Frederick M. Hess

What if it’s the system that’s the problem? That’s the question AEI’s Rick Hess tackles in this discussion of what he calls “greenfield” schooling. He copped the word from the vocabularies of investors, engineers, and builders, who use it to describe “an area where there are unobstructed, wide-open opportunities to invent or build.” There aren’t a lot of those in American K-12 education. In fact, the system, he argues, is doing a downright terrible job of laying a path for creative problem-solvers, and it’s to their own detriment. These folks have more cost-effective and time-efficient ways to do most anything in education, from training teachers, to conducting student assessments, to the actual nuts and bolts of classroom practice, and yet our bankrupt, failing, and archaic system goes out of its way to make life hard for them. Hess explains how we could change this, and what these problem-solvers need to succeed: human capital, venture capital, fewer bureaucratic hurdles, effective quality control mechanisms, and above all, an open mind on the part of the system they so desperately want to help. Even better, the system could learn from these organizations’ recruiting processes, quality control standards, and cost-effective measures, as they blaze ahead despite the daily assaults from every front. This isn’t about grand solutions or silver bullets; it’s about long-term sustainable overhaul that changes the way we think about education service delivery and the policies that support or hinder it. And that is certainly a field worth tilling. Buy your copy here.

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