Smart Paper on Smart Demand

A new Bellwether paper by Kim Smith and Julie Peterson takes a look at how to increase the demand for innovation in education.

Our schools face a productivity crisis: we have raised our expectations for what they will accomplish and the number of students they will prepare at high levels, while holding resources relatively constant—or even decreasing them. By “productivity” we do not mean merely “efficiency.” Efficiency is about cost savings and when narrowly pursued, can actually put quality at risk. But improving public education is not about cutting corners, it’s about delivering greater and deeper learning to a greater number of our children, without a significant infusion of additional resources, be they time, money or energy, or all of the above…

…In other sectors, the “venturesome” role of customers allows innovation to flourish. As innovation researcher Amar Bhide has observed, “the willingness and ability of users to undertake a venturesome part plays a critical role in determining the ultimate value of innovations.” But in education, there simply isn’t enough of this so-called “venturesome” or “smart” demand to go around. Education buyers—mostly districts, but also states and schools—are, like most government agencies, extremely conservative and with complex, increasingly difficult jobs. Of course, there are some early adopters who eagerly push the market forward by piloting new programs and experimenting with new technologies, but the wider education field rarely rewards these innovators by adopting more effective innovations quickly and broadly, as other fields like technology, retail and manufacturing commonly do.

4 Replies to “Smart Paper on Smart Demand”

  1. The irony is that we encourage students to learn from their mistakes, be accountable, operate outside their comfort zone, challenge themselves, have high expectations, and tell them that they are capable of achieving any goal if they apply themselves.

    Yet, as their stewards we are not willing to hold ourselves to the same standard. Well below it fact.

    To introduce “innovation” in the education field, is to put one’s self in harm’s way. Playing it safe is simply staying well within the confines of traditional curriculum and teaching methods that are supported simply by nostalgia.

    By any metric, the performance of students in K-12 is declining, some say it is dire; particularly in areas of need. Yet when we push venturesome and innovation they are not embraced (NCLB) because the education culture does not reward risk takers or accountability.

    As we introduce innovation with all its promise, we need to change the culture on this “Animal Farm” so that educators can tell students “Do as I do!”

  2. Yes, “But in education, there simply isn’t enough of this so-called “venturesome” or “smart” demand to go around.” That was true before NCLB, but data-driven accountability made things worse. Advocates of choice must make a choice. They must decide whether to continue the politics of imposing fear and coercion and top down mandates on the great majority of schools, while freeing themselves to be venturesome, or to seek smart demand.

  3. What’s missing from this report – and missing from the vast majority of such efforts – is any acknowledgement of the role motivation plays in change. Yes, innovation is important. But why would someone take on the hard work it entails? There are no real motivators built in to the current system. In fact a real innovation would be to find a way to introduce them.

  4. INERTIA exists in both the schools and the edu-experts.

    Why should an intelligent person labor in the schools, fix things in math and science, and then watch all of the credit get swooped away from him or her by a legion of blood sucking edu-experts?

    There is NO way for productive teachers in math and science who ADD REAL VALUE to capture the worth of their intellectual efforts.

    So, what do smart people do? They simply will not apply their best efforts when they full well know they will receive NO BENEFIT.

    Sounds like the free market to me.

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