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Innovation summit lays out plans to transform Ariz. education

April 28, 2011

Educators, entrepreneurs and investors agreed that when it comes to the future of education in America, thinking big is a necessity, they said as they came together for the Education Innovation Summit at ASU SkySong in early April.

Thinking big led to over $110 million in investments in 11 of the 55 presenting companies from last year’s inaugural summit, according to event officials. That figure represented nearly half of the total investment in education companies since last year.

This year’s summit boasted over 580 registered attendees, 92 presenting companies and included panel discussions with titles like “KISS-What we can learn (and steal) from Korea, Israel, Singapore and Shanghai” and “No Labels- Non-profit/for-profit/public/private education organizations/institutions.”

Clever titles aside, many discussions seemed to gravitate to one question: What will the future of education in America look like?

Arizona State University President Michael Crow made it clear in his keynote speech that whatever the future brings, it needs to be very different.

“Tradition is our enemy,” Crow said. “It stands in the way of progress. If tradition is our enemy, then innovation is our ally.”

Crow went on to describe the innovations that ASU is currently pioneering such as moving away from the traditional “faculty-centric” and becoming more “student-centric.”

Richard Barth, President and CEO of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation said early on in the proceedings, “The energy at ASU is just exciting.”

The summit allowed almost 100 companies with roots in education to present to investors and lay out their vision of how to improve education.

Presenters stressed that in the end it will undoubtedly be the combined effort of innovators, educators and students that will transform the way we educate in our changing world.

Barth, who is more focused on K-12 education, was one of the founding staff members of Teach For America and also worked with Edison Schools before becoming CEO and president of the KIPP Foundation in 2005.

“There are huge opportunities for innovation to improve outcomes, make the lives of teachers better and save money,” Barth said.

Beatriz Rendón, Associate Vice President of Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU and CEO of University Public Schools Inc. (UPSI), a public charter school effort carried out in partnership with ASU, spoke to attendees about transforming public education.

“There is a lot of room for innovation and the benefit will not be limited to within ASU Preparatory,” Rendón said, giving reference to a charter school operated under her direction.

ASU Preparatory is one example of how ASU has invested in K-12 education in Arizona. The university also provides multiple opportunities for students to acquire funding for startups, and some of these startups seek to have an impact on K-12 education in Arizona.

One example is LearningBee Products, LLC, a company that was founded by ASU graduates Alicia Mendoza, Angela Carmitchel and Errolin Maynes. The company sells literacy games and activities that are aligned with state and national reading standards and was awarded a total of $8,000 through the Entrepreneur Advantage Program (EAP) and the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, both ASU funding competitions.

“Having the support at ASU and opportunities for funding such as EAP and Edson was critical to developing LearningBee,” Carmitchel said.

Not only did the venture receive funding from ASU, the concept was also conceived and developed in an advanced entrepreneurship course at the university.

As Rendón said to attendees in her speech, “It’s all of us that need to get in there and roll up our sleeves.”

Submitted by Taylor McArthor, contributing writer, PULSE newsletter