In the world of education, it was the equivalent of the cool kids’ table in the cafeteria.
Executives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McKinsey consultants and scholars from Stanford and Harvard mingled at an invitation-only meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund at a luxury hotel in Pasadena, Calif. Founded by investors who helped start Google and Amazon, this philanthropy seeks to raise the academic achievement of poor black and Hispanic students, largely through charter schools.
Many of those at the meeting last May had worried that the Obama administration would reflect the general hostility of teachers’ unions toward charters, publicly financed schools that are independently run and free to experiment in classrooms. But all doubts were dispelled when the image of Arne Duncan, the new education secretary, filled a large video screen from Washington. He pledged to combine “your ideas with our dollars” from the federal government. “What you have created,” he said, “is a real movement.”