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Johns Hopkins Partnership Aims to Help Ed. Industry

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The Johns Hopkins University School of Education and the Education Industry Association, a trade group, are partnering to develop curriculum, research, and business-development programs around education entrepreneurship.

The goal is to help prepare the next generation of business leaders in education and improve the relationship between the public and private sectors, leaders of the two entities said.

“We have to leverage every sector of the [education] business,” Henry Smith, the executive director of the office of partnerships for educational transformation at Johns Hopkins, said in an interview. “There’s a $4 billion business here that’s been ignored by the education industry. We are no longer ignoring it.”

As part of the venture, announced Feb. 23, Hopkins will establish a new Doctor of Education program and an education business “incubator,” and it will provide independent research for education companies. The EIA, along with its members, will help develop curriculum, commission research, and offer access to top executives and officials working in private and public K-12 education.

“It’s a chance for future students to learn at the elbows of seasoned entrepreneurs who have the battle scars of public-private partnerships,” Steve Pines, the executive director of the EIA, said in an interview. The group, based in Vienna, Va., represents more than 300 organizations, including education management organizations, publishers, consultants, and online education companies.

Framing Research Questions

Students can already enroll for the “revamped” three-year, part-time Ed.D. program, which begins at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, next fall. New courses about the education industry will be offered, and existing curricula in history, policy, and finance will be given an entrepreneurship and business focus, Mr. Smith said. Courses will be offered online and in person.

The partnership is also taking aim at a muddy area of education: research into for-profit education initiatives. Johns Hopkins, a research university, will provide research—independently, Mr. Pines and Mr. Smith stressed—to EIA members looking for performance data or insight on their products and services.

A lack of reliable data is often cited as a barrier to greater cooperation between public education and for-profit companies. Mr. Smith said that, in most cases, the relationship with education businesses will help frame the right questions for Johns Hopkins researchers, who will initiate their own studies.

But the companies could also commission the research as a form of “offense and defense,” Mr. Pines said, explaining it would be a chance to bolster their accountability or prove their detractors wrong.

“Many school districts currently do not yet make procurement decisions based on what works,” Mr. Pines said.

Long-term plans for the partnership include an incubator program for startups and early-stage education businesses and joint projects between the EIA and the education school.

The partnership’s plan to “integrate for-profit programs, products, and concepts more deeply into the education sector” could make educators skeptical of the true independence of the research produced, or doubtful that such integration can be done with students’ best interest in mind.

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But Mr. Pines insisted the key to assuaging those fears is informing the private sector and the public with better data.

Other universities offer programs that merge business and education. For instance, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education runs its own education business incubator, in partnership with the Milken Family Foundation. Arizona State University offers a doctoral degree in “leadership and innovation,” preparing students for positions in education businesses.

But Mr. Smith said the Hopkins program is the first partnership of this size between a university and a trade association.

“Everyone is at the table, all the stakeholders,” he said.

Vol. 31, Issue 23

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