In health care, up to 15% of annual spending is devoted to research and development.
In education, that figure is less than .25% — not even a quarter of 1 percent.
No wonder it seems that in many American schools, things haven’t changed in a century. They haven’t.
David Nitkin is lucky. A product of Staples (Class of 2003) and Yale University, he benefited from instructors and curricula that emphasized open-ended problem solving, critical thinking, communication skills, even social intelligence — qualities highly prized by employers today.
David knows that’s not true in most places. Now — nearly finished with his master’s in the economics of education program at Columbia’s Teachers College, and with 2 years’ Teach for America experience at a Bronx middle school under his belt — he’s doing something about it.
And Washington is listening.
A few months ago, David heard about Arizona State University’s “Policy Challenge.” Students, staff and experts were asked to proposed innovative, viable plans for changes that could be implemented at the Departments of Education, Energy or Health and Human Services. They had to “break down barriers to entrepreneurship, and enable the use of new technologies.”
David’s plan called on the federal government to invest in basic research for the next generation of student achievement tests. He said money should be awarded through a competitive, crowd-sourced structure that “unleashes the power of networks to drive innovation.”
His proposal earned him the designation of “finalist,” and a trip to George Washington University. There he pitched a blue-ribbon panel that included Aneesh Chopra, former chief technology officer in President Obama’s Office of Science and
The panelists like what they heard. He took 1st place in the education category. Top education policymakers and specialists — including Carmel Martin, an Assistant Secretary of Education — handed David their business cards. Essentially, they said, “let’s talk.”
His proposal has a long way to go, of course. “For a supposedly ‘free-spending Democrat,’ Obama doesn’t have a lot of money to give out,” David laughs.
But his foot is now in the improve-educational-assessment door.
The next door that opens is this summer, in Newark. David has a fellowship with the public school system there, working on teacher evaluations.
At the same time, he’s applying for full-time jobs in the fall.
It’s a tough job market, but he’ll do fine. Having as references the top education and technology officials in Washington is a good way to pass the all-important employment “test.”