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Strategic Education Philanthropy Plan Offers Recommendations but Fails to Address Serious Concerns

BOULDER, CO (March 7, 2017) – Philanthropic involvement in K-12 education has grown into a powerful force shaping the direction of reforms pursued throughout the country. A recent report from the NewSchools Venture Fund offers a thought experiment on how philanthropists can dramatically shape education reform by making a “big bet” over the next decade on what they term “innovative schools."

Jeffrey W. Snyder, a scholar of education philanthropy and an Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, reviewed Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

Professor Snyder cautions that the report overpromises. He explains that the report fails to provide a meaningful examination of research or a thorough basis for its recommendations. His critique focuses on six key concerns: the report fails to consider human capital constraints or to sufficiently consider obstacles confronting classroom technology usage; it overlooks equity concerns and past problems with dependence on external professional services; and it ignores both the potential for disruptive reform churn and the danger of philanthropic efforts altering public education systems in undemocratic ways.

Although the report provides valuable insights via a glimpse into where some of the most influential players in the philanthropic sector see investments heading, Professor Snyder concludes that its usefulness to policy and practice is limited.

Find Jeffrey W. Snyder’s review at:

Find Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education, by Stacey Childress and Meghan Amrofell, published by the NewSchools Venture Fund, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: