Education Opinion

Smart Cities: 10 Opinions About What Matters

By Tom Vander Ark — May 28, 2013 3 min read

For the last six months I’ve written more than 30 Smart Cities posts in search of the
secrets of educational innovation and improvement. I’ve also been learning from other authors. Following is a compilation of other folks thinking about
cities and innovation--half from education and half from business and technology.

1. The Center for Reinventing Public Education is the leading advocate for urban portfolio strategy which
includes 7 components:

  1. Good Options and Choices for All Families,

  2. School Autonomy,

  3. Pupil-Based Funding for All Schools,

  4. Talent-Seeking Strategy,

  5. Sources of Support for Schools,

  6. Performance-Based Accountability for Schools, and

  7. Extensive Public Engagement

2. CEE-Trust is a network of more than 30 local funders and agitators advancing a portfolio strategy. With Public Impact, they recently released two
reports on

Scaling a Successful Pilot to Expand Blended Learning Options Citywide


Interventions and Catalysts in Markets for Education Technology: Roles of City-Based Funders


3. The Department of Education has advocated for Education Innovation Clusters that
“articulate the connection between three key partners; educators, researchers, and entrepreneurs - each adding their unique strengths to the network.”

4. Andy Smarick’s new book The Urban School System of the Future
notes that districts were designed to operate similar attendance boundary schools and not “built to constantly develop different types of schools populated
through parental choice. They weren’t designed to continuously identify, replicate, and expand their best schools. They weren’t designed to regularly close
and replace failing schools. They weren’t designed to authorize others to run autonomous schools. These tasks are not in the DNA of the traditional school

5. In Startup Communities Brad Feld documents the
buzz, activities, and dynamics of entrepreneurial communities. Feld thinks entrepreneurs must lead the startup community and leaders must make a long-term
commitment to an inclusive and engaging community. Brad thinks start communities can leverage universities like his hometown of Boulder Colorado does. (See
last week’s Getting Smart feature.)

6. The Thriving Cities Project from University of Virginia, measures urban
“endowments” which are comprised of the:

  • True: education and knowledge production;

  • Good: moral and ethical formation;

  • Beautiful: art and aesthetics;

  • Prosperous: economic life;

  • Well-ordered and Just: political and legal systems; and

  • Sustainable: public health and environmental.

7. In The Rainforest Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt explore
innovation ecosystems. They suggest that the secret to building the Next Silicon Valley is building human networks that generate extraordinary creativity
and output.

8. Cities: Where Good Jobs Are Created, is an excerpt from Jim
Clifton’s book

The Coming Jobs War
. Clifton argues that what cities need for job creation “entrepreneurs, enterprise energy, and the leadership to put it all together” is all located in
cities, “the highest probability source of job creation.” He suggests that the culture of Bay Area “that responds to innovation and creates business models
like no other place on Earth.” Clifton urges other cities to “align efforts citywide” to “wage a war for jobs.”

9. Ten years ago Richard Florida outlined the

Rise of the Creative Class

, but recently he acknowledged that creative coastal cities were

not providing much trickle down

benefit to middle class workers.

10. Joel Kotkin has criticized Richard Florida’s Creative Class theory and outlined the growth formula of low tax energy rich Red State Growth Corridors.

Comparing the work of these leading authorities, I think we can derive four important elements:

  • innovation takes an ecosystem;

  • talent development feeds the ecosystem;

  • the ecosystem leverages local assets; and

  • policies impact the ecosystem--good and bad.

From a K-12 standpoint, urban districts need partners--investors, talent developers, new school developers, and policy advocate--to create an innovation

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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