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Friday Guest Column: Ideablob.com offers micro-capital prize for self-starting edupreneurs

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Carol Glenn, who received her B.A. from Cornell University in May of this year, is the developer of Bronze. Ideablob.com is a prize program sponsored by credit card issuer Advanta Bank Corporation. (Edbizbuzz has no business relationships with Advanta or Ms. Glenn.)

Nearly everyone who has dedicated his or her life to the education crises in America knows how difficult it is to find scalable solutions to the problems in urban school districts. Some ideas earn seemingly endless support despite light results, while programs and methods that work struggle to find funding. I’ve been frustrated with the slow pace of change in Black and Latino communities, so I wanted to create a solution that could circumvent the political and grant-seeking processes in favor of internal sustainability.

Bronze is a place for students (particularly older students) to hang out after school. Students are expected to come in and learn something new each day. They will be given assignments that have a point value, and expected to earn a minimum number of points each day. Once the assigned period for study ends and students have met their daily quotas, they will be able to use their points to play video games, watch movies, play indoor miniature golf, use computers, or just grab a hot meal in a cafe (i.e., Dave & Busters meets the freedom of a college campus). This provides incentives but also has the effect of creating a student community where it is okay to be smart.

In order to help get it off the ground, I entered the idea at Ideablob.com, a monthly contest where entrepreneurs submit their ideas to a vote. The prize -$10,000.
It’s free and easy to register. Members have the opportunity to submit their own ideas, offer advice, comment, and vote.

The contest works like this: The first 3 weeks of every month, there are 1 week “sprints.” The sprints allow the 2 ideas that earned the most amount of votes in a week to go into the final that occurs during the 4th and last week. At the beginning of the 4th week, all votes go back to zero and 8 finalists face off to earn the most votes. The idea with the most votes wins. The next sprint starts August 1st.

More about Bronze:

There is no shortage of after school programs, but if my friends and I were anything like the majority of teens, the last thing older students want is to be tightly scheduled hours after the last bell. At the same time, there needs to be a certain period where structure is imposed long enough to get a bit of learning in. For a variety of reasons the school day just isn’t enough to make a real difference in academic achievement. Even worse, changing anything within a school requires a substantial amount of patience and political clout if the community isn’t united. After school time represents an incredible opportunity to find out what works best with inner city students, prove it, and make solid recommendations for parents and the community to fight for.

The education sector is notoriously anti-profit, but I have reasons for choosing a business model.

• The ability to hire and properly compensate quality staff without having to justify it to politicians or the IRS.

• The ability to scale if there is demand, regardless of what foundations and government can and cannot do.

• Freedom to use different teaching methods and textbooks, and freedom to keep updated technology.

• Ability to do research and development on best education practices without the red tape.

• Most importantly, I could focus on the needs of my customers (parents and students), instead of politicians and foundations.

Please have a look at Ideablob, review Bronze, register - and vote!

1 Comment

Great post!

I read your blog as I completed Time to Learn. How would you assess the cost effectiveness of Bronze vs. lengthening the school day? Of course, there is no guarantee that the school day would be extended in a way that respects kids, as opposed to after-school "safety nets" that just impose more worksheets, seat time, bogus credit recovery, and pick up trash to earn credit.

If states and districts could afford to lengthen the school day, that would probably be more effective. (after all a 15% increase in funding could increase the school time by 30%) But our state wasn't able to increase our 173 days of instruction from 173 to 179. Even with our current six hour days, our school becomes dysfunctional by early April when testing begins. Bronze, I suspect, would be far more effective.

This may sound weird, but I'd be curious about this. What if we could change our goal from equality in funding to equity. Whether we did so by a Weighted Funding budget or a Comparability plan (that equalized total funding as opposed to salaries), poor schools would get extra money. If they could afford it, they could follow the proposals of Time to Learn. If they had less new money, or if they didn't want to put all of their eggs in one basket, they could go with Bronze.

I see my logic as similar to yours. We adults need to look through the students' eyes and show them the respect of making choices. Similarly, policy reformers need to consider the knowledge of real-life educators and respect us and offer us choices.

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  • john thompson: Great post! I read your blog as I completed Time read more




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