Stimulating Excellence: Unleashing the Power of Innovation in Education

Whitney Park

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

This policy brief illuminates how we can encourage 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 education. 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 innovation. It seems that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland shares the authors' sentiments on this issue. In last summer's "Conversation on Education," he says the reformed education system needs to be "enhanced by creativity" and "innovation." However, despite the good intentions of government, Ohio is faced with a huge budget problem. Consequently, the governor's proposed Center for Creativity and Innovation at the state education department was made optional in the final budget bill.

The brief argues that school systems can encourage innovation and creativity by using data to create a performance-oriented school culture, opening public education to multiple providers, encouraging service providers to compete for business, and using public dollars as incentives. Ohio can certainly take some advice from the recommendations. The state needs to develop better systems to track student and teacher data to identify what works and what needs to be fixed. The funding formulae could be revised so that dollars follow the child (an idea we've also promoted here), and districts can speed 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.