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New Tech Infrastructure, Standards Needed, Ed. Department Official Says

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Jim Shelton, the assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, identified four ways in which the public and private sectors can drive improvements in education during a lunchtime keynote speech at the ASU/GSV Education Innovation Summit.

Improving technology infrastructure, adopting interoperability standards, creating performance-based markets with easily understandable measures of performance, and increasing investment in research and development in education are necessary to bring the transformative change needed in today's education system, he said.

"None of this stuff is sexy, but these are all the things that will allow everyone in this room to flourish," he told the crowd of education entrepreneurs, educators, and investors. "If we have this infrastructure, if we have this context, then everything else gets easier."

The role of the federal government in helping to improve education and spur innovation is to create the right context for innovation to occur, he said.

"We have to teach people how to create a context that will let this sector flourish like the biosector, health care, or technology," said Shelton.

As for the private sector, he encouraged members to invest in the ecosystem and become real experts in the field, which means understanding the main factors that drive education policy and decisionmaking at federal, state, and local levels, as well as the regulations and funding mechanisms that govern the sector.

When asked to grade the federal government's performance in improving education, Shelton gave the government's work with K-12 schools a B+/A-, citing Race to the Top as one area of improvement.

"We will never go back to where someone will be able to call themselves a great educator without [that being tied to student performance,]" he said.

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