Stimulating Excellence: Unleashing the Power of Innovation in Education

Ben Hoffman

Center for American Progress, American Enterprise Institute, New Profit Inc., and Public Impact
May 2009

This policy brief aims to illuminate the processes by which we can
go about encouraging innovation to flourish, and in the process, hopes
to exhibit the bipartisan nature of innovation in education reform. The
authors surveyed a group of prominent education-reform
entrepreneurs--e.g., Wireless Generation, The New Teacher Project, and
New Schools Venture Fund--to glean their insights on the challenges and
possibilities of entrepreneurship in this domain. They combined the
survey results with their own good sense and found themselves
agreeing--sadly--that inflexible bureaucracies, inaccessibility of
capital, and a limited supply of talent typically work in tandem to
stifle the creation and growth in this sector. Solutions are varied and
broad: using better information to create a performance-oriented school
culture, opening public education to multiple providers, making school
districts into true "customers" by encouraging service providers to
compete for business, and using public dollars to encourage these
ventures. The report illustrates what each of these broad
recommendations might look like in practice on all three levels of
government. For example, to turn districts and other education providers
into customers, federal officials might incentivize the wise and
cost-efficient use of dollars, state policymakers can create standards
for service vendors and revise funding formulae so that dollars follow
the child (an idea we've also promoted),
and districts can speed up the buying cycle by conducting audits and
other transparency measures after services are purchased, rather than
before. Opening up the system to innovative movers-and-shakers is a
promising way to accelerate reform and we're heartened that analysts
from across a broad swath of the political spectrum agree. Read more here.