Education Week - July 19, 2017 - 10
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology
Gets a Fresh Push
By Benjamin Herold
Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and
Facebook founder and CEO Mark
Zuckerberg are gearing up to invest
hundreds of millions of dollars a year
in a new vision of "whole-child personalized learning."
The emerging strategy represents
a high-stakes effort to bridge longstanding divides between competing
visions for improving the nation's
schools. Through their recently established Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative,
the billionaire couple intends to support the development of software that
might help teachers better recognize
and respond to each student's academic needs-while also supporting
a holistic approach to nurturing children's social, emotional, and physical
The man charged with marrying those two philosophies is former
Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education
James H. Shelton, now the initiative's
president of education.
"We've got to dispel this notion that
personalized learning is just about
technology," Shelton said in an interview with Education Week. "In fact, it
is about understanding students, giving them agency, and letting them do
work that is engaging and exciting."
To advance that vision, Shelton has
at his disposal a massive fortune and
a wide array of levers to pull.
Chan and Zuckerberg created the
initiative as a vehicle for directing
99 percent of their Facebook shares-
worth tens of billions of dollars-to
causes related to education and science, through a combination of charitable giving and investment. The
initiative is structured as a limitedliability corporation, rather than a
traditional foundation. That means
CZI will be able to make philanthropic donations, invest in for-profit
companies, lobby for favored policies
and legislation, and directly support candidates for elected office-
all with minimal public-reporting
In the near future, Shelton said,
he expects the initiative to give out
Ramin Rahimian for Education Week
Chan-Zuckerberg's 'whole child' strategy
James H. Shelton leads
"hundreds of millions of dollars per
year" for education-related causes.
Such a figure would place the ChanZuckerberg Initiative among the
highest-giving education-focused philanthropies in the country.
From the outset, though, the couple's attempt to engineer big changes
in the U.S. education system faces significant obstacles.
"Personalized learning" was an
amorphous concept even before this
new attempt to integrate it with
equally hard to define "whole child"
strategies. It remains unclear how
Chan, Zuckerberg, and Shelton intend
to balance the organization's support
for research and development with
their desire to quickly bring to scale
new products and approaches, many
of which have limited or no evidence
to support their effectiveness.
And CZI won't commit to publicly
disclosing all its financial and political
building a Community of readers
Driving Student engagement Through Collective impact
Learn how the collective impact
of community partnerships,
paired with a personalized
approach to literacy, ensures that
every learner is engaged and
supported in ways that foster
learning and measure growth.
* Todd Brekhus, president,
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10 | EDUCATION WEEK | July 19, 2017 | www.edweek.org