ON-Lion Letter
In the Spring 2007 edition of Education Next magazine, Frederick M. Hess and Chester E. Finn, Jr., hardheadedly anayze that which can and cannot be accomplished by innovators in K-12 education.  “[S]uccessful education entrepreneurship” is hard, they write in “What Innovators Can, and Cannot, Do:  Squeezing into local markets and cutting deals,” and “those who clear the many hurdles are not likely -- and ought not be expected -- to crusade as well for sweeping policy reforms.”

Hess is the director of education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) in Washington, D.C., and executive editor of Education Next.  His most-recent book is Educational Entrepreneurship:  Realities, Challenges, Possibilities.

Finn is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in D.C., a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University in California, and senior editor of Education Next.

“Entrpreneurs of many sorts are striving to find new and better ways of delivering K-12 education and to put themselves and their organizations on the map,” they observe.  “At bottom, however, what they’ve done is squeeze into local markets and then cut deals that enable them to operate in those venues.

“Serving as field marshals for large-scale policy change is the proper role of advocates, whose interests do not always coincide with those of entrepreneurs,” they later note.  “Indeed, advocacy groups are typically tone-deaf to some challenges facing entrepreneurs … and are thus unhelpful at cultivating the full set of reforms that might help entreprenueurial ventures to prosper.

“There are two paths to policy change.  One is advocacy and agitation; the other is demonstration, the production of ‘proof points’ that new models can work better than the status quo.  Both are needed,” they conclude.  “But it’s a common and unfortunate mistake to imagine that they’ll both come from the same places, or to proceed if that were so.”

Education Next is published, with substantial support from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, by the Hoover Institution.  Bradley has also supported some of Hess’s work at AEI and of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which is also in Washington.
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