Arizona State University’s Education Innovation Summit 2011

For the second year, Arizona State University held its Education Innovation Summit on April 6-7.  This Summit focuses on education innovation in the K-12 sector and in higher education.  Last year there were more than 300 of us in attendance; this year saw a 51% increase to more than 500 attendees.

There were two over-riding emotional themes that participants felt during the 2-day summit.  There was the excitement of promising ideas and new for-profit businesses that were bringing competition and innovation to education.  Then there was despondency – about traditional education and its near hopelessness, especially in the K-12 sector.

In his review of the last 50 years of K-12 education quality and calls for its improvement, Craig Barrett, past CEO and Chairman of Intel, led the way in building the theme of despondency with his description of the landscape.  Dr. Barrett plays a national leadership role in bringing attention to and solutions to K-12 through his work in organizations like Achieve.  In his remarks, Dr. Barrett turned to the 1983 report, A Nation At Risk, where he made a persuasive case that not one of the five categories of recommendations has been addressed.  The source of our problem in reforming education, said Dr. Barrett, is our dependency on incrementalism and bureaucracies.  He was clear that fundamental improvement requires competition.

The emotional contrast could not have been more evident in the for-profit education sector.  Roberto Angulo, an Arizona native, leads AfterCollege, a company that addresses the success of students in finding jobs after college.  I have consistently made the case that colleges and universities have a responsibility for their students’ success, and Roberto’s company is addressing an important aspect of that success.  Gagan Biyani, whom I had met the year before, is CEO of Udemy, a company that allows anyone to create an online course. These two were among the many examples of why the for-profit education sector is so important to the nation’s future educational quality.

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