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00126 school-reform-for-realists

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As the school year begins, here’s a look at the growing stake businesses have in education reform. Partnerships between business and education have an important place in solving the talent gap, but …

As the school year begins, here’s a look at the growing stake businesses have in education reform. Partnerships between business and education have an important place in solving the talent gap, but not in the way most executives expect.

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  • 1. strategy+businessissue 68 AUTUMN 2012School Reformfor RealistsPartnerships between business and education have a place in solvingthe talent gap, but not in the way most executives expect.by ANDREA GABORreprint 00126
  • 2. STRATEGY & LEADERSHIPessay strategy & leadership movement leader W. Edwards Dem- ing and others have pointed out) are unreliable and, in many cases, coun- terproductive — even in business. Moreover, virtually all the stud- ies on key reform initiatives, includ- ing the charter movement and merit pay for teachers, suggest that these measures have failed to improve education outcomes. Two of many examples: A 2009 study by Stan- ford’s Center for Research on Edu- cation Outcomes found that only 1 17 percent of charter schools earned better test scores than traditional schools, and 37 percent did signifi- School Reform for cantly worse. A major 2010 study by Vanderbilt University found Realists that teachers who were offered a US$15,000 bonus for improving student test scores over a three-year period performed no differently Partnerships between business and education than teachers who weren’t included have a place in solving the talent gap, but not in the in the offer. way most executives expect. “[The effort] to improve the quality of education turned into an accounting strategy: Measure, then by Andrea Gabor in theory but don’t seem to work punish or reward,” writes Diane I in practice. These include competi- Ravitch in The Death and Life of the n the midst of a great unem- tion-based reforms, including most Great American School System: How ployment crisis, there is also voucher and charter school systems, Testing and Choice Are Undermining a yawning talent gap. For the incentive pay for teachers, some Education (Basic Books, 2011). “The marketing function or the fac- management training programs for strategy produced fear and obedi- tory floor, recruiters seek applicants education leaders, and the intensive ence among educators; it often gen- with the scientific knowledge, com- use of digital educational technology. erated higher test scores. But it had munication skills, and technologi- One basic attitude underlying nothing to do with education.” cal acumen that many high school these reforms is that schools need As for digital technology, there graduates (and even some college to be run more like businesses. In is still virtually no conclusive re- graduates) lack. That’s why busi- practice, that means adopting a search on what works and what ness leaders are pushing for school competitive management style that doesn’t in K–12 education. Many reform with such urgency; they see imposes numerical goals, rewards companies interested in studying public schools as both suppliers of high performers disproportion- the impact of technology on schools Illustration by Lars Leetaru talent and incubators of the future, ately, blames labor unions for poor — including Apple, Microsoft, Cis- and they want to help education performance, and forces each in- co Systems, News Corp., and a lot of leaders become more effective. dividual to prove his or her value smaller media and software compa- Unfortunately, most business– every day. In other words, school nies — have a stake in this potential education partnerships have been reformers are promoting top-down, $500 billion business, which makes formed around a core set of school carrot-and-stick, compliance-driven it difficult to tell which assessments reform ideas that can be appealing management ideas that (as quality- are disinterested and reliable.
  • 3. essay strategy & leadership How, then, should businesspeo- education opportunities in which petencies to help [school districts]ple who are genuinely interested in both students and parents can par- think through their processes…andschool reform take on the challenge? ticipate, and those that create bridg- to build their capacity to manageStart by recognizing that you have es between schools and the outside technology.”a great deal to offer education — if world, including potential employ- One Cisco partnership, calledyou can draw on the most collabora- ers. The following stories demon- the 21st Century Schools Initiative,tive, generative aspects of business strate some of the principles that was established with eight schoolthinking and action, following the help these partnerships work. What districts in Louisiana and Missis-examples of companies that pro- distinguishes them from many out- sippi in 2005, after Hurricane Ka-mote transparency, engagement, right failures is the quality of collab- trina. Donations of equipment andshared accountability, continuous oration. In these examples, business the testing of new technologiesimprovement, and organizational leaders did more than donate funds were balanced with opportunitieslearning. For example, a recent and technology; rather, schools and for entrepreneurship and new typesstudy by Rutgers School of Manage- businesses sought to learn from one of training. For example, Jefferson 2ment and Labor Relations, “Collab- another. Parish has a large suburban schoolorating on School Reform,” shows system with 88 schools, just out-that contrary to popular practice Fostering Tech Experiments side New Orleans in the Mississippiand the dictates of many corporate Many education reformers have ap- Delta lowlands, where the majorityeducation reformers, the secret to plauded the potential of technol- of students are poor and black or La-long-term improvement for teachers, ogy: netbooks, video learning, and tino. After the storm and floodingschools, and students is “substantive electronic educational games. But destroyed many school buildingscollaboration” at all levels — the in practice, technology designed for there, Cisco donated equipment,classroom, the school, the district, consumers and homeschooling is including whiteboards and laptopsthe community; in short, collabora- not well suited to the needs of inner- (Jefferson Parish has a one-laptop-tion among all key stakeholders. city kids or to use within the public per-student policy), as well as pro- Many educators appreciate the school classroom. Computer infra- fessional-development training. Thevalue of participative management structure hardware company Cisco company was also instrumental inand leadership training. “If you are Systems began to experiment in the district’s decision to hire a chieftrying to run a system as large as a the mid-2000s, in partnership with technology officer.small city, you need a diverse set ofskills,” says Shael Polakow-Suran-sky, senior deputy chancellor for the The most effective partnerships create bridges between schoolsNew York City Department of Edu-cation, noting that when the city’seducation system was controlledalmost entirely by educators, it was and the outside world.“incredibly poorly run.” When thedistrict began to draw talent from schools, to find more effective ways In another partnership, thethe private sector in the 1990s, he to introduce technology to class- New York City Department of Edu-adds, there were some false starts in rooms. Its experiments demonstrate cation (NYCDOE) embraced Ciscowhich businesspeople clashed with the promise and value of these proj- in 2009 as a “thought partner” ineducators. “We learned that we need ects, and the difficulties involved in its iZone (for “innovation zone”)both [forms of expertise],” he says. maintaining them. program. With funding from local(See “Leadership Principles for Pub- “Cisco is not an education tech- business leaders as well as Cisco, thelic School Principals,” by Andrea nology company, it’s a networking iZone was intended to help schoolsGabor, s+b, Summer 2005.) IT company,” explains Mary Anne become seedbeds of freewheeling, On the ground, the most ef- Petrillo, Cisco’s senior marketing learning-oriented activity, usingfective business–education partner- manager for corporate social respon- technology and other measures (in-ships are those that foster innovative sibility. “We bring our core com- cluding extended days). Students,
  • 4. essay strategy & leadership teachers, and school administrators tricts develop priorities, strategies, came with assessing the value of the were all encouraged to tap real- and expertise while educators help partnership. One report, by the Cen- world expertise and integrate it with the business understand how tech- ter for Children and Technology, school curricula. nology is used on the ground, en- found that Cisco’s partnership with During the iZone’s first year, abling the business to develop more the local school district had helped Cisco provided funding and train- useful products. “launch a dramatic educational ing. Teachers came to Cisco offices But close ties between compa- transformation.” At the same time, in Manhattan for several all-day ses- nies and school districts also mean progress has lagged expectations. Al- sions covering a variety of classroom that conflicts of interest, real or though Jefferson Parish ranks sixth technologies — including tutorials on teleconferencing with outside experts, using PowerPoint presenta- Cisco sought to learn from the tions, and making videos. Cisco also 3 sought to learn from the schools, schools, sending engineers into sending teams of engineers into their classrooms to see how teachers and classrooms to see how teachers students used digital technology. and students used technology. Since then, the iZone has been reorganized three times. It is now a two-tiered experiment. More than perceived, can arise. In New York, out of 60 Louisiana school districts 100 schools take part in a limited Cisco, which officially maintains a in percentage performance gains be- version, with online access to edu- “Chinese wall” separating its busi- tween 2008 and 2011, the district cation software. About 25 schools ness and philanthropic interests, still received a “D” on its state evalu- participate in a more comprehensive gave iZone free access to a sophis- ation, based on 2011 student test initiative called iZone360, in which ticated Web portal it was develop- scores. Lessons learned from Cisco’s each student receives a laptop, and ing for sale to other school systems. experience indicate that business– the program provides schools with Then, in August 2010, the NYC- education partnerships should: “innovation coaches” who advise DOE abruptly reduced Cisco’s role • Be set up so that all aspects of them on technology and other re- in iZone, and replaced the Cisco the project are transparent to outsid- form ideas. portal with much more limited ers, even if corporations profit from At their best, partnerships like off-the-shelf software. The reasons the R&D Cisco’s in Jefferson Parish and New for this shift were never entirely • Foster experimentation, be- York represent a virtuous circle in explained; the NYCDOE said that cause it is not always clear in ad- which a company helps school dis- Cisco had fallen behind schedule. vance which ideas and projects will For its part, the company still offi- work best cially supports the iZone project in • Establish in-depth training Andrea Gabor aagabor@aol.com New York. But a number of iZone for every new technology, with busi- is the Bloomberg Professor of Business principals and teachers, who were nesspeople and educators learning Journalism at Baruch College at the City counting on working with Cisco, from each other. University of New York and the author of several books, including The Capitalist were disappointed. Philosophers: The Geniuses of Modern Busi- To maintain credibility and Collaborating for Change ness — Their Lives, Times, and Ideas (Three Rivers Press, 2002). avoid suspicion, transparency is criti- One of the first schools to join New cal. For example, more transparency York City’s iZone was Global Tech- This article is adapted from “Improving might have saved the Cisco portal, nology Preparatory, a three-year- strategy+business issue 68 Business–Education Partnerships: First, Do No Harm,” in Schools That Learn: A Fifth which was considered by educators old middle school in Harlem. The Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, who had seen the technology to be school’s first principal, Chrystina and Everyone Who Cares About Education, much better than the NYCDOE’s Russell, explicitly sought to leverage by Peter Senge et al. (2nd ed., Random House, 2012). For more information, see alternative. the school’s resources by collaborat- www.schoolsthatlearn.com. In Louisiana, the challenge ing with outsiders, including philan-
  • 5. essay strategy & leadershipthropies and businesses. schoolwork. She also teamed up Youth, which provided extra soft- Teamwork was an explicit with Citizen Schools, a nonprofit ware for the home computer theyaim when Russell began recruiting after-school learning program that had given him; and his mother, whoteachers. During the summer of extended Global Tech’s school day insisted he work on the software2009, she corralled prospective fac- to 6 p.m. Students get homework programs three times a week andulty members for regular Sunday help and academic enrichment, and cut back on TV. “Now look at mebrunches at the home of Global they participate in hands-on appren- in 10 years, Secretary Duncan,” heTech’s assistant principal-in-train- ticeship programs that are run by lo- concluded. “Because I’m going toing, Jacqueline Pryce-Harvey. A cal professionals and businesses, in- college...and maybe one day, you’llJamaican immigrant who holds a cluding engineers from Google, who be working for me.”Ph.D. in geography, Pryce-Harvey is teach rudimentary programming. Global Tech’s collaborative ap-also a master cook who once worked Another way that Russell has made proach has produced impressiveas a personal chef for New York so- the most of collaborative teamwork results in a short time. Many stu-cialite Brooke Astor. Over gourmet is in the mainstreaming of special dents start school 15 minutes early 4food, the teachers brainstormed education students. Both Russell to take advantage of free computerGlobal Tech’s curriculum, ways to and Pryce-Harvey are former special time. The school got an “A” on itsrecruit kids, criteria for new hires, education teachers, and 31 percent 2011 progress report and was rankedand a strategy for introducing tech- of Global Tech students are certi- in the top 5 percent of all middlenology into the classroom. fied as needing special education. schools in New York City. On a The meals underscored the col- Almost all of them are placed in “in- 2011 Learning Environment Survey,laboration and flexibility that Rus- tegrated co-teaching” (ICT) classes Global Tech scored higher than 90sell would expect from her staff that are team taught and include percent in parent, teacher, and stu-— and that she insists is crucial to non–special ed students. There is a dent satisfaction.a successful school — as well as an clear expectation that by the time Another indicator that Globalimplicit understanding that teach- the special ed students graduate Tech’s approach is working is theing responsibilities do not stop when eighth grade, most will be able to number of people who have suc-school ends at 3:30 p.m. Global function in a regular class. ceeded there after being writtenTech relies on partnerships inside The role that collaboration has off in other schools. This includesand outside the school, but Russell played in this effort was highlighted some teachers. For example, mathmaintains focus on the core values in 2011 when Josniel Martinez, a teacher David Baez was recruitedthat she and her staff have identi- Global Tech seventh grader, was se- from a dysfunctional school in thefied, rather than outside agendas. lected to introduce U.S. Education Bronx where, as a young teacher, heFor example, every student received Secretary Arne Duncan at the White was rated unsatisfactory by a super-a laptop to work with at school, House launch of Digital Promise, a visor. Today, visitors flock to Baez’scourtesy of the iZone and corpo- national center founded to spur de- math classes, which combine old-rate donations, but Global Tech did velopment of breakthrough educa- fashioned instruction with onlinenot hire outside technology experts tion technologies. Standing at the math games and visuals. Baez hasfor training. Instead, Russell chose lectern in front of more than 100 won thousands of dollars in grants,to rely on a few tech-savvy teachers dignitaries, the 11-year-old Domini- as well as a prestigious Math forfrom within the school to help coach can émigré explained how he had America fellowship that comes withthe staff and students, reinforcing been failing sixth grade until the a $15,000 annual stipend. He wasthe school’s collaborative culture. school put together “a whole team to also selected as one of six New York In addition, Russell enlisted help” him. The team, he explained, City teachers to be part of the Digi-Computers for Youth, a program included teachers who aided him tal Teacher Corps, a Ford Founda-that provides free desktop comput- with his “nightmarish” organization tion–funded collaboration amongers loaded with educational software skills and checked his backpack ev- educators, technologists, and de-and training for poor families; the ery day for the pencils, assignment signers formed to develop interactiveprogram is designed to teach par- sheets, and other items he needed digital learning tools.ents how to help their children with to succeed in class; Computers for The collaborative, entrepre-
  • 6. essay strategy & leadership neurial culture of Global Tech is designed to give young people the Milby graduated its first petro- usually associated with business requisite math and science educa- leum academy class in 2010. Of the startups, not with schools (or, for tion to fill entry-level jobs in the oil 80 students in the starting cohort, that matter, with many corpora- patch. Since its inception, the IPAA 62 are going to four-year colleges, tions). Whether school leaders can has opened petroleum academies almost all on scholarships. Most of keep it going will depend on how within four public schools in the those who did not enroll in a four- well the school continues to foster a Houston area. These include Milby year college are going to community culture of collaboration both inside High School, which has a student college. By contrast, among the Mil- by students who did not attend the petroleum academy, only 37 percent In the most successful experiments, enrolled in a four-year college, and 46 percent entered a community such as Global Tech and the college. 5 petroleum academies, innovation The experience of the petro- leum academies in Houston suggests becomes everyone’s job. that business–education partner- ships should integrate business- oriented subject material into the the school and with partners in the body that is largely poor and Latino, established curriculum and design outside world. and the Young Women’s College recruiting efforts accordingly. They Global Tech’s experience indi- Preparatory Academy. should also scale up slowly, starting cates that business–education part- In these schools, teachers re- with just a few schools and learn- nerships should: ceive training to help tailor courses ing from the experience of the first • Bring together school leaders, across the curriculum to the acad- group. teachers, nonprofits, and business emy’s energy focus. For example, collaborators to brainstorm and plan in addition to teaching standard lit- Gaining Better Experience innovative efforts erature courses, Milby offers lessons The most realistic road to school • Focus attention on the prob- in “technical English,” designed to reform starts with recognition that lems that school leaders and teachers help students focus on reading and business has a tremendous — and identify as important comprehending nonfiction texts. A growing — stake in the success of • Foster a participative staff and typical assignment might include public schools. That is why business– student culture that echoes the best writing a persuasive essay on the education partnerships are likely of the business culture around them value of renewable versus nonrenew- to proliferate, especially as schools • Document successes and fail- able energy. Similarly, an algebra and school districts struggle. In the ures so that other schools can learn course may focus on data analysis in most successful experiments, such from them. the petroleum industry. as Global Tech and the petroleum The IPAA’s education advi- academies, innovation becomes, al- Houston’s Petroleum Academies sory committee includes many lo- most literally, everyone’s job. Just as In Houston, a public–private part- cal companies from the oil and gas school administrators, teachers, and nership was established in 2005 industry; these firms provide fund- students can learn from business between the school systems and a ing, internships, and speakers to executives, companies interested in petroleum industry group, the In- the schools. For example, Milby, education reform would do well to dependent Petroleum Association the IPAA’s first petroleum academy, learn from the schools they want to of America (IPAA). The partnership received $115,000 worth of laptops help. The challenges they face, as strategy+business issue 68 was deliberately set up to bridge a from Shell. Halliburton Company well as the remedies that work best, growing shortage of energy workers, has donated $27 million of geo- might surprise them. + by providing a program of industry- science and engineering software to Reprint No. 00126 tailored advanced-placement cours- make it possible for Milby to teach es within selected public schools, elective courses in those fields.
  • 7. strategy+business magazineis published by Booz & Company Inc.To subscribe, visit strategy-business.comor call 1-855-869-4862.For more information about Booz & Company,visit booz.com• strategy-business.com• facebook.com/strategybusiness• http://twitter.com/stratandbiz101 Park Ave., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10178© 2012 Booz & Company Inc.

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