After all these years, some education entrepreneurs are still struggling with the need to engage with “them” -- the public and political entities that govern public education. You’d be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t). For that reason, the tone was calm, but the challenges presented at the opening NSVF session that just finished this morning in New Orleans were actually quite pointed. Moderated by Andy Rotherham, the session focused on whether and how the education philanthropy community and its beneficiary groups can more so in the future engage with and make a difference in the rest of the education world, rather than working on the margins in single schools, programs, and networks. This challenge brought up issues of scale, human capital, and rhetoric, about which not everyone agreed. Former Virginia governor Mark Warner urged the community to get into the education system rather than just partnering with it or working around it. Denver superintendent Michael Bennett, recently profiled in The New Yorker, detailed the challenges of community engagement and called for reformers to turn charters back on the system as a reform lever rather than continue working on them as an escape valve. Dacia Toll from Achievement First responded that scale was not the problem for her and other charter proponents, but rather quality.
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