Sunday, January 31, 2010

State of New York Has Not Posted its RttT Application

New York State has not made public its Race to the Top application.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Cuts for Education in New Federal Budget

Inside notes from school-focused meetings with the government on education initiatives, regulations and changes to funding, all over the past week and prior to the president's State of the Union Address on Thursday. Posted without much comment but with some contextual layers to enhance the conversation. Let me know if you think any of this is off or anything missing.

Be sure to register for the the Education Industry Investment Forum on March 1-3, 2010. Use discount code XU2175BLOG to receive 10% off the standard rate.

The Budget, due out February 1, has a few kernels of interest that for-profits and school administrators need to take into account. For one, this aggressive budget limiting and budget freezing going on in the Obama administration will have a direct impact on SES, and native systems in school districts.

The Administration's budget will also request additional funding for I3. Finally, we can expect to see an effort to consolidate programs into thematic funding streams and being less prescriptive. Expect lots of "fiscal restraint" and "funding fewer programs, but doing them better" in the budget which most likely means termination of smaller programs and a small overall increase in total education funding.

Then more of what we already kind of knew. New system in the works. A need for common understanding on standards.

Accountability Systems: The proposal will most likely replace AYP with another accountability framework focused on student academic growth toward every student graduating from high school ready for college and career. This framework will include a growth model as well as assessments related to "common standards." No sense of if there will be a new timeline, but 2014 will almost certainly go away.

And then this was most interesting, considering that one common complaint arising from teachers is that they are not paid enough money. There's also this view that capitalist intervention in school systems is like the sign of the devil. So, it's good to see that someone is looking in an evolutionary way at the role that incentives, rewards, payments and budgeting windfalls can lessen the grievances and improve performance.

One thing to point out, though, is that it seems this administration is either not warmly fond of SES, or it just doesn't know what to do with them, so the issues are not raised with them in mind as much as they could be.

Interventions/Rewards: In keeping with the mantra of "tight
on goals, loose on means, "the Administration's plan will include financial
rewards for high-performing schools, aggressive interventions for the bottom 5%
performing schools (similar to what is prescribed in Race to the Top and School
Improvement Grants), and more flexibility for the middle 80% or so to select the
interventions they feel will help them improve student growth. School districts
and States will also be subject to accountability for student performance. No sense yet of what will be expected of schools in terms of performance targets (or who sets them) and what failing to meet a target means in terms of interventions (e.g. public school choice, SES).

In terms of timing, and what dominates the President's's not education. It's obviously going to be healthcare. Oh, and there is a war going on with talk of negotiating with the Taliban. Still, here is what ESEA potential looks like: not likely going to be a talking point this year.

The sense that NCLB was not going well was obvious. I slice out here some comments from a source that show a new possible direction for accountability in schools. These things are important, considering the state budget downfalls, and the fact that during every major recessionary valley, there has been a struggle to keep states in the black after the downward trend reverses.

NCLB was criticized for being underfunded, which could become a criticism of the new accountability framework and goal of having all students ready for college. The growth models alone will require additional testing in high school beyond the one assessment required under current law.

Make sure you look into attending the the Education Industry Investment Forum in Phoenix, Arizona March 1-3, 2010.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Active Book and America's Education Future: The Trust Factor

The textbook becomes increasingly outmoded. TExtbooks delivered content centuries after historical events had occurred, through the misperceptions of committees, and scholars that had a lock on how the information was delivered to the masses.

Committees even now decide what our students read, and they still rely on old texts, though they may be updated continually by, of course, committee. Big publishers have a sranglehold on the budgeting process and the delivery model. What we need is a device to send into the classroom that can deliver real time content, interactive content, and serve as a communication device.

But we have computers and the internet. Yes, but how many schools really let children build something with those devices? And do they really replace the textbook?

Amazon has come out with a support system for building active content on the Kindle. Before the much rumored Apple tablet comes out, here is your game-changer for now.

It's interesting that an online bookseller may be able to take the first steps towards bringing education a mix of active content, learning material and communications on an interactive hand-held device. Weren't the mobile phones supposed to do this years ago?

An active, real-time connected book appears, and education will again be challenged with the capitalist-market idea that it's not so much about learning the three Rs. It's about understanding that the world is global, interactive and not about what happens in a bricks and mortar classroom.

Traditional textbooks used to be about this, too, but they delivered content centuries after historical events happened, and, as I said before, scholars and experts, editors and gatekeepers delivered what looked right, true and sincere in the eyes of history's witnesses. That is true for every kind of content from mathematics and literature, to psychology to recipes.

But they are outdated and this kind of editing and delivery has become outdated. Now we can actually talk and engage with the legacies and the people those textbooks talk about, as they make those events that centuries ago would be considered important historical events, insights, eureka moments, etc.

At stake with the advent of real-time interactive devices is a breakdown of institutions that were built to support the creation of the systems that support these insights. We are beginning to see that everyone can have these insights, or start history, or create new models.

All we have to do is open the doors.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Do You Need to Know About NYC High Schools?

Clara Hemphill is answering questions at the New York Times about New York City high schools.

Clara Hemphill, whose book series New York City’s Best Schools is regarded as the bible for navigating school choices, responds to readers.

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NY State Governor Slashes School Aid by US$1 bln

Wait. Paterson is not a Republican. And he's a fan of Obama, last I checked. So, at first blush, this is not as scary as it seems. Read on.

Governor David Paterson, who has been in a scrappy battle with legislators in Albany ever since he took over for ousted Eliot Spitzer, now may have a new group of people on his heels. People who fear a loss of school funds.

In addition to raising taxes for New York State, the governor has slashed US$1 bln from school budgets in the next year.

It's probably not as dire as we think. There are states in the South that are already doing this to prepare people for the fact that federal money is going to be pouring in. Slash the spending for education, and then people are more than willing to accept federal funds to the tune of billions pouring into state coffers after Obama said he would expand Race to the Top funds.

But let's extrapolate a little further. This is a great ploy on Paterson's part. He'll increase taxes and then receive federal funds thereby, what? Will more dollars go into education from those taxes, or no? Will the federal funds be enough?

Weigh in.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Education Industry Investment Business Breakfast: An Afterwards

Call it three hours of intense discussion and you might have the expectation that people would walk away from this kind of thing exhausted.

It was anything but that.

Josh Schwartz, East Wind Advisors
Daniel Pianko, The Noah Fund
Stephen Gilfus, Gilfus Education Group

These gentleman led us through a pretty charged up three and a half hours or so of ramped up discussions on for-profit operations in K12 and Higher Ed that was pretty much future-focused and hopeful.

I'm going to do a quick rundown of the topics that came up, but I retweeted them @Educationinvest on Twitter and I broadcast the general themes @Douglascrets

I've cut and pasted some of the themes, and I will continue to do this throughout the week:

The thing in higher ed is to be greenfield oriented in what you can offer the market in technology. Interesting take. ed that boosts tech.

Towards the end of the morning, this flared up as a kind of important and provocative idea: that basically there are great platforms, and there are great distribution models, but where are the offerings that blend the content that is really hidden from outside view (the teaching that goes on in the classroom, the curriculum created by teachers, etc.) and when is the mash-up of the two going to happen? The company that solves this and makes it compelling, long-distance and monetized is the golden egg company. Then we can sit down and talk about a US$100 mln spin out.

Is there a blurring between Ivy League brands and the for-profit vocational brands?

There was disagreement on this point. The point here being some in the audience and on the panel thought that tech leads the lower-run higher ed institutions in the land grant space to lose their brand value, because there are free models out there and students are paying less attention to brand. There was also the defense that, actually, no lower-rung land grant or online offering can come close to the job placement value that higher order institutions provide, regardless of the attractiveness and accessibility created by low cost and scale.

One panelist made a great point by saying that there is no way a small, liberal arts college in the Midwest, that is not in the top 50 stratosphere, can maintain charging US$40,000 a year in tuition. It can't be sustained in the online courses industry.

And then there was this compelling interlude:

Is there a viable business model around educating teachers? But 20% of Ivy Leagues apply to Teach for America. Talking about this now.

Some people pinpointed that of all the professions, teaching seems to be this land-locked industry, where a teacher that enters at age 25 will pretty much be doing the same job when he or she is 45 years old. That rarely happens in any other industry, save maybe in blue-collar jobs. A person can enter into JP Morgan, for instance as a broker or a sell-side analyst, and in ten years achieve such insight into the financial markets that she can launch her own firm. Why can't that happen in teaching?

Yet, 20% of Ivy League graduates enter apply to Teach for America? Guilt of the privileged? What is going on here? I think that is actually a social issue. People look down on teaching and when they do, they think, "Ah, gee, I should do something good for society, maybe do my part to help society, before I make it big in business." Well, you do good for society by working in business, in finance, insurance, right? So why this disorder rising up in the teaching profession?

Seems like it was all about lack of any meaningful social development for teachers. The teaching model is irrelevant. There's no way to improve a teacher, and "get more out of their performance." This seems utterly sad and devoid of hope.

Teachers should be paid more, but there is this socialist attitude around teaching. One panelist said that he could foresee that the teacher's union is the last great union that needs to be broken. It's limiting attitudes on what is viable in teaching and what can enrich the society.

I even jumped in and circled back to this point about a JP Morgan analyst. Why can't a teacher build herself up as a brand? Why can't she sell her brand? Why can't she be paid for things like being a consultant, or be a speaker at a business conference because she has figured out how to run her school classroom like a business, using a John Dewey model of taking the student out of the isolated icebox of a classroom and allowing the free world to come in and the student to go out in it.

School, I alluded, has always been about control, as if there is this social mindset that what happens in school is only about training, when it can indeed be about fixing social problems, making money from fixing them, and being the incubator for the world's greatest entrepreneurs.

India and China can do this. I have sat in a classroom in China that created a brand new open source software model for school curriculum. Three people did this, with a group of students who, Great Firewall permitting, can log onto google, look out into the world, and in once case, sell stuff on China's version of E-bay, a site called Taobao.

What is going on here?

More of this later. Shout outs and comments welcomed. Follow me on Twitter.

And do not forget to attend our Education Industry Investment Forum on March 1-3, 2010. Leave me comments.

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Dr. Sabrina Kay, CEO, Fremont College

Dr Sabrina Kay's Background and the Beginning of Fremont College - Dr. Kay is one of the many for-profit operators visiting the forum to talk about operational strategies, funding do's and don'ts, and to present firsthand case studies on how to build scale in for-profit higher education.

We have a series of three videos from Dr. Kay, and we start with this one today.

The beginning of Sabrina Kay's education mission

Please visit visit the registration page for the Education Industry Investment Forum. Use code XU2175SK to achieve a 15% discount on the current registration rate.

You'll have a chance to meet Sabrina Kay and several other for-profit operators at the forum, including:

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New York City Education Investment Business Breakfast

We are going to be running a live Twitter feed at the Education Industry Investment Forum in New York City this morning. If you are investing in education and you have questions, you can ask them here, or on Twitter.

I am @Douglascrets on Twitter.

The agenda for the business breakfast can be found here at the Education Industry Investment Forum page.

Listen to these individuals speak about Education Investment

Daniel Pianko, Founder & CEO, The Noah Fund
Stephen Gilfus, Founder of Blackboard, President and CEO, Gilfus Education Group
Josh Schwartz, Managing Director, East Wind Advisors

Here are the questions I am going to ask:

Here are the questions that I want to ask:

1. Teacher development -- many people talk about creating better initiatives that benefit teachers by teaching them new models to enhance the value of their teaching and to improve the completion rates of public schools. In K12, are there any scalable models for teacher development? What can be done to make teacher development a profitable business and how is that done?

2. With all things being equal, and if anything is possible, at what point does K12 education become a feasible investment for a private investor or a public or private company? In other words, can each of you give your model for a highly profitable education system with all your favorite bells and whistles?

3. Are there any areas that are not exactly directly education-focused that seem like viable investment areas during Race to the Top fund allocation?

4. In Higher Ed, where should private investors put their money in the next one year to 18 months?

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You can receive US$100 Off Your Phoenix Registration

If you attend the January 20, 2010 New York City Education Investment Business Breakfast, you are eligible for US$100 off the March 1-3, 2010 Education Industry Investment Forum.

The business breakfast information is found at the Education Investment Business Breakfast website.

Speaker faculty
Daniel Pianko, Founder & CEO, The Noah Fund
Stephen Gilfus, Founder of Blackboard, President and CEO, Gilfus Education Group
Josh Schwartz, Managing Director, East Wind Advisors

Schedule for January 20, 2010
8.00 am – Gather and Breakfast, Networking
8.45 am – Introductory Remarks, Education Industry Investment Forum Director Doug Crets and Moderator
9.00 am – Panel discussion begins
11.00 am – Questions & Answers
11.30 am – Business Networking and Card Exchange
12:00 pm – Business Breakfast Ends

Omni Berkshire Place
21 East 52nd Street at Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
(212) 753-5800

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Security Checks and Empty Planes

Up until today, the security I experienced at airports rarely reached the level of uncomfortable. There was the flight out of China where I had my keys questioned and my body patted down, and my belt buckle examined, but that was easy breezy.

Today in Narita, I am waiting for the New York flight and the flight next to our gate is getting the full kahuna. They are going from passenger to passenger in the lobby area and giving them pat downs, going through bags, and then sealing off the entire gate, so nobody can leave or enter.

It's very interesting. Probably will do the same to this gate. Flights have been really sparsely filled. I am hoping for a long row of empty seats on this flight, so i can lay down and try to sleep, something I rarely do on airplanes.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stephen Gilfus to Speak at NYC Education Business Breakfast

Important Update: Stephen Gilfus, Founder of Blackboard, speaking at Business Breakfast

I am posting this again. You can still register to attend the Business Breakfast at the Omni Hotel on January 20. Stephen Gilfus has agreed to step in for Ron Packard, CEO, K12.

Register now.

In what will be a continuing series of business-focused breakfasts in NYC and possibly in other North American cities, Education Industry Investment Forum is reminding everyone that the signup period for the January 20 breakfast is nearing a close.

Here's the reminder:

Announcement from Education Industry Investment Forum: Register for the Industry-Focused New York City Business Breakfast January 20, 2010

We hope you can join some of your colleagues on the East Coast for an important regulatory and financial-focused business breakfast discussion on January 20, 2010.

We will be talking about regulation, financials, mergers & acquisitions, and creative innovations that are bringing more value to education investment.

Register now.

Cost: US$95 per person

Speakers include:

John Bailey, formerly Special Assistant for Education, George Bush Administration

Daniel Pianko, Founder & CEO, The Noah Fund

Doug Mesecar, Vice President, Scholastic Publishing

Ron Packard, CEO, K12, Inc.

Josh Schwartz, Managing Director, East Wind Advisors

Schedule for January 20, 2010
8.00 am – Gather and Breakfast, Networking
8.45 am – Introductory Remarks, Education Industry Investment Forum Director Doug Crets and Moderator
9.00 am – Panel discussion begins
11.00 am – Questions & Answers
11.30 am – Business Networking and Card Exchange
12:00 pm – Business Breakfast Ends

Omni Berkshire Place
21 East 52nd Street at Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
(212) 753-5800

You can visit our site and get more information about the Education Industry Investment Forum business breakfast.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

After China

Spent a day in China visiting old friends and sitting in on a digital convergence lab that was set up by my old journalism school director, Ying Chan.

The school of journalism there is backed by Li Ka Shing Foundation, so it's an interesting case for China. Its probably the only public university in China funded by private dollars. Lots of implications here.

What does that mean for American investors who want to put money down on building up private education in China?

What happens with American or other foreign money in China? Just because you put private money into a state run and state-funded operation, it doesn't mean you are going to get that money back. There is always that risk.

So how can Ying Chan do it? Aside from having the backing of Li Ka Shing, Asia's richest man, she's also got ties to Hong Kong and is backed by solid partners. It's an interesting education about education in China. I am glad I got to see it first hand.

I learned two things about this:

Shantou University is on the cutting edge of how education will be done in China. I will be writing more about this later, but in a nutshell:

First university in China to use an open source, Chinese language-friendly digital publishing and curriculum tool. It started out in the Journalism School, but now the university itself wants to run it for the whole institution of 8,000 students.

If that is open source, there is no problem to think that they would make this expansion down to other schools in China and in Asia. Jeremiah Foo, CTO of the school said that he is already in talks with Malaysian schools to spread this technology.

They are working with Apple to launch something in March. More on that in March. I can't talk about it.

It is totally feasible that corporations in the United States can partner with a school like this and actually teach classes on the corporate culture, on business, and on everything from engineering, to accounting and more to these students. It's very possible we might see a day where actual global companies have teaching units inside some of these public universities in China. What does that mean? It's hard to even fathom how revolutionary that kind of education system would be.

There is so much more to talk about, and I will be mentioning some if it off and on in the next few weeks.

Now it is time to go back out into Hong Kong, and have some yum cha and talk with my friends. Good to be back "home" again.

By the way, for those of you in New York, it's 55 degrees today and I got sunburn. Suckers!

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Someone is Happy so Let's All Be Happy

Just wanted to spread this around because I liked the idea behind it.

"East 6" The engagement of Ashley and Chris from One Small Instrument Pictures on Vimeo.

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I'm Doing this the Right Way, which is the Wrong Way (for a Little While)

Coming back from a long time abroad, you get slammed with cultural idiosyncrasy. And that's not so bad. It means you are sitting on the front, looking at what you used to be and seeing it backwards. You are on the other side of the mirror.

I was muddled for a while. So to take my mind to a focus, I started reading more.

Two books have recently affected my thinking about business, education and the business of education.

In one, "The Global Achievement Gap," I am reminded once again what six years overseas taught me:

Despite the best efforts of educators, our nation's schools are dangerously obsolete. Instead of teaching students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers, we are asking them to memorize facts for multiple choice tests. This problem isn't limited to low-income school districts: even our top schools aren't teaching or testing the skills that matter most in the global knowledge economy. Our teens leave school equipped to work only in the kinds of jobs that are fast disappearing from the American economy. Meanwhile, young adults in India and China are competing with our students for the most sought-after careers around the world.

Currently reading, "The Power of Unreasonable People." It's by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan.

The point?

Renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw once said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." By this definition, some of today's entrepreneurs are decidedly unreasonable--and have even been dubbed crazy. Yet as John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan argue in The Power of Unreasonable People, our very future may hinge on their work. Providing a first-hand, on-the-ground look at a new breed of entrepreneur, this book reveals how apparently unreasonable innovators have built their enterprises, how their work will shape risks and opportunities in the coming years, and what tomorrow's leaders can learn from them. Start investing in, partnering with, and learning from these world-shaping change agents, and you position yourself to not only survive but also thrive in the new business landscape they're helping to define.

Also, just found this Education Futures web site that a friend picked out for me and sent me in an email.

Haven't read enough of it to give you a sense of the entire feel of the site, but it's definitely trying to make something of the Obama's huge focus on education going forward. I'll read through and extract some points later. For now, I liked this:

This is a great question: Does the government’s vision of education output products that are meaningful in today’s workforce? My hunch is that research will show that NCLB is failing to produce workers of the caliber the United States needs. NCLB is great at producing automatons that can parrot back responses required for tests (or make great assembly line workers), but not creatives that will power our growing imagination- and innovation-driven economy. Who will hire graduates from the NCLB generation?

You can read more on how NCLB will affect the workplace.

To answer the last question here? I imagine that developing world economies will hire these students from America, unless those students are willing to go to those areas themselves and start their own businesses. But are they capable of starting their own businesses? Aside from the question of, Do you know accounting and the tax laws that determine the success of a business, the real question is can you interact with someone "Other?"

You can go back to the earlier comment I made about the achievement gap. So, are we learning things or teaching our students in primary and higher ed the right things, not only for work, but for work in a wider world? Are we teaching them how to do business outwardly rather than internally, worrying and focusing on what happens in a company?

Work for me has never been about thinking hierarchically. It's been about lateral thinking, making huge jumps in logic, and following intuition, more than it's been about having a strong business plan. Why?

My customers help me do this. A client is the lifeblood of a company. If the client is saying that doesn't make sense to the business model inside a company, then there is something wrong with the business model. The client is the business model.

I can figure out the business mechanics of anything, or simply hire an intern or another employee to focus on those things, but the most important challenge for a manager of a product, who wants to sell that product to the increasingly important client, is to have deepening relationships with people outside of the workplace.

These are the people who can eventually accentuate the worldview you bring into the workplace, and in the end, that worldview is what you are selling, especially if you are selling knowledge products like the kind I sell -- forums, business meetings, information.

As the century deepens, it's the accented worldview that will help you sell, manufacture or develop meaning and products. And in this century, a product without meaning is not a product. It's toilet paper.

I can only get that way by reaching out. It doesn't much matter to me if I don't know accounting.

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House of the Roses

A conversation last night brought me to House of the Roses.

It's a volunteer dance company for underprivileged kids in New York City. Are we allowed to say underprivileged anymore? I don't know what is politically correct anymore. Any way, they are kids that don't have the resources that your typical dance company patron might have.

Point being, they are trying to do something good. They use positive reinforcement to encourage a child's use of creativity for change and constructive life-living. And I mention this because I am reading two books that are bringing this method to my attention.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Data Dump

Here's a little data dump for all of you. I like to do this from time to time on other blogs, but I have never done it on this one. People have been asking me where does site traffic come from, and what are some of the interesting search terms that bring people to the Education blog.

Geographic Interest

Traffic comes from 1,310 cities around the world. Here are the top twenty cities, and then some unusual cities or locations thrown in for fun

1. New York

2. Charlotte

3. Washington

4. Chicago

5. San Francisco

6. Los Angeles

7. (not set)-- This is probably several cities in China, Blogger is blocked in China, and people use proxies to get to the site, leaving it anonymous.

8. Delhi

9. Phoenix

10. Boston

11. London

12. Baltimore

13. Mumbai

14. Singapore

15. Toronto

16. Philadelphia

17. Arlington

18. Seattle

19. Brooklyn

20. Houston

And for the really interesting cities: Paris, Chennai, Hyderabad, Givatayim, Petaling Jaya, Vancouver, Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh, Zurich, and Karachi

Search Keywords

These are a list of the top 20 keywords that direct people to this site and then some odd ones that make me wonder what people think we do here. People in the entrepreneur space are hot on this blog.

It seems that people are coming to this site sometimes to learn not only about the education industry but about people who have started ventures, tried something new or different, and are looking to connect with people who have made an impact in some measurable way in education. Here's a sample:

1. daniel pianko

2. john katzman

3. venture capital for the education industry

4. education industry investment forum

5. education industry investment forum 2009

6. jordan goldman

7. jordan goldman unigo

8. shai reshef

9. knowledge investment partners

10. university of the people shai reshef

11. india has more honors kids than america has kids

12. eiif

13. howard block

14. education investment forum

15. tabula digita

16. eduvest

17. keith oelrich

18. inetoo

19. dan madzelan

20. arthur benjamin ati

And then the other remaining umpteen dozen thousands plus search terms that have led people to this blog give you a great sense of the zeitgeist in the global economy and the viewpoints of people in the education industry:

"how bad is the american economy right now?"

"philanthropy is the gateway to power"

"fastest growing continent"

"number of honors students in india"

"arne duncan"

"grand canyon university ipo"

"will we need teachers in the future?"

"what is barack obama's education agenda?"

"explain education as an investment"

"90:10 education obama"

"inspector general's warning to accreditor raises fear"

"three year cohort default rate"

Much more later. There's a whole series of stories to be written in these search terms. If you aggregate them according to time and date, you can pretty much track a pressure cooker economy blowing up and then settling into recession and perhaps, maybe, generating a recovery?

Stay tuned. I will blogging on here while I am in China.

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The Visa Office, and Standing in No Line

Something happened to me today that I thought you might want to know about.

I went to go submit my Chinese visa at the Consulate on 12th Avenue in New York City. I rushed over in the taxi, got out at the curb and walked in, expecting a huge line and hordes of people, or at the very best a bureaucratic nightmare. This has been my experience at other visa offices around the world -- especially in Hong Kong at the Indian Consulate and the Consulate of Myanmar.

Just past the security barrier, where the two officers screened my jacket, my phone and my Kindle, is a small room divided in two by two very wide pillars. There are about twenty chairs, blue colored, arranged in neat rows. And scattered in the chairs are a mix of about a dozen people, some of them Chinese-looking, waiting patiently. It was hard to figure out what they were waiting for, but they seemed to have been there for a while.

There was a rope cordon that directed traffic to windows, but at the end of the cordon corridor, another cordon had been erected, blocking any exit from that corridor. So, where was the line.

I reflected on this for a moment. It was so interesting that I anticipated and looked for a line. In China, and in fact, in many situations, there's no sense of a line. My China instincts kicked in. I moved around the back of the room, around the two large pillars, and just stood in a proximate way, next to two people I thought to be in what would probably be a line if there were more than two of them standing there.

One of them moved. He went to a window. Then the other person moved, and she went to a window. And then the first man who went to the previous window moved away, and then the woman in the window looked at me expectantly. I moved to the window, submitted the application, was given my form, and told to come back tomorrow.

What does this have to do with education?

We figure things out on our own, I think. I have learned from my time in Hong Kong, and my occasional trips to China, that my best laid defenses -- wanting and expecting order, following order, and looking for lines -- don't really work when you are on the move and in a new territory. It pays to plan ahead, but it also pays to let those plans slide, and do what is necessary in the moment.

Standing in the Chinese consulate, I was back in China, literally. I was on their turf. It is so refreshing to give up one's sense of order and adopt the expectations of another group.

Can we do that within our own culture? Can we practice a kind of capitalist compassion for the order that others wish to force on us, our schoolchildren and our teachers? Let's turn that into a passion for disruption and the creativity of disorder.

Sometimes decision makers, like presidents, policy makers and legislators and other lofty people want to make decisions for us in education. They want to tell us what to read, or how to learn. They want to tell us where to go to school and how to build that school model.

There are great people out there, don't get me wrong. But there are so many people out there with great business ideas that are not being heard, or, having been heard, cannot realize their dreams because of what amounts to a love of structure and a distaste for disruption.

A calm and business-like approach to passion for disruption should create a dignified and powerful conversation.

And if you want to talk about this with me personally, or with people like Ron Packard, CEO, K12 and some other professionals in the space, you can find us on January 20 in New York at the collaborative and worlwide Business Breakfast at the Omni Hotel.

Register, and get into the disruption.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to Get Some Awesomeness in College

The New York Times wrote today about how colleges and universities are trying to serve up a fresh batch of awesome.

The point is to make that degree worth more.

Are for-profit schools more successful than non-profit colleges and four-year universities in producing value for the money?

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