Teachers College Press has published a major study of venture philanthropy and its efforts to introduce market forces into teacher education. It was written by Kenneth Zeichner and Cesar Pena-Sandoval of the University of Washington in Seattle.

The article focuses on the key role of the NewSchools Venture Fund in promoting legislation to authorize charter academies to train teachers and principals. This close examination of the NSVF is especially pertinent now that its most recent CEO, Ted Mitchell, was named as Undersecretary of Education, and will play a large role in shaping higher education policy.

The strategy of the venture philanthropists is by now familiar: first, proclaim that traditional institutions are failing; second, declare a crisis; third, propose market-based solutions accompanied by grandiose promises.

Here is a summary of the study:

“Background & Purpose:

“This article focuses on the growing role of venture philanthropy in shaping policy and practice in teacher education in the United States. Our goal is to bring a greater level of transparency to private influences on public policy and to promote greater discussion and debate in the public arena about alternative solutions to current problems. In this article, we focus on the role of one of the most influential private groups in the United States that invests in education, the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF), in promoting deregulation and market-based policies.

“Research Design:

“We examine the changing role of philanthropy in education and the role of the NSVF in developing and promoting a bill in the U.S. Congress (the GREAT Act) that would create a system throughout the nation of charter teacher and principal preparation programs called academies. In assessing the wisdom of the GREAT Act, we examine the warrant for claims that education schools have failed in their mission to educate teachers well and the corresponding narrative that entrepreneurial programs emanating from the private sector are the solution.


“We reject both the position that the status quo in teacher education is acceptable (a position held by what we term “defenders”) and the position that the current system needs to be “blown up” and replaced by a market economy (“reformers”). We suggest a third position (“transformers”) that we believe will strengthen the U.S. system of public teacher education and provide everyone’s children with high-quality teachers. We conclude with a call for more trenchant dialogue about the policy options before us and for greater transparency about the ways that private interests are influencing public policy and practice in teacher education…

“This article examines the increasing role of venture philanthropy (Reckhow, 2013; Saltman, 2010; Scott, 2006) and the ideas of educational entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation in influencing the course of federal and state policies and practices in teacher education in the United States.”