Education Business Summit Explores Issue of Learning Equity

Associate Editor

Scottsdale, Ariz.

An audience of investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and teachers interested in the future of education heard a dire warning from one of the hosts of the ASU+GSV Summit held here on Monday.

ASU+GSV.jpegCurrent inequalities of economic and educational opportunity in the United States represent a “recipe for revolution” that could threaten our very democracy, said Michael Moe, co-founder and CEO of GSV Capital, and an advisor to GSV Advisors, which co-sponsors the summit with Arizona State University.

“For the first time in this country’s history, there’s no upward mobility,” he said. “If you’re born poor, you’re going to stay poor,” he said, adding that compensation of CEOs  is now 270 times that of the average worker in 2015.

Giving access to a good education is a key to tackling that problem, said Moe, who outlined a 10-point plan to counter this trend at the conference held in the posh Phoenician, a resort near Camelback Mountain here.

He said the plan was formulated by 100 leaders in education who gathered at Beaver Creek—a Colorado resort—in October 2014. The plan’s “foundational truth” is that talent is equally distributed by ZIP code, “but unfortunately opportunity is not,” he said.

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Among the points in the plan, which is being explored by various sessions at the conference held here Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesay this week, are the following:

  • Work to provide equal access to early learning, since 52 percent of low-income kindergarten students aren’t ready to learn;
  • Develop and elevate transformational school leaders with programs like New Leaders for New Schools, a nonprofit that has impacted 350,000 students by training their educator-leaders;
  • Promote national service through programs like Teach for America and City Year;
  • Accelerate learning through technology;
  • Improve quality with new models, like Coursera, a for-profit ed-tech company that has partnered with universities to provide massive, open online courses, or MOOCs, with 12 million students from almost 200 countries using its platform after three years of operation; and,
  • Gain strength through diversity. Moe noted that, in the the education industry, 35 percent of venture capital funding is secured by women, but he said it’s been shown that companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competitors; and,
  • Use cognitive science to maximize learning. “The brain is the final frontier,” said Moe. 

I’ll be covering these themes as they arise in various sessions this week, so stay tuned to hear more about them.

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Photo: A scene on the patio outside The Phoenician, as participants at the ASU+GSV Summit network during a happy hour.

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