Good Work: Humility, Passion, & Dreams

New schools. An updated MDRC study showed positive results of opening new schools in NYC. The study compared the new schools to comparable existing schools–a fair comparison but one that dramatically understated the impact that Joel Klein (@JoelIKlein) and the NYC DOE team created by closing schools where less than half of the students graduated. The new schools often doubled the graduation rates of the closed schools. Because it’s a system of choice, we’re talking about different groups of kids, but its clear that Klein’s aggressive effort to end chronic failure and open quality options made a big difference in NYC.
In addition to Klein’s courage to make tough decisions, I appreciate the way he collaborated with community organizations with the capacity to support new school development. And while serving as Chancellor of NYC Public Schools, he was an outspoken national advocate for equity in education.
Smart Cities. Great news from Baltimore this week, Katrina Stevens took the helm of EdTech.MD, a new nonprofit with a mission to boost EdTech, education and the economy statewide.  As noted in June, Baltimore is an EdTech hotspot with respected providers like Connections Education and Sylvan, a growing number of startups including Three Ring and Allovue, and some great investors.  I’m a big fan of the EdTech.MD board including Andrew Coy of Digital Harbor Foundation, EdTech investor Frank Bonsal, and Jen Meyer, Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.
I’m a tech optimist. Despite political gridlock, with better tools I’m confident that we can create much better schools–schools that work better for teachers and students.  It was fun to spend a couple days this week with education experts from around the world–people that share my optimism about the opportunity set.
Closer to home, on Wednesday we celebrated the contributions of MSC, a nonprofit that provides youth and family services to the three quarters of a million people in South King County. The MSC is involved in most of the 7 ways smart cities attack poverty. They are inspiring in their spirit of services and entrepreneurial in the way they build programs, combine revenue sources, and meet individual needs.
Shout outs. I talked to some high impact edupreneurs in the last 10 days:

  • Following Barb Dreyer’s passing, Steven Guttentag took over as president of Connections Education.  With Mickey Revenaugh and Barb, Guttentag was a co-founder of the online learning pioneer. Like Barb, Steve is smart and a understated leader committed to quality outcomes for students.
  • Writing and language expectations make up about 60% of the Common Core ELA standards.  Good thing grammar, mechanics and usage app NoRedInk is rocking under Jeff Scheur’s leadership. They’re out of beta and adding 400 schools a month.  NoRedInk gained a lot of traction as an Edmodo app. Teachers can create lessons for entire classes or individual students and it makes a great station in a writer’s workshop rotation.
  • Michael Carter is barnstorming the country supporting nonprofit Strive for College–they’re attacking the undermatch problem.  They launched a cool virtual mentoring program that’s making it easier to connect mentors and high school students.

Master chef Massimo Bottura told Charlie Rose, there are three keys to #GoodWork, “Humility, passion, and dreams–big dreams.”  Sounds about right to me–and I saw the evidence this week in Joel, Katrina, Steven, Jeff and Michael.
“Good Work” is a weekly Sunday blog series on mission-focused work. Click here for more blogs in this series.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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