With the Race to the Top language out, it’s time to refine the list of opportunities for education entrepreneurs (both .org & .com). From largest to niche size they include:
1. School improvement: between RTT, Inovation, and School Improvement, there will be a couple billion spent on attempts to improve struggling schools. America’s Choice should be well positioned as will a new services group at Pearson. Groups like AdvancePath that target under-credited students as a school-within-a-school should also do well.
2. CMO/EMO: with grant money and air cover from Obama and Duncan, the demand for high quality charters has never been stronger. If CMOs like Green Dot can figure out a reliable conversion strategy, several will finally achieve scale. A for-profit operator, National Heritage is now twice as big as Green Dot and bigger than the KIPP network. It will help if RTT helps improves access to public facilities.
4. Assessment: the big guys will continue to own state contracts, but there’s a new opening for formative and periodic assessment. Groups like Wireless Generation are well positioned to take advantage of the push for quick tests that improve instruction.
5. Adaptive content & learning games: Over the next five years, we’ll see a third of the $8B textbook business shift to digital with a third of that going to the new field of adaptive content and games.
6. Training: It has been a tough year in the professional development business, but that should change as federal funding flows. Where data is linked to evaluation, we’ll see strong demand for targeted training.
7. Consulting: lots of states, districts and schools need lots of services including data integration, policy development, program design and implementation (i.e., evaluation), grant writing, program management, and communications.
8. Advocacy: The big bucks and big demands on the system will make the next few years very dynamic. We need a ConnCAN in every state to connect communities, lawmakers, and policy experts. We need to mobilize underserved communities to steer school improvement and new school opportunities.
9. Evaluation: evaluating $5B of spending will yield $250M of evaluation contracts—it’s a good time to be MDRC.
10. Web 2.0: with dozens of new entrants in the social learning space and content management and student information systems incorporating web 2.0 functionality, we’re bound to see a couple of these gain widespread adoption in the next four school years.