For education entrepreneurs, innovation yields high returns

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Entrepreneurs are having a heyday. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook graced the cover of Time magazine as Person of the Year, Ashton Kutcher played Steve Jobs of Apple in a recent biopic, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos even bought the venerable Washington Post. Our culture is enamored with the idea that a visionary individual can create a brand-new business that not only makes it big, but also makes a big difference in the way we live and work.

Meanwhile, few sectors are more desperate for new ideas than the $600 billion system of K12 public education. Many intrepid entrepreneurs have waded into the waters, hoping to improve outcomes for students. And many have failed or faltered in attempting to address an institution that “alienates creative problem solvers while erecting bureaucratic barriers against those who would devise new solutions,” as Frederick Hess and Chester Finn wrote in these pages a few years back (“What Innovators Can, and Cannot, Do,” forum, Spring 2007).

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