Joel Klein – An Interpretation of His Remarks

Although Joel Klein is now CEO of the Education Division of News Corporation, he is best known to many of us as the former Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education.  His remarks closed the Education Innovation Summit 2011 this past Thursday at Arizona State University.

It was no surprise that Mr. Klein’s comments were directed at K-12 education in light of his experience and success there.  What was interesting to me was how many of his comments were also relevant to current issues in higher education.  From the start of his remarks, Mr. Klein made the case for competition and deregulation in K-12.  Said Mr. Klein, “Insist on choice.”  Indeed, this blog has frequently pointed to the role that for-profit education plays in providing choice for students, especially for working adults who are focused on careers.

But the implications of Mr. Klein’s remarks for higher education were also evident in another comment he made about K-12, “It doesn’t want to change.”  This blog has repeatedly made the case that the for-profit sector is embracing the transformation in education in columns such as Why For-Profits Have the Edge in Higher Education. For-profits, for example, have embraced change with their customer-focus and their willingness to offer working adults an education that was available on their schedule.

But Mr. Klein’s final remarks also had implications for higher education.  Still talking about K-12, he listed five big ideas that should be embraced by K-12 – and I believe higher education as well:

  1. Embrace a data-driven system with feedback about performance; assessment information from college students’ performance should be made publicly available in order to encourage market competition.
  2. Integrate digitized content, something many for-profits are doing well.
  3. Shift the focus away from the classroom and to the student, advice that is especially hard to follow for traditional, bricks-and-mortar colleges.
  4. Customize the content for the needs of students, advice that has been adopted by many in the for-profit sector in the variety of its programs.
  5. Rethink what we want from our human capital, an admonition about the role that teachers can play if we allow them to be coaches rather than presenters through the integration of digital content.

Innovation in education is something that all of us should endorse, and Dr. Michael Crow and Arizona State have done us a service in bringing us this Education Innovation Summit 2011.


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