Sunday, May 6, 2012
Reflections on the New School Venture Fund Summit
Flying into San Francisco for this year's NSVFS, I felt myself extremely lucky. Not only was I sipping a wonderful Mimosa in my seat, but I was going to the New School Venture Fund Summit for the first time in three years. For those of you who haven't been, NSVFS is a lifetime changing experience. The place is full of the optimism for changing the world that only comes from giving two years of your life to teaching our nation's youth or managing a hedge fund. It's a place where deals are done and where people who desire to serve our students come together with experts who spent nearly 400 days reaching young minds.
There was great corporate sponsorship at the Summit. JP Morgan Chase was there with a powerful message that nobody cares more about the children of the 99% than the adults of the 1%. Even Target hosted the opening reception showing that they believed in the future of our children regardless of how much their business relies on the children of third world countries producing clothing and other goods for their stores.
Actually, things got rather ugly at the opening reception. There was a horrible mix-up and the hospitality table had fresh pineapple. Let's just say that Pearson was not pleased and the pineapple was quickly removed to be replaced by a plate of pigs in blankets. I was doing so much schmoozing and drinking, you can bet I was glad that the hotel pool, didn't have any chemical to discolor urine if you get my drift.
Later that night, we all gathered round to see a movie that I think will change education in America called I Won't Back Down. It may just have been the liquor talking, but I think I Won't Back Down was as good as anything I've ever seen on Lifetime. The movie will be this generations Not Without My Daughter. Ben Austin gave a rousing speech on the need to get parents to feel more disdain for their children's teachers, so that we could have a chance to finally see the parent trigger pulled.
The next morning I was up with only a few hours sleep for morning yoga class. That may have been a big mistake as I was hoping to meet some of the young reformers. There were a lot of very attractive 25 year old retired teachers who were making their way into policy, but I soon collapsed on the mat for a much needed hour nap.
I gave our presentation on the art of counseling out difficult students. I think people were very excited to hear charter success stories this year after all the bad press and if our 22% reduction in stabbings doesn't count as success I don't know what is. Charter schools can save a lot of money, improve test scores, and reduce problems with difficult students. If you are willing to fine the students like Noble Charters in Chicago, you can make some nice pocket change as well.
I attended two fantastic presentations during the day as well. Forethought Academies, is behind the push for more power points in schools. They gave a great power point on how power points make learning more fun and engaging for children. At the end, they even showed a trick to make a fireworks display at the end of your power point.
The other presentation was by Young Educator and New Teacher Alliance. They were looking for ideas on how to push out older teachers with five or more years of experience out humanely with a minimum of fuss. They took several ideas from a science fiction novel called the giver. They suggested having a party for teachers on the last day of their fifth year and having a "release party" for them.
Rahm also warned that if you give parents a choice, they'll take it. I assume this is in reference to his unwillingness to meet with parent groups unhappy with his plans for a log unfunded school day. Finally, Rahm called for more educational entrepreneurs to set up shop in Chicago. I will agree, there's a chance to make a real buck here.