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Education has been a rich area for social entrepreneurship over the past few decades. In this panel discussion from the NewSchools Summit, several prominent educational reformers discuss their work, their goals, and what they’ve accomplished. They consider the radical changes in education in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where more than 60 percent of students attend a charter school and parents all over the city have a choice regarding where to send their children. They speak about the importance of pushing innovation in education reform. And they share the importance of having a political strategy to back up educational efforts. The 2010 NewSchools Summit was an event convened by the NewSchools Venture Fund.

Kevin Chavous is a noted attorney, author and national school reform leader. As a former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and chair of the Council’s Education Committee, Chavous was at the forefront of promoting change within the district public school system. His efforts led to more than 500 million new dollars being made available to educate children in Washingon, D.C. Chavous is a partner at the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP.

Walter Isaacson is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, D.C. He has been the chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of Time magazine. Isaacson is the chairman of the board of Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates to teach in underserved communities. He was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other international broadcasts of the United States.

Ted Mitchell is the president and CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund. He also serves as president of the California State Board of Education. He serves on the board of directors of Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Bellwether Education Partners, EnCorps, Friendship Public Charter School, Green Dot Public Schools, and New Leaders for New Schools.

Lindsay Neil has dedicated herself to improving childrens’ lives through education, including raising money to build a school in Nicaragua that she later managed during a two-year stay there. She spent several years working in the nonprofit sector providing direct services to children and families at an immigrant advocacy organization and school-based family resource center in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the Safe City Juvenile Diversion Program in Denver. With the goal of making larger-scale change for children, she spent the last four years as the government affairs director of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, where she strategically planned and lobbied their policy agenda and directed their grassroots advocacy network, It’s About Kids.

Michelle Rhee‘s commitment to excellence in education began in a Baltimore classroom in 1992 as a Teach For America teacher. At Harlem Park Community School, she learned the lesson that informs her work every day: a city’s teachers are the most powerful driving force behind student achievement in a school. Chancellor Rhee founded The New Teacher Project (TNTP) in 1997, a leading organization in understanding and developing innovative solutions to the challenges of new teacher hiring. Her work with TNTP implemented widespread reform in teacher hiring practices, improving teacher hiring in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami, New York, Oakland, and Philadelphia. Rhee is currently the chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools.

Jonathan Schorr is a partner in the San Francisco office of the NewSchools Venture Fund. He leads NewSchools’ field-building efforts, including the annual summit and the Community of Practice, and oversees NewSchools’ policy advocacy, publications and public relations, as well as data analysis. Schorr brings experience in both entrepreneurial education reform and in communications. Prior to joining NewSchools, Jonathan served as director of New Initiatives at the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Foundation, a network of high-performing inner-city public schools. There, he led the foundation’s work in elementary schools and high schools, and its services to its alumni nationwide.

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