Here’s the typical knock on America’s colleges of education: They’re detached from the education field and actual classroom practice, the research they produce is low-quality and not useful, and the teachers they train are no better than those coming into the profession through alternate routes.
Let’s be honest, there is too much truth to all of that. But it’s not universal, and the new Jefferson Education Accelerator launched last month is a good example of the kind of leadership potential that exists in the nation’s colleges of education.
A public-private initiative cultivated by the Curry School of Education, the Jefferson Education Accelerator puts Curry, and Charlottesville more generally, at the leading edge of educational change in this country. The accelerator will work with and invest in promising educational ventures. It will help them get better, and they will help the Curry School stay connected to the newest ideas and trends in the education sector.
Interestingly, as the Curry School Foundation board considered various ways Curry could support educational innovation, the ideas kept getting bigger and bigger rather than pared down. That speaks to the potential for impact and the opportunities, as well as the enthusiasm for Curry to support a bold initiative in the field. The national talent and investment Curry is already attracting to the accelerator validates the vision Dean Bob Pianta and the board had.
None of this will be easy and there will surely be bumps as the Curry School is plowing new ground here. But it’s the right road to go down. A lot of promising education ventures fail for two reasons. Good ideas that can benefit students and lead to sustainable businesses fail because they are ill-equipped to thrive in the education sector. Meanwhile, educators with good ideas are often ill-equipped to make the best moves to turn a great idea into a great business.
The Jefferson Education Accelerator can help solve both these problems and add value to the sector and to the work happening at Curry.
Andrew J. Rotherham is vice-chair of the Curry Foundation Board of Directors. In his day job he is a co-founder and partner at Bellwether Education Partners. He is also executive editor of Real Clear Education, part of the Real Clear Politics family of news and analysis websites, a contributing editor to U.S. News & World Report, writes the blog Eduwonk.com, and is the co-publisher of “Education Insider,” a federal policy analysis tool produced by Whiteboard Advisors.
Neither Rotherham nor Bellwether has any financial interest in the Jefferson Education Accelerator.