Michigan Program Teaches TFA Members Entrepreneur Skills

Managing Editor

A program at the University of Michigan is introducing members of the Teach for America program to a concept of increasing interest on college campuses around the country: education entrepreneurship.

Last summer, a group of about 20 university students who are pursuing master’s degrees in urban pedagogy, and are part of TFA’s team in Detroit, took part in a course on the topic, as part of a joint effort of Michigan’s school of education, and its center for entrepreneurship.

Colleges and universitites have shown increasing interest in promoting studies on entrepreneurship in education, as I explain in a story in this week’s issue of Education Week. Programs are already in place, within different typess of academic departments, at the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, and Rice University.

Those studies come in different forms and serve different purposes. Some focus on cultivating the skills of business and ed-tech developers and leaders of potential startup companies interested in bringing new products to K-12 schools; others are more interested in bringing new business skills and sensibilities to current and future teachers, principals, and superintendents.

At Michigan, the goal of the course is to cultivate students’ abilities to think about the problems that K-12 schools face, and potential solutions, in different ways, said Moses Lee, an assistant associate professor of entrepreneurship at the university who has helped craft the course.

Most of the students are TFA members, though it’s also open to students who aren’t part of that program. Students are encouraged to think about topics such as creating and refining curriculum to meet students’ needs, and how to improve communication between parents, teachers, and students, among other ideas.

It’s also possible that students could come up with new products or ideas for providing services to schools that could improve how K-12 systems do business, said Lee.

He brings a background that would seem to mesh well with the course’s purposes: He’s an entrepreneur himself, having co-founded Seelio, an online portfolio network for students, where he’s also the chief executive officer.

The goal is to “empower them to think entrepreneurially in all aspects,” Lee explained. “It’s a fundamental way of thinking about core problems…You’re in an organization, but you’re trying to think outside the box.”

TFA, as many Ed Week readers know, recruits and places teachers from top colleges and universities to work in schools in disadvantaged communities. The program has also placed an emphasis on the professional development of teachers who can become leaders in their schools.

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