Virtual School Meanderings

March 10, 2017

Questions Still Unanswered Regarding Philanthropic Innovations In Education, Review Finds

A report from Tuesday’s inbox.

March 7, 2017

Jeffry W. Snyder, (216) 687-9213,
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Questions still unanswered regarding philanthropic innovations in education, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Mar. 7, 2017) — A recent report from the NewSchools Venture Fund offered a thought experiment on how philanthropists can help accelerate efforts to reimagine school. It suggests that philanthropic investment should make a “big bet” on innovative models. However, an academic review finds the report’s usefulness to policy and practice is limited.

Jeffrey W. Snyder, Cleveland State University, reviewed the report, Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Dr. Snyder studies the ways in which non-district actors (e.g. mayors and philanthropies) shape and respond to education reforms, and factors that may influence links among schools and outside service providers.

Reimagining Learning called for a total investment of $4 billion over 10 years through three key areas: (1) creating new schools and redesigning existing ones; (2) supporting targeted technology innovation; and (3) launching a campaign to foster understanding and demand for innovative education models.

Although the report presents valuable insight into the promises of philanthropy, Snyder’s review finds that the report overpromises. He says, “Unfortunately, the report fails to provide a meaningful examination of research or a thorough basis for its recommendations.”

The review of the report focuses on the following critiques:

  1. It fails to consider human capital constrains or to sufficiently consider obstacles confronting classroom technology use;
  2. It overlooks equity concerns and past problems with dependence on external professional services; and
  3. It ignores the potential for disruptive reform churn and the danger of philanthropic efforts altering education systems in undemocratic ways.

Snyder, in conclusion, says, “The report leaves many questions about its proposal unaddressed, including many concerns regarding assumptions, feasibility, and whether or not it is an appropriate roadmap to achieve change in a public and democratic system.”

Find the review on the web:

Find the report at:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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