More Than Just Schools: Rethinking the Demand for Educational Entrepreneurship
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Imagine an entity that provides a critical service to the public and spends half a trillion dollars each year--but rarely asks or examines what consumers want. Rather, it relies on Listen to Audio

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what analysts and experts think the public should want. It would seem impossible for such an enterprise to exist and remain solvent. That enterprise is K-12 education, where little or no thought is given to the study and understanding of the services that parents and educators want and need for children. This failure has fueled a bureaucratic, one-size-fits-all school system and hindered the ability of entrepreneurs to emerge and better target particular populations and needs.

Entrepreneurship in K-12 schooling has generally focused on efforts to boost the supply of familiar things: more good schools, more talented teachers, and more effective school leaders. Consequently, the best known and most celebrated endeavors have tended to be "whole school" solutions. Too often missing, however, has been careful analysis of how differentiated solutions or innovative tools might enable education providers to meet the demands for schooling in smarter ways.

AEI's director of education policy studies, Frederick M. Hess, and Bruno Manno of the Walton Family Foundation will discuss more promising approaches to entrepreneurship in teaching and learning with a roster of esteemed education leaders, entrepreneurs, and policy experts.

Event Summary

WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 7--For schooling to become more efficient and effective, providers must be sensitive to consumer demand and craft services that meet the individualized needs of students, parents, and teachers, said a roster of education experts at an AEI conference on December 7.

With AEI director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess and Bruno Manno of the Walton Family Foundation moderating, representatives from Harvard University, Washington, D.C., Public Schools, Edison Schools, and many others provided new research and insights into the emerging field of education entrepreneurs who are tailoring their products to the differentiated needs of schooling customers. This demand-side approach to education provision, the panelists asserted, will spur innovation and encourage for-profit companies to tap into a growing market for customized schooling. As Curtis Johnson of Education|Evolving noted, the traditional top-down production of education is simply archaic: "That's not the way innovation and change and improvement occur in any industry. You let people try things, [and] things that work, they scale up themselves. It's demand that delivers the scale."

Many panelists noted that the current schooling approach in K-12 is one-size-fits-all and gives little or no consideration of the services that parents and educators want and need for children. This failure has fueled a bureaucratic, unresponsive school system and hindered the ability of entrepreneurs to emerge and better target particular populations and needs.

The entrepreneurship that does exist in K-12 schooling has generally focused on efforts to boost the supply of familiar things: good schools, talented teachers, and effective school leaders. Consequently, the best-known and most celebrated endeavors have tended to be "whole school" solutions. Too often missing, however, has been careful analysis of how differentiated solutions or innovative tools might enable education providers to meet the demands for schooling in smarter ways.

Raising responsiveness to consumer demand for services or products that fall outside the traditional offerings of schools would bring the education sector closer to markets that have moved away from top-down provision and toward consumer interests. Some panelists argued that the inclusion of market mechanisms within public education would not only help to raise efficiency, but also to instill greater accountability. "For a market to work, there has to be a consequence," said Jeff Cohen of K12, Inc., and in public education, "there is no consequence for failure, and therefore there's not an efficient market."

The panelists also emphasized the importance of harnessing new technologies to target and track student, parent, and teacher demands better. Jon Fullerton of Harvard University said, "This is not like the Apollo missions where when . . . we said we were going to get to the moon, we didn't actually have the rockets that were able to get us to the moon. We have the technology that allows us to do this."


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Speaker biographies

Tamara Battaglino cofounded and leads the Parthenon Group's Education Center of Excellence. For over fifteen years, she has advised clients on issues related to operational excellence, strategy development, and new venture creation. Her clients include a wide range of organizations from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, school districts, government agencies, and some of the world's largest foundations. Ms. Battaglino has led dozens of engagements with organizations that include the New York City Department of Education, the New York State Department of Education, Boston Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, and leading education-focused foundations and nonprofits.

Gina Burkhardt is chief executive officer of Learning Point Associates, a nationally recognized nonprofit education research and consulting organization. Previously, Ms. Burkhardt worked as executive director at the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and was named its executive director in 1999. A lifelong educator, Ms. Burkhardt began her career as a middle school mathematics and science teacher in upstate New York. Since then, she has held positions in higher education, managed school reform projects at the regional educational laboratories, and consulted nationally and internationally on education policy and practice and education systems design. Ms. Burkhardt currently serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Knowledge Alliance, and Editorial Projects in Education.

George Cigale has served as's chairman and chief executive officer since founding the company in 1998. Under Mr. Cigale's leadership, has created the leading on-demand homework help and online tutoring services, making professional tutors available to all students the minute they need academic help. Mr. Cigale brings over twenty years of experience in education, software, and Internet industries and in executive positions at the Share Group, Adizes Institute, and the Princeton Review. Mr. Cigale served on the boards of the Education Industry Association from 2001 to 2006 and Libraries for the Future from 2007 to 2009. He now serves on the National Advisory Council of Johns Hopkins University School of Education and on the boards of directors of Poets House and the Software and Information Industry Association Education Division. He is a guest lecturer on venture capital law at New York University Law School and has been published in Library Journal. His blog can be found at

Jeff Cohen is the president and chief executive officer of Educate, Inc. Educate is the parent company of several education companies, including Sylvan Learning Inc., the nation's leading provider of supplemental education. Sylvan has a network of more than 1,000 learning centers throughout North America and has provided tutoring and other educational services to more than 2 million families. Mr. Cohen was previously the president of Catapult Learning, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Educate, Inc., and a leading provider of public school, nonpublic school, and community-based education services. In addition to growing the core Catapult business and acquiring a special education services company, Mr. Cohen managed the launch and eventual sale of Education Station, LLC, which provided after-school tutoring under the Supplemental Educational Services provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Josh Edelman is the deputy chief in the office of school innovation (OSI) for the District of Columbia Public Schools. OSI oversees efforts to support and empower fifty-eight D.C. public schools through the infusion of unique programmatic elements targeting student investment and achievement. Previously, Mr. Edelman was the executive officer of the Office of New Schools at Chicago Public Schools, which worked to recruit, develop, and support new schools and ultimately hold them accountable to high performance measures. Mr. Edelman has also held various leadership positions at the SEED Foundation, first on the board of directors, then as principal of the SEED School, a public charter boarding school in Washington, D.C. Mr. Edelman is also a seasoned educator. After teaching at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, he taught social studies for seven years at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California, where he was also the founder and executive director for Realizing Intellect through Self-Empowerment, a youth development program targeted at African American youth.

Jon Fullerton is the executive director of the Center for Education Policy Research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and senior practice expert in the McKinsey & Company social-sector office. Mr. Fullerton has extensive experience working with policymakers and executives in designing and implementing organizational change and improvements. Before coming to Harvard, Mr. Fullerton served as the Board of Education's director of budget and financial policy for the Los Angeles Unified School District. In this capacity, he provided independent evaluations of district reforms and helped to ensure that the district's budget was aligned with board priorities. From 2002 to 2005, he was vice president of strategy, evaluation, research, and policy at the Urban Education Partnership in Los Angeles, where he worked with policymakers to ensure that they focused on high-impact educational strategies. Mr. Fullerton previously worked for five years at McKinsey & Company as a strategy consultant.

Frederick Hess, AEI's director of education policy studies, is an educator, political scientist, author, and popular speaker and commentator. He has written such influential books as Spinning Wheels (Brookings, 1998), Revolution at the Margins (Brookings, 2002), and Common Sense School Reform (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). A former public high school social studies teacher, he has also taught education and policy at universities including Georgetown, Harvard, Rice, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. He is executive editor of Education Next, a faculty associate with Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance, and serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and also on the review board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education. At AEI, Mr. Hess addresses a range of K-12 and higher education issues.

Curtis Johnson is managing partner for Education|Evolving, a Minnesota-based organization that assists in the evolution of public school systems at the state and national levels. Mr. Johnson coauthored, with Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn, the provocative 2008 book Disrupting Class (McGraw-Hill). He is also the coauthor of three books about public policy issues in urban regions, most recently Century of the City (Rockefeller Foundation, 2008). As a longtime writer with the Citistates Group, Mr. Johnson, along with columnist Neal Peirce, has written more than a hundred feature-length articles on a wide range of public policy issues which have appeared in more than fifty newspapers over the past twenty years. He has also been a teacher, a community college president, the head of a citizen think tank, a policy adviser and chief of staff to a Minnesota governor, and the chairman of the board of one of America's only two regional governments.

Doug Lynch is the vice dean at the graduate school of education at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an academic director in the Wharton School's executive education program. Mr. Lynch was formerly assistant dean for corporate learning, new business development, and international initiatives at New York University. He has also worked at the College Board and at Arizona State University. Mr. Lynch's educational programs have won several national awards, including the president's award for exporting, the first time a college was recognized for commercial innovation by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Mr. Lynch has sat on presidential, congressional, and state advisory boards both in New York and Arizona and currently is on the board of visitors of the CIA. He is the chair of the public policy council for the American Society of Training and Development and is on the advisory board of Harvard University's "Forgotten Half" project.

Bruno Manno is the former senior program associate for education at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and now serves as a senior adviser for the Walton Family Foundation. Mr. Manno has directed the Baltimore philanthropy's investments in education since 1998. He played several key roles at the U.S. Department of Education beginning in 1986, as director of planning and acting assistant secretary of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, as assistant secretary of education for policy and planning under Secretary Lamar Alexander, and as special assistant to Secretary Alexander. He left the federal government in 1993 to become senior fellow in the Education Policy Studies Program at the Hudson Institute, where he served as executive director of the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal and as associate director of Hudson's Modern Red Schoolhouse Project. Mr. Manno served as executive director of the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education in 1997 and 1998 and is a director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. He is coauthor of Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education (Princeton University Press, 2000) and a frequent writer and commentator on education issues.

Deborah McGriff is a partner at NewSchools Venture Fund, where she leads the firm's Academic Systems Initiative, and contributes to investment strategy and management assistance for a variety of its portfolio ventures. She serves on the board of directors of DC Prep, Friendship Public Charter School, and Leadership Public Schools. Ms. McGriff has also held numerous positions at EdisonLearning, including president of Edison Teachers College, executive vice president of Charter Schools, and executive vice president of several external relations functions. Prior to joining EdisonLearning, Ms. McGriff served as the first female general superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, the first female assistant superintendent in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the first female deputy superintendent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She currently holds board positions for organizations including the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Cathy Mincberg is the current vice president and chief academic officer of KC Distance Learning (KCDL), an online education program for sixth through twelfth grade students in three settings: at home or in private schools, in the public school classroom, and in public school virtual schools. At KCDL, she is working to provide the differentiated instruction that online learning offers to students in 140 courses as diverse as credit recovery and Advanced Placement. Since 1982, Ms. Mincberg has been involved in the school reform movement. She served as the chief business officer in Houston following her board service, where reforms of all business operations produced over $100 million in savings and dramatic improvements in productivity through the use of metrics and process improvements. Ms. Mincberg continued her work in school reform as the chief operating officer of the Portland Public Schools from 2005 to 2009.

Eva Moskowitz, a Harlem native and mother of three, is founder and chief executive officer of Success Charter Network, which runs four charter schools in Harlem. In August 2006, Ms. Moskowitz founded Harlem Success Academy, hailed by New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein as "one of the best charter schools in the country" and cited by New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for its "amazing performance." Ms. Moskowitz opened three more charter schools in August 2008 and plans to open forty over the next decade. A former New York City council member and chair of the council's Education Committee, Ms. Moskowitz held over one hundred oversight hearings; no aspect of education—from toilet paper to teacher quality—was too insignificant or too controversial to be explored. She remains a forceful advocate for education, but has now returned to her roots in teaching to implement all she learned while visiting hundreds of New York City's 1,300 public and charter schools. Ms. Moskowitz has been a history professor and taught civics at Prep for Prep, a program for gifted minority students.

Eric Osberg is the vice president and treasurer of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the coeditor of Fordham's 2008 volume A Byte at the Apple: Rethinking Education Data for the Post-NCLB Era, and he has previously directed Fordham's research in school funding, culminating in two reports: Charter School Funding: Inequity's Next Frontier (2005) and Fund the Child: Tackling Inequity and Antiquity in School Finance (2006). Previously, Mr. Osberg worked for Capital One Financial Corporation as a senior business analyst.

Burck Smith is the cofounder and former CEO of Smarthinking, the largest online tutoring provider for high schools and colleges. Founded in 1999, Smarthinking serves nearly 250,000 students per year. In 2008, Mr. Smith launched StraighterLine, a division of Smarthinking that offers affordable credit-bearing online general education courses directly to students. Prior to founding Smarthinking, he provided consulting services to a variety of technology and education companies including Microsoft, the Computer Curriculum Corporation, the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, the Milken Exchange on Education and Technology, Teaching Matters Inc., Converge Magazine, and several start-up companies. Mr. Smith has written about education and technology for Wired Magazine, Wired News, Converge Magazine, University Business, and the National School Boards Association.

Kim Smith cofounded NewSchools Venture Fund in 1998 to transform public education by supporting education entrepreneurs. She served as chief executive officer of NewSchools Venture Fund from 1998 until fall 2005 and currently serves as a senior adviser and board member. In 1989, Ms. Smith became a founding team member of Teach For America and was the founding director of BAYAC AmeriCorps, a consortium of nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area working to develop young leaders in education. In 2001, Ms. Smith was featured in Newsweek's report on the "Women of the 21st Century" as "the kind of woman who will shape America's new century." She is also a member of the 2002 Class of Henry Crown Fellows of the Aspen Institute.

Tom Vander Ark is a partner in Revolution Learning, a private-equity investor concentrating on improving formal and informal learning globally by focusing on companies that improve educational engagement, access, and efficiency. Mr. Vander Ark is also a partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff, a public affairs firm advocating for innovation and entrepreneurship in education, and he blogs at Previously he served as president of the X Prize Foundation, which creates and manages prizes that drive innovators to solve some of the greatest challenges facing the world. Mr. Vander Ark also served for seven years as executive director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he developed and implemented more than $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs to improve education throughout the United States. Prior to his role with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent.

Robert Waldron is president and chief operating officer of Curriculum Associates, a leading K–12 publisher of research-based materials. Mr. Waldron comes to Curriculum Associates from Berkshire Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, where he served as operating executive in their portfolio support group. From 2002 through 2006, Mr. Waldron was the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Jumpstart, a national nonprofit focused on early childhood education. He also served as a fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, as CEO of SCORE! Learning Centers, as vice president of Kaplan, Inc., and as an associate at Morgan Stanley, Inc. He is an executive member of Young Presidents' Organization and a past member of the Advisory Council on Education Statistics for the U.S. Department of Education. He has been named one of Boston's top "40 under 40" business leaders, one of Fast Company magazine's twenty-five Leading Social Entrepreneurs, and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Chris Whittle is an entrepreneur with four decades of leadership experience in the fields of education and media. He conceived and founded Edison Schools (now EdisonLearning) in 1992 and currently serves on its board of directors. The company now serves hundreds of thousands of children in the United States and the United Kingdom through the schools it operates and a variety of other educational programs. He is also a director of the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C. Prior to founding Edison, Mr. Whittle was founder and chairman of Whittle Communications, which he led to become one of America's top 100 media firms. Among Mr. Whittle's properties were Channel One, the first national electronic news system. In 2005, Mr. Whittle authored Crash Course: Imagining a Better Future for Public Education (Penguin).

Joe Williams is a former newspaper journalist and author of the controversial book Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). He serves as executive director of the political action group Democrats for Education Reform. Previously, Mr. Williams covered the New York City school system for the New York Daily News. As an education reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Joe won numerous local, state, and national awards for his coverage of the Milwaukee Public Schools and that city's groundbreaking school choice programs.

Charles Zogby serves as senior vice president of education and policy for K12 Inc., the nation's leading manager of virtual public schools, serving over 60,000 students in virtual school programs in twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. Prior to joining K12 in 2003, Mr. Zogby served as Pennsylvania secretary of education where he managed a $10 billion budget and an agency that oversaw kindergarten through college education. During his tenure, Mr. Zogby helped write the nation's first cyber charter school law, led the state's effort to reform the Philadelphia School District, and began implementation of a statewide value-added assessment system.

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