Michael F. Shaughnessy, Senior Columnist at EducationNews.org, interviewed Frederick Hess on his new book from Harvard Education Press, The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship. In this two part interview, Hess responds to his questions and discusses the issues around educational entrepreneurship.
Michael Shaughnessy:Your opening chapter addresses the issue of the "supply side of school reform." In your mind, what distinguishes the "supply side" from traditional efforts to reform school districts?
Frederick Hess: Broadly speaking, it can be useful to think of those seeking to reform K–12 education as falling into two general camps. One camp, those bent on working through familiar school systems, focus on "best practices" and "scientifically-based research" or retooling districts through professional development, curricula, and instructional leadership. A second camp is skeptical of district-based reform, preferring "parental choice" or "market competition." The great irony is that both camps suffer from a common shortcoming—excessive faith in prescience and a failure to foster the conditions that can yield breakthrough advances.
Supply-side reform, on the other hand, recognizes that vibrant markets require a stable and hospitable policy environment, investors identifying and nurturing promising ventures, networks of technical and logistical support, talented educators, and incentives that recognize and foster quality. This type of reform should increase the odds that ventures succeed and ensure a growing base of useful knowledge, rather than producing a series of one-hit-wonders. While doing so requires attention to rethinking rules and policies that govern everything from teacher licensure to charter schooling, it also entails addressing less frequently discussed challenges and opportunities, such as human and financial capital, barriers to entry, quality control, and research and development.