Apps for Teacher

"Educational entrepreneurship" is booming, but can profit and pedagogy go hand in hand?

"As a nation, we are turning teaching more into a content delivery, script-following practice instead of a creative endeavor," Cody says. "I think we should have a lot more opportunities for teachers within the classroom to be creative, and instead we have people like Tom Segal who are arguing that innovation is the sole domain of profiteers."

Earlier this month, Cody and Segal, a venture capitalist with Rethink Education, got into a spat over the role of for-profit innovation in education. "One problem with turning education into a hotbed of entrepreneurship is that many advocates of 'reform' also stand to make big profits," Cody wrote on his blog. "In this environment, it is hard to tell if the objective is better outcomes for students or simply more dollars on the bottom line."

Segal responded that the profit motive is necessary for innovation, and that nonprofits will ultimately "kill innovation."

Innovators are driving reform—and cashing in.
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Innovators are driving reform—and cashing in.



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Cody says that the high-stakes accountability system introduced by No Child Left Behind and carried on through Race to the Top have created a system where traditional public schools are proved to be failures. "This then creates a market opening for charter schools, for virtual charters, for all sorts of 'innovations,' many of which are inferior to the products they are replacing," he says.

Cody and Flanagan say that it is not innovation they are opposed to as much as it is how the system that promulgates it is essentially starving traditional public schools of opportunities to succeed.

"I believe that every child deserves a free education, and I don't like mixing that up with the marketplace," Flanagan says. "There was always the idea that you could get a first-class education in a public school, and we're losing that."

Still, former teachers who have crossed over to the realm of entrepreneurship insist that they can achieve their lofty goals by working outside the classroom. "Teachers can only do so much, so it's really important to have people outside the classroom who are working on initiatives that will affect the direct work in the classroom," Altman says. "My hope is that we'll be able to create a shift in the way that the education system works and really do something revolutionary to affect a lot of kids at a higher level than I could've done with just 100 kids a year."

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