, and your focus on a culture of innovation. I learned a lot about why previous innovations failed.

    I hope Obama himself reads your paragraph on the predictable ways that NCLB failed to change education’s culture of compliance. I loved your discussions of the inherent weakness of the tests encouraged by NCLB. I loved Mead’s focus on early education. I loved your practical recommendations on building capacity.

    If you believe, “Yes, We Can,” than you have to be impressed with your work.

  3. I am probably somewhere betweeen John Birch “Reason” and John Thompson. I appreciate your work although I wish you would change the article “a” to “the” in your subtitle “Unleashing the Potential of a Metropolitan Nation.”

    Some of us only come to D.C. et al when forced to do so and want nothing to do with your Metropolitan Nation (There’s only so many beardless baseball capped ex-lacrosse players in khakis and oxford shirts that I can be forced to endure in a year) The biggest problem with federal government intrusion into education is that it cannot distinguish what works in Chicago from what works in Cheyenne. Unleash your plan through the state capitals as opposed to the DOE, then I would be less likely to mistake your call for reform as a call to arms.

  4. A Bircher? That is funny. I enjoyed your comment!

    If I were a Bircher I would uphold the following belief as stated on the Society’s website:

    “In the United States, however, a conservative is one who seeks to support and retain the traditional institutions of the U.S. government, including the rule of law under the Constitution, and the political doctrines of individual rights and freedom as espoused by the Founding Fathers.”

    Although I agree with the idea of individual rights I am not a supporter of the Constitution any longer. When I think of all the heinous imperialism and legal plunder emanating from Mordor D.C. I begin to conclude as Lysander Spooner did. If the Constitution allowed for all this oppression then it is a failed document; if it cannot stop the assault on humanity then it is a failed document.

    The Declaration of Independence is so much better. If rewritten today you might think it would have to include a grievance about educrats but then you read this from the original and realize that the Founding Fathers were already on the case:

    “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”

  5. The report calls for multi-age groups in the classroom. Didn’t they try that in the 1800’s? They called them one-room school-houses. But then again it’s consistent with Andy and Sara’s pronouncement that parents tend to want education to be like it was for them, so they resist innovation. Since today’s parents weren’t around in the 1800’s the one-room school house will appear as innovation. Oh, I know, I’m missing the point. Andy and Sara are proposing one room school houses with Smart Boards and lap tops, thereby facilitating individual instruction. MY BAD!

    I’m not a policy person so forgive me for my naivete, but how about something real innovative like content rich curricula in which facts are presented and students learn to think with those facts–sometimes even critically. How about doing away with hands-on vendor-based nonsense, with inquiry-based learning and using techniques that succeeded with people like Andy and Sara. Oh, MY BAD AGAIN. Andy and Sara don’t represent most kids. The traditional approach works for some but not all, so we need differentiated instruction. That’s where the lap-tops and smart boards come in. I think I’m getting it. There’s so much to learn.

  6. A very thoughtful and promising report. It reminded me of something that William McDonough, former Dean of the School of Architecture at UVA and a certified hero of the environmental movement, said about the role of government. He said that he considered the need for regulation to be evidence of design failure and provided a compelling argument for a federal agency (in this case the EPA) to move beyond being the “keeper of the regulations” to becoming “the identifier and promoter of innovations”. Interesting to contemplate what a DOE that didn’t rely on regulations to attempt change might be like.

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