A VC’s Musings on Education & Education CEO Interview Series
I have spent much of my career focused on education – as an executive at one of the early online post-secondary institutions and as a venture capitalist at Maveron. In this blog, I will publish interviews with education pioneers – those entrepreneurs and leaders who are committed to improving America’s education system, from preschool through lifelong adult learning. These interviews will serve as a way to better educate all of us on the challenges and opportunities facing America’s educational system and workforce today.
My interest in education is rooted in discussions around the dinner table when I was a child. My dad spent over 30 years teaching physical education in urban Detroit. Every day at dinner growing up, my dad would regale my family with stories about children who grew up in situations vastly different than our own. He had kindergardeners who didn’t know the alphabet, were undernourished and ignored at home. At the same time, all around me in Detroit, I heard the constant drumbeat of layoffs for the manufacturing jobs that were the lifeblood of the American middle class.
Now, thirty years later, these problems have come to a head. Middle class manufacturing jobs have dissipated as the US has moved to a knowledge economy. A high school or liberal arts college degree isn’t good enough anymore and America’s workers have a severe mismatch between workforce skills and needs. Of the 50 million new jobs the Bureau for Labor Statistics projects to be created by 2018, 30 million will require recognized postsecondary credentials. But today only 30% of US adults have a college degree.
Our education system has not been nimble in addressing these issues and has tried to simply throw more money against the problem. Although there has been a steady 3.5% inflation adjusted annual increase in education dollars per pupil over the past 100 years, there has not been a corresponding increases in student achievement. A single teacher acting as a “sage on the stage” remains the primary form of instruction in many K12 schools and colleges today.
But times are quickly a changing- budgets are now shrinking, technology shifts are beginning to alter how education is delivered and America cannot maintain its prosperity without throwing out the educational status quo. Below is a table highlighting the major trends I see that are challenging many of the “holy grails” of the incumbent educational establishment. Each entrepreneur interview will provide more texture around these trends and highlight ways today’s new education entrepreneurs are working to better America’s human capital and national competitiveness. I look forward to sharing this journey with all of you.
|Trend||New Paradigm||Holy Grail|
|1. The Data Dividend||Use of new IT platforms and data analytics measures teacher effectiveness, improves student performance and eliminates waste||Teaching is an art form where quality cannot be measured|
|2. Flipping the classroom||Watching online lectures at home while doing group exercises, getting tutoring and “homework” in school||The class lecture is the best way to deliver class content|
|3. Lifelong Learning||Continuing education is essential to workers keeping up to date skills||Formal schooling is the only real means to learn new skills|
|4. The Star Teacher||Students learn from the best teachers globally via massively open online courses and lectures||Classroom as a silo – students only get the teacher from their own institution|
|5. Appified and Personalized Learning||Mobile apps deliver engaging, personalized content. Learners learn in way best for them – video, multimedia, games, etc.||Same content for every learner via physical textbooks|
|6. Credential Portfolio||Employers evaluate workers based on a credential portfolio – GitHub followers, General Assembly, Lynda.com or Codeacademy course certifications||Degrees and prior career experience are the gateway to the best jobs|
|7. Disaggregating Educational Institutions||K12 and higher ed institutions outsource certain functions (e.g. online learning platform and services) to private market providers||“Not Invented Here” mindset. Everything done in-house|