Change: School Reform's "Red Envelope" Problem
There'll be lots of shiny young MBA types looking for jobs at the 2011 Yale SOM education conference later this week -- and lots of TFA and KIPP and New Leaders recruiters looking for new hires (87 pp Chrome-crashing PDF here). But is that really the right thing for them to be doing at this particular point in the game? I'm not so sure.
Hard as it might be for them to contemplate pivoting away from the programs they've dedicated their lives to and made a name creating, reformers might need to do just that to a much greater extent than they seem willing to do thus far (despite lots of lip service to the importance of movement creation and advocacy that's going around).
The logic is this: programs like TFA and KIPP have shown what can be done, established a certain degree of credibility, and incubated a bunch of potential leaders. But now those direct service programs are legacy operations -- sinkholes for money, time, and talent whose outputs however expanded or impressive they may be won't make a large-scale difference. Except to those directly involved, it doesn't really matter if there are another 30,000 TFA teachers or another 300 KIPP schools (or at least I haven't seen any plan of action that translates more into different).
I'm not saying they should shut these existing programs down, just that they should focus less on growth and coordinate. The advocacy and engagement wing of the reform movement is fledgling, to say the least -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise -- and doesn't seem well-positioned to compete with its older and more established siblings to get the best people and the lion's share of the dollars going forward.
Netflix saw what happened when Blockbuster held onto its storefronts too long. Can reform leaders like TFA and KIPP (among others) do the same, or will they continue to push their own programs ahead despite the cost to the larger effort that they're part of?