The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship: Possibilities for School Reform

Charlotte Underwood

Frederick M. Hess, ed.
Harvard Education Press
September 2008

This collection explores how to cultivate more effective and quality-conscious educational entrepreneurship. Rick Hess, the volume's fecund and fervent editor, explains: "markets characterized by insufficient quality-control mechanisms, a lack of transparency, a scarcity of human or investment capital, and harmful regulatory and institutional barriers are more likely to produce mediocrity than effective solutions." Since innovation in education has great potential, it is imperative that we ensure that it rises beyond this mediocrity. Hess divides education innovators into two categories: capacity builders, who work on improving schools, and choice-based reformers, who use competition to weed out sub-par practices. The nine chapters discuss both kinds and offer a plethora of solutions: boosting human capital, attracting investment, increasing access to capital and funding, ensuring quality control, improving research and development, and removing barriers that hinder new providers. For example, Christopher Gergen and Gregg Vanourek explore what the education sector can learn from other industries about recruiting, developing, and retaining talent. Larry Berger and David Stevenson of Wireless Generation discuss the barriers to entry for companies (such as their own) that provide learning tools for teachers. Fordham's Checker Finn discusses various forms of education quality control, suggesting that it may take experimentation in order to find the best methods for an entrepreneurial environment. And Hess' own chapter emphasizes that the development of education entrepreneurship requires dual attention to "tools"--products and services that can improve schools, teachers, etc.--and "rules"--the legal inhibitions to the advent and expansion of new ventures. (His recent article in The American provides a quick, helpful overview of this thesis.) The book itself is available to purchase here.

More By Author