Mr. Nitkin Goes To Washington

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

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.”

9 responses to “Mr. Nitkin Goes To Washington

  1. The Times They Are a Changing

    Working on (union) teacher evaluations? Good luck with that one!
    Maybe he would have more luck (and money) if he talked to Scott Walker instead of Obama czars.

  2. Linda Smith

    I’ve known David since he was about 13, and if anyone can help children in America to have access to the best teachers it is David. His heart and brain are in the right place. Best of luck helping in the Newark school system this summer!

  3. Stanley Witkow

    I’ve known David since he first came to Westport. When I was at a Teachers College event this Spring, I told Susan Fuhrman, the dean, that David was going to be one of her stars. I’m not at all surprised that I was right–but I’m especially happy for David that he’s proving me right so fast!

  4. WoW 2 Republicans in Westport!!!


    • The Times They Are a Changing

      The real question is:
      How many Obama supporters are in Westport compared to ’08?

      I’d bet there are a few less 🙂

  5. lets hope so. Westporters used to be known as
    Ex-Westporter – one of the intelligent ones!

  6. I have thought highly of this young man since the day I met him.

  7. Westporters have been voting Democrat and destroying the nation for a while. But then again it’s a town of like only 15,000 so it’s an irrelevant town anyway.