Can $100 Million Make an Impact in Education?

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How would you spend $100 million to save education? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to invest it in the Newark Public Schools, much to the disappointment of Fast Company's Anya Kamenetz, who laments the loss of a huge opportunity.

Our continued prosperity in a postindustrial economy depends on creativity and innovation. And that's why Zuckerberg's decision to follow the popular script disappoints me. I wish he had taken his $100 million, and some of his smartest people, and designed a new framework for education from the ground up, much the way he built Facebook from a dorm-room idea to a global brand. Is it possible to craft an education platform that's as participatory, offers as much opportunity for self-expression, and is as magnetic to young people as Facebook itself? That would be a theory of change worth testing.

In the spirit of pushing for progress, the magazine reached out to 13 education experts and asked them the hundred-million-dollar question. Their "radical ideas" are actually not that radical -- they're common-sense solutions to making different aspects of education work for everyone, and they vary in range from offering infant-to-preschool ed  to rewriting standardized tests. Below are some excerpts.

  • "What's missing is more time for parents and teachers to meet. Everyone talks about how important that relationship is, but these 10-minute conferences are of no value and we handicap teachers by having them do this type of work on their own hours. Give parents time off for parent-teacher conferences, just as we do for jury duty -- it could be an employment policy. And have the student there; it makes the whole meeting more powerful." -- Deborah Meier, senior scholar at New York University and human development leader of the Coalition of Essential Schools
  • "I would use the funds to attract the best teachers for two programs. One would be a Saturday academic program for struggling students, and I would try to determine whether an extra three to five hours a week could drive their reading and math scores in a particular way. I would try the same thing in July, since it's clear that with poor kids, the summer is a time when they really fall behind. We could figure out that you need X hours in reading and X hours in math to make a difference. Then you work on scaling all of that up." -- Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone
  • I would establish urban think tanks for teachers -- a dedicated space to think about public education and how to change it, to identify different approaches that teachers can bring back to their classrooms." -- Damian Jones, assistant principal at Francis W. Parker, a private school in Chicago
  • Every student meets daily with a tutor. Practically, it allows teachers time to plan together. It eliminates the stigma of 'Oh, you have to go to a tutor,' because everyone has to. And there's less time for kids to be left up to their own devices." -- Gloria Ladson-Billings, author of The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children