Book Review

The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship

edited by Frederick M. Hess, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2008, 292 pp. with index, $54.95 hardcover, $29.95 softcover

This book opens the curtain on what some serious reform-minded entrepreneurs and scholars envision. As editor of The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship: Possibilities for School Reform, Frederick Hess, director of educational policy for the American Enterprise Institute, tells us the school environment is “characterized by insufficient quality-control mechanisms, a lack of transparency, a scarcity of human or investment capital and harmful regulatory and institutional barriers [that are] … more likely to produce mediocrity than effective solutions.”

The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship

Public school advocates may have to swallow hard when reading this harsh critique.

Hess has compiled the views of venture capitalists, foundation officials and for-profit executives. They have analyzed the realities of what it will take for entrepreneurial activity to thrive in K-12 education.

The prime thrust of these authors, however, is to determine how to create the mechanisms by which the most promising education ideas surface and then grow to substantial scale via an entrepreneurial approach. No blueprint for national reform to advance entrepreneurship is produced, yet the pieces of the puzzle are described.

Nevertheless, a valuable byproduct of this volume is that readers can see what some committed, deep-thinking entrepreneurs see as flaws in public education. As one puts it: “For reasons that can be traced to habit, training, and policy, district officials generally assume their expenditures on salaries and benefits are a given and therefore underestimate the value of new services that make faculty or staff more effective.”

Reviewed by Arthur W. Stellar, former superintendent, Taunton, Mass.