In a recent American Enterprising Institute (AEI) Education Outlook, Senior Fellow Frederick Hess suggests  that the K-12 system should adopt “Greenfield” schooling practices in order to enhance educational entrepreneurship.
“‘Greenfield’ is a term investors, engineers, and builders use to refer to an area where there are unobstructed, wide-open opportunities to invent or build,” he writes in the April publication. “It is not a term one hears often in K–12 education. This is no surprise.”
Hess argues that educational entrepreneurs today are often siphoned into resource-intensive “whole school” models. “Some reformers are fascinated by high-powered charter schools in urban communities,” he writes. “This enthusiasm is natural, as schools like Achievement First and YES Prep are posting impressive results; however, observers often skip past the fact that these schools generally succeed by hiring extraordinary teachers, extending the school day, and creating disciplined cultures” (emphasis added). “This ‘more, better’ approach emphasizes conventional, expensive means and tends to favor reformers who augment rather than reinvent familiar school models,” he writes.
“Transformative ventures must also be cost-effective,” Hess later adds. “Entrepreneurs who succeed through a ‘more, better’ strategy can make a valuable contribution, but their impact is inevitably limited.”
Hess writes in the “Tilling the Soil” section that in order to innovate, “Greenfield educators must first knock down obstacles— both those that are formal and visible and those that are more subtle and easier to overlook—that can stifle the emergence and growth of entrepreneurial ventures.” “Formal barriers” to innovation include statutes and burdensome textbook approval practices, whereas “informal barriers” are “are the political, operational, and cultural routines that make it difficult for new ventures to gain a foothold or pioneer new practices.”
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia .