Saturday, October 31, 2009

That Really Is Incredible Skydiving

Here's something for your Saturday Halloween afternoon.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Productive Day, or Non-Productive Day

Here's a way you can be totally unproductive today: if you live in New York City, let's try to estimate which subway lines bring the most Halloween costumes into Manhattan. Right now, the D Line is losing, big time. I didn't see one costume the entire ride.

A friend in the office marked one: a man in a corporate suit, with a cardboard box shaped like a robot head on his head. Stunning. 5 Train wins!

Now, here's a way you can be very productive this morning. The director of the journalism school at my alma mater, University of Hong Kong, chatted with me last night and alerted me to the fact that George Soros is giving a series of lectures on his thinking about economics.

She said he is refashioning the way he thinks about even his own economics. George Soros lectures sponsored by the FT can be found at the link.

From the link:

George Soros explores the conflict between capitalism and open society, market values and social values. Focusing on the principal-agent problem, he will use contemporary economic and political examples to challenge market fundamentalism while presenting ideas for protecting the public good more effectively

He also gave a lecture that should be up on that site now at the University of Hong Kong about China. I have not seen it. But I want to. Have to get to it later in the day.

George Soros on the future of China.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chalkboard Blog

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NYC Teacher's Union Holding Out for 4% Raise?

The story in the New York Times says that the contract for New York City's unionized teachers runs out this week.

This contract, which delineates the pay and perks for New York City teachers, expires on Saturday.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Motivated but Directionless Indian Students !!

This post was written by Surabhi Dewra, founder of
Mera Career Guide.

It is a known fact that the most successful people in the world are those who listened to their heart. Yes, Steve Jobs dropped out of college and went ahead with what he wanted to do. Amitabh Bachchan risked his career by abandoning a reputed job to pursue his calling of shining out in the glamor world. This is the power of following your dream career !

You may wonder why I am talking so vehemently about this, but isn't your career the most important element of your life? Lets do some Math.

In total, the average Indian student spends 17-18 years of her life preparing for a career, and the rest of her life living that career.

Today most students in India make career choices unassisted. They are not sure how to make good career decisions, and are not clear, even just prior to graduation, what they want to do when they enter the workforce. Too many youth do not have the good fortune of enjoying ready access to good mentors in their home situations.

It would not be wrong to call Indian Youths more than ever "motivated but directionless".

Before starting the concept of career portal Mera Career Guide, I did some research on the Indian Education System and came across the fact that in the early days of nation building the focus of education policy was on educating the masses and raising the standard of literacy. This not too far off from the impulses of the early United States government.

Thus, much effort was spent on emphasizing technical education to support economic growth because the urgent task was to create jobs to support the economy and train workers to fill these posts.

Today India needs to understand its age of knowledge-based economy which demands a new approach to career development to meet the skills and labor force demands of the coming decades.

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Eliminating the Non-Compete Clause

There's an effort afoot to eliminate non-compete clauses because they are unfair and because they limit competition instead of preserve the domain of competition.

The other thing that companies can do to help their employees become more productive is to actually lower the firewalls around social networking and other online sites. There is actually tons of information out there that a productive, progressive and innovative employee can use. For some reason, many companies try to enforce this mentality that all work happens within the walls of the organization and that anything outside of those walls is a distraction.

I don't agree with this mentality, because it assumes that points of contact outside of a company don't accentuate the company's mission.

In a web 2.0 world, your business is not just here, it's also over there.

We should be communicating in more ways and more often with others.

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Aviary Gets US$7 Million for Artist Web Start-Up

Spark Capital and other investors, including a Jeff Bezo-linked firm, have given Avi Muchnick, Aviary’s founder and chief executive, about US$7 million to get the online start-up running.

The top-up of capital is meant to help the company, which provides a service for online art creation, break into two roaring themes in online:

Aviary taps into two big trends. The first is virtual goods, which some have estimated could be a $1 billion industry this year. Facebook and Ning recently announced new virtual gift shops that let more people create and sell virtual goods. Aviary lets other Web sites plug its technology into their sites for users to create virtual goods.

The second trend is the way the Internet has transformed its users into creators. People come online not just to read or look or listen or buy, but also to create their own written material or music or virtual goods.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cantonese Loses Ground to Putonghua in Chinatown

This article about the new dominance of Mandarin learning in New York City's China Town took me back briefly to a previous life.

I don't exactly agree with its premise, that Cantonese is being "swept away". Hong Kong has for it entire history has dealt with the seemingly always looming threat that the Cantonese culture and language is going to be eradicated by mainland Chinese influence, or some other global trend.

Three years ago, I moved into my first solo apartment in Hong Kong, and it was right across the school. I absorbed A LOT of Cantonese because in Hong Kong the teaching method is basically call and response learning -- you yell Cantonese words into a megaphone and wait for the children to shout them back to you.

Cute. But not at 8.15 am, long before I want to roll out of bed and go to work.

Having lived in Hong Kong, I can tell you that Hong Kong is a neighborhood language, spoken by a HUGE diaspora of Chinese immigrants who fled China or moved to the United States, Canada or other "western" countries in order to find a new life. No matter how many years these people will live away from Hong Kong or Guangzhou, it's my understanding that speaking Cantonese is a way of life.

So is the debate about the dialect's sustainability. Hong Kongers come from a place that is always rapidly changing -- the dialect itself is immensely fluid and flexible. There are young speakers of Cantonese today who speak a version of Cantonese that their grandparents don't even understand, and vice versa.

I think that the speakers of Cantonese in New York must be behaving pragmatically. It makes total sense to know Mandarin if you do business with China. And every country on earth does business with China.

Here's the link again: Learning Chinese in New York

Cantonese, a dialect from southern China that has dominated the Chinatowns of North America for decades, is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.

The change can be heard in the neighborhood’s lively restaurants and solemn church services, in parks, street markets and language schools. It has been accelerated by Chinese-American parents, including many who speak Cantonese at home, as they press their children to learn Mandarin for the advantages it may bring as China’s influence grows in the world.

When I was in China Town, I also heard Shanghaiese, Yunnan dialects, Taiwanese mandarin. But you also hear this in China, and in Hong Kong.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beauty Schools in Florida To Receive Funding Makeover

Can someone with an informed opinion about cosmetology schools and the Pell Grant system explain to me the importance of the stimulus package directing about US$2.3 million to beauty schools in Florida?

There is this bit in the article I link to:

The stimulus money is being paid to beauty schools in the form of Pell Grants, which are awarded to low-income students. The grants don't have to be repaid.

The government doesn't allocate the money based on an assessment of what kinds of job skills are in demand. Rather, students apply to the government for the grants and if eligible can put the money toward the vocational school, college or university to which they've been accepted.

The government sends the grant money directly to schools.

The stimulus bill includes $17 billion to boost the Pell Grant program and raise the maximum annual award from $4,731 to $5,350.

Does this rise in Pell Grant allocation occur all over the country, or is it happening only in select states, like Florida?

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Harvard University's Interest Rate Bet Ends in Loss

Harvard University hedged that interest rates would rise. When they didn't, the financial team at Harvard had to pay US$500million to get out of US$1.1 billion in derivatives contracts.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Responsibility and Teachers

This post comes from Myra Sawyers, a former teacher and founding member of the Epic Project:

There are people who want to help build better education systems in America. In order to do that, you have to really know what is going on, and it's not pretty. It's actually kind of revolting.

Fewer and fewer qualified talented people are going to leave the profession, because the pay is sometimes not very good, and there are intractable problems.

Teachers take a lot of hits. I know, I have taken a few myself. We endure quite a bit in and out of the classroom. Most people know all about the challenges teachers face and talk about it but that is usually as far as it gets. This indifference has had its impact. Good or bad? The latter, I would argue.

I know there are teachers who are not doing a great job; just like there are doctors, lawyers, corporate executives (did I mention corporate executives?! phew, just checking...) who aren't and need to be fired. BUT (and I must emphasize this), there are far more great teachers then there are bad ones! (I will save that discussion for another time..)

In my many years of teaching in the classroom and on the college level, I have only come across one person who I would consider a "bad" teacher. However, bad publicity is having an impact on attitudes and perceptions. No one I know would disagree that teaching is not a respected profession; which it should be. Many parents and students have done very terrible things to teachers, and teachers have paid dearly(public humiliation, job loss, financial ruin, etc.).

I attached a link to a documentary film that a friend of mine is working on that is exposing "holding centers" for teachers in New York City. These centers are for teachers who have had allegations (true or false) made against them. Someone once called this place "Teachers Git-Mo". Funny? Not really...

Does this shock you? Why is this happening? Should these rooms exist? If a teacher is guilty, shouldn't they be fired? If a teacher is innocent, shouldn't they be put back in the classroom?

If we are going to change the school system and develop models that are really going to have an impact, then we have to pay attention and know what we are dealing with. There are monumental forces that are having a severe (and it's not all good!) impact on our children's lives. If we do not meet these forces head-on and challenge them, they will continue to maintain the status quo and our children and nation will pay the high price.

Oh, and did I mention the drop-out rate in New York is 52%...

What do you think happens to these kids?

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For-profit education: US Trends and Lessons for India

This post is from Rahul Choudaha, who writes for Dr.

I have posted an entry on the trends in the US for-profit higher education and its implications for the Indian higher education market at my other blog.

The biggest constraint for India remains the regulatory environment, even though there is significant interest and energy from investors and entrepreneurs. Apart from changes required in the investment and regulatory environment, one key lesson for investors and entrepreneurs interested in the Indian higher education market is the ability to create a sustainable and competitive business model. Prof. Vance H. Fried in his recent article on the future of for-profit higher education comes to this conclusion: "Higher education is a large, mature industry that is being reshaped by innovation. While some of the innovation is in technology, the primary innovation is in business models."

Detailed posting is available at DrEducation.

Rahul Choudaha, PhD
New York

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Michelle Obama: "Teachers Important to Strength of Economy"

This morning, I realized that Michelle Obama wrote a column yesterday about the role that teachers play in improving the economy. From a business perspective, there's not much in here that's new. We all know that better education in the form of training students to contribute to global needs is important.

I think this article is important because it shows that the Obamas, as a family, seem to be heading this push to fund education as much as they can. So, here's basically the "nut graf," as they say in the news business. The rest is kind of purple prose. Here you go:

We need universities to double down on their efforts to prepare teachers and to improve and expand effective alternative routes to certify teachers. We need to encourage more experienced professionals to consider teaching as the next chapter in their careers. And we need to treat teachers like the professionals they are by providing good salaries and high-quality professional development opportunities. We need parents to do their part as well to match that leadership in the classroom with leadership at home. We need to set limits and turn off the TV. We need to put away those video games and make sure that homework gets done. We need to reinforce the example that's being set and the lessons being taught at school and make sure that learning continues at home.

And we need government to support significant efforts to recruit and retain teachers and to reward high-performing teachers. Along those lines, President Obama is already investing more than $3 billion to turn around struggling schools. And he has proposed a nationwide Teacher Recruitment Program to attract more people to the profession, especially in high-need schools. I look forward to being involved with this program and encouraging people across America to put their leadership skills to work in our nation's schools.

Michelle Obama writes about the importance of teachers in economics

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

These Kids Want to Meet Obama

These kids in Los Angeles want to meet the President of the United States.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teachers and the Future: Why Won't We Pay Them More?

I am excited to participate in this blog and be part of a unique exchange of ideas that are expanding beyond the traditional channels of education reform; moving from academics to the world of social entrepreneurs. I hope my input will bring greater focus to the teaching profession and the need to elevate its status. Now, more than ever, we need to recognize and value teachers and reward them for the significant role they play in our nation’s economic future.

While a classroom teacher, I became deeply aware of the deterioration of the teaching profession. As the need for better education grew, the respect, and power of teachers became significantly less. Teachers became the problem and the scapegoats; we were being held responsible for everything wrong with the system and not having any power to influence the decisions that directly affected our ability to be effective. Then, adding insult to injury, trying to live on an annual salary of $32,000.

In 2004 I started a non-profit for teachers. It is called EPIC (because that is the kind of reform we need). Real and meaningful change to the education system will happen when we start paying greater attention to the teaching profession and its status.

Who in a young person’s life is most directly responsible for their academic success? Studies have shown teachers.

If we are as concerned as we say we are with our nation’s economic future, shouldn’t we be doing all we can to make sure our children receive the best education possible? So many have answered "yes", but it stops there.

EPIC is currently working on developing a pilot project that aims to solve the recruitment and retention crisis in the teaching profession through higher pay. One is already happening in New York, The Equity Project (TEP) Charter. They are paying their teachers $125,000 a year. The EPIC Project consists of individuals who want to expand those efforts into the Public School System.

Isn’t it time teachers made $125,000 a year? Currently, the average salary of a teacher is $31,000. When you look at the amount of education teachers receive, the level of responsibility expected and their value to society and then compare it to other professions, one could argue teachers should be paid much more.

As the only non-profit focusing on this issue, we believe that targeting recruitment and retention through higher pay will significantly transform the profession and the system. In exchange for paying teachers more, teachers will be expected to do more. They will construct curriculum (which is dominated by curriculum companies---curriculum is expensive!), direct school policies, handle administrative duties and be expected to work all year. Most teachers I know want this control especially if they are going to be compensated for it.

To make it possible to pay teachers more, would require a major shift in attitudes and perceptions. It will also challenge us to re-examine priorites and the current role of administration and other forces that have dictated much of what goes on in our school systems. Do they help or hurt education? Are prinicpals necessary? What other forces have caused our schools to suffer?

If the priority is, and always must be, student achievement, then we have to honestly ask ourselves hard questions about what are REAL needs in education. I know that if your give a great teacher a cardboard box, they will build a castle.

Simply put, if we want to give our children the best education to strengthen our nation’s economic future, we must attract the most talented individuals to the profession and keep them. Pay them!

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French Students Paid Big Time to Go To School

If you are a French student in a French school, and not too interested in attending school, have I got a deal for you!

The French government wants to encourage students to attend school, by paying them.

Sign me up!

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Half a Millenium

If this was cricket, we would have almost completed five centuries -- you Indian fans know what I am talking about.

If you would like to join us and be one of the next ten people to sign up for the Education Investment forum's LinkedIn group, I am prepared to help you with a discount to attend this forum on March 1-3, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Be a part of strategic discussions about financing, mergers and acquisitions, and growth in the for-profit education industry, and keep this conversation going.

This is an era of significant change and billions in deployable capital. Help our LinkedIn Group reach 500 education industry leaders, investors and operators.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inbound: Re-Modeling the Model

Something about being four or five miles up in the sky leads to creative thinking, so please bear with these thoughts, which I wrote down on the plane from Vancouver to New York. By the way, the menu selection on Cathay Pacific trumps the offerings on most North American flights. Although, I have heard that I should give Virgin Atlantic a try.

In any case, here's a little riff for today, based on discussions in Seattle, and in Vancouver.

What is more valuable, the education, the diploma, or the student's interaction with the curriculum and his or her input in the teaching process?

Are traditional, non-profit higher ed institutions looking for a higher class of student, an achiever that has already achieved something before being invited into the system?

If this is the logic, then, what does the university purport to do for the society, and if the student is already a winner before the education, what does the education process actually mean for the student? Is the diploma actually just "a pass" into a higher level of participation in the society; is it a pass to a level that another student, equally productive at a lower level school, could accomplish but cannot because of his status before entrance into the university of choice or availability?

This seems to be a conundrum in place since the Victorian origination of American education -- you don't go to school to learn, you go to school to remember -- your place, your designation, your values. You go to school to travel laterally from one place to the same place, but with more skills. Your diploma acts as a legacy service, allowing you to continue at a certain level but to rarely rise above that socio-economic level.

Look at the horrible time students are having repaying loans. do you think a heavy debt burden helps them reach a better station in life? Not with all the defaults, it doesn't, so far as people can discern.

What if schools gave a much larger percentage of low-income students or low-performing students a shot at an education that is considered only for the higher achieving students? And what if they did that at a lower cost, with less of a debt burden, or at the very least, had classes that educated students about financing to offer them attractive options, less risky options, to perpetuate their usefulness in the working world?

There have got to be alternative systems of learning and financing that can maintain and promote the same capitalist system that we maintain today, but in a different way, adding more workers and executives to the system, but also providing more opportunities, globally, for more students, or potential students.

I don't know what different looks like right now, but people are thinking about it.

This blog is an attempt at that definition and an attempt to get others to look differently at that definition as much as it is an attempt to build a network of people who have precise experiences that can elucidate that construction and deconstruction, advance business and both profit from education as a business, and reward students for using that system.

The purpose of this blog is to advance the business of education.
There is nothing simpler than achieving or embarking on that mission. There is probably nothing as complicated as the implementation of the techniques that keep the industry on that mission.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ron Packard, CEO, K12, Inc.

I flew into Dulles Airport and can guarantee you that they have the nicest taxis.

My first stop in the Washington, DC Metro area was to see Ron Packard, CEO, K12, Inc. He is based in Herndon, Virginia.

We quickly got on the topic of the future. Ron sees a massive uptake of technology and the fits and starts that goes with that. Eventually the K12 side of education is going to iron out a teacher-centric add-value model for hybrid bricks and mortar / digital that will take -- hopefully -- American education into the global competitive marketplace.

Ron is a very smart guy. We talked about many things and if his take is a good indicator on how business operators are thinking about education there are three things on their minds: technology, teachers and ensuring American kids develop skills that make them valuable to the global economy.

Stay tuned for links to some ideas on the web about what is most valuable to students growing up in the global world.

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StraighterLine CEO Burck Smith

Just had a phone call with Burck Smith, who started StraighterLine. Burck has kindly agreed to give a keynote on the value of education and the role that investors and operators in K12 can play in developing greater quality in the space.

He suggested some links, so I am going to put these up here for people to read, in order to get a clearer idea of what Burck is about and where his vision is directed.

College for US$99 a Month

Internet revolution in Higher Education

Inside Higher Ed article

College by Subscription

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Government Wants Financial Companies Out of Student Loan Business

Bank student loans set for overhaul, according to this post by American Banking News.

At the heart of the legislation, Congress is aiming to get subsidized private companies out of the student lending business and turn it over to the government. Some predict that the proposal will eliminate up to $80 billion in costs by the end of the next decade by eliminating subsidies that are paid to lenders to keep their interest rates down.

The savings from the payment would be used to make colleges more affordable for low-income individuals by increasing the maximum Pell Grant by $1,400 up to a maximum of $6,900. In order to make up for the lack of affordable private student loans that are expected, the government is planning to offer additional low interest loans to students.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

If You Want, You Can

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Moving Towards a Transformative Model for Education

This road trip is almost over. I'm in the LAX airport, resting, after discovering that you can actually get from downtown LA to the airport in under an hour for only US$1.25.

I'm serious.

You take the subway, which is not really a subway, it's a tram. And then you take a bus to the airport. Simple. US$1.25. In Los Angeles. Do you realize the implications!

It may destroy LA's image as being a city of vehicles. I may have just deconstructed the mythology of "you need a car to get around LA."

I've met a lot of people on this trip. Some of them have said things to me that I have mentioned here. Some have said things off the record. But all of them share a common purpose. They believe that business has a role in education.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be unpacking my notes and writing out some of what I have learned. Here's a taste for you today.

Coming up, we will have new bloggers. One of them is a woman I used to work with at a private day school in Virginia. Myra Sawyers, who used to work on the Hill and who used to teach 1st grade, is working on a non-profit organization. So, why is she writing on a for-profit blog?

Because, one thing I have learned in this journey is that both the non-profits and the for-profits are potentially great partners in the enterprise in improving students' lives, improving teacher performance, and expanding the global role of the outcome of America's education system -- namely people who can function at high levels in the global economy

This blog has been a place to find information. It's becoming a place where you can learn things. I hope you enjoy the future.

Here are some thoughts that stick out to me as I wait for the red eye back to New York:

1. Who is education for?
2. Who can be tasked to speak for education and to implement solutions called for by the disrepair and the opportunities embedded in the system?
3. What general results are education thinkers, investors, operations managers and owners trying to bring to the market and to the government / associations that regulate for-profits?
4. Who is listening -- this is a hard one to answer, because the answer is delineated by who, first of all, has access to the people who should be listening. Bear with me.

Even that question is sticky. I've heard it said by people not interviewed specifically for this blog that traditional higher ed institutions, for instance, may be hindered in their ability to interact with for-profit purveyors and even internally to initiate ideas into action because of two or three things:

a. Bureaucracy is as thick and muddled as a journey through cotton oatmeal
b. Incentive to change or adopt new procedures? -- traditional higher ed, say some, works on a value system that is less about capitalist profit and loss at the crucial level, the educator, and more about instilling ethics, social values, or even a control mechanism that elevates one class of people over another. Is this cynical? No, it's not meant to be. Perhaps a better choice of words is to say that, if education, universally, is about placement and advancement, then traditional higher ed rests on its laurels, especially among prestigious universities, that that education as great as it is, is valuable foremost from a marketing perspective. Even that is a contentious statement that can be pummeled to death. I admit it. It's not exactly my opinion but it's close to what I have heard from some.

[ed. note: we will save for another time the great debate about exclusivity and value, filtering and prestige, and whether students who are already smart are just selected for innate intelligence or whether or not everyone could potentially perform as if they just stepped out of an Ivy League school.]

c. A clear division between the profit-driven and the non-profit driven -- It's sometimes quite evident that there is a non-profit and a for-profit model. When they seem distinct, they don't mingle. As long as they don't, there's no need to figure out why they are separate.

But there are the moments where the for-profit and the non-profit do intermingle -- and here you can point to an open source education model as an example, like in publishing -- then you begin to wonder, is it possible to bring in some models to education that are a hybrid of a non-profit and for-profit model?

Right now, public schools operate in a non-profit way, earning a substantial amount of their budget from property taxes. Can that always be the case? I don't have the alternative, but it is fair to ask the question.

Many questions more can be asked. And you can ask them. You can ask them to me. You can ask them to my fellow bloggers.

Just write me an email or leave a comment. We will communicate. dcrets [at] iirusa [dot] com

My answers or my points of differentiation are not meant to be definitive. They should only show that there are conversations happening out there that point to a movement of change, and who can say in which direction it is headed? I don't know. It seems like a hybrid, a transformative model for education.

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Newest Additions to the Ed Industry Investment Forum

We are very happy to announce that we will be joined by the following newest confirmed speakers:

Chris Masto, Senior Managing Director, Friedman Fleischer & Lowe
John Schnabel, Partner, Falcon Investment Advisors
Burck Smith, Chief Executive Officer, StraighterLine
Sever Totia, Principal, Edison Venture Fund
Ed Meehan, Managing Director, Arcady Bay Partners
Ramona J. Pierson, Chief Science Officer & Chairman of the Board, SynapticMash, INC

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Dan Madzelan, Department of Education

We have good news at the Education Industry Investment Forum. I spoke with Dan Madzelan, Acting Assistant Secretary Post Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and he has agreed to speak as one of our keynote speakers at the forum in March.

This is great. It means we have voices from government, voices from accreditation agencies, for-profit colleges, universities and K12 charter schools, and private equity investors from around the world to take part.

Dan will be speaking about the role that community, government and business / investors can play in making American education world class.

Over the course of the few weeks I have been traveling around North America, it's become clear that everyone is talking about boosting American education.

They want to see private, public and community options for helping boost completion rates, monitor quality in education and improving placement rates in colleges beyond k12.

I think this forum will go a long way to furthering this conversation and it will do so on a city, state and federal level. And it will reach through the spectrum of community colleges, traditional higher ed and for-profit K12 and post secondary schools.

I am talking to one other person who will serve as a keynote during the three days, but I will keep his name under wraps for now till everything is confirmed. If he does accept then we are looking at a pretty explosive and debate-worthy forum in 2010.

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The Joys of Business Travel

I woke up this morning three hours before any many is really supposed to wake up. That's because I'm still on New York City time and my body thinks it's about 9 in the morning.

So, here I am in the seventh hour of the morning in Los Angeles and already writing emails and calling the East Coast to get them started on some things.

While I was working, my mind came up with things that every business traveler must love:

1. Ironing your own shirts and suits. The clean press of the iron, making every shirt a slick sheet of paper, crisp and clean. The steam hiss of the pressing iron. The smell of freshly heated cotton.

2. Walking through the morning city or any unfamiliar territory for a takeaway cup of coffee.

3. Looking up at Los Angeles' skyscrapers, their gilt edges and the blue, blue sky.

I talked last night with Charles Paul, who founded and runs Worldwise Education with his wife and a fellow co-founder, who he met in a harbour in Tonga.

It's a great story. Charles and his wife were sailing around the world after the 2001 financial upset and they were in Tonga, where they were due to take 50 pounds of school supplies to a school a few islands away.

In walks Edgar Crocker, who had just stepped off a 145 foot sailing boat. They talk, they share a vision. Edgar tells him to write up a business plan, they do. They meet in Boston, and they get funded.

Now they have a business, which sells art made by kids in public schools, and then delivers a share of the profits to the schools to fund their budgets.

Improvisational. Unique. Kind of the like the candy bar sales, but for a good cause, and it comes from within the school system. Whole Foods is helping them with the distribution of the product.

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