Subscribe to Inc. magazine

Why the Chicago Teachers' Strike Will Help Education Entrepreneurs

The Chicago teachers' strike is going to make new education technologies look much more attractive
Chicago Teachers Union Strike Day 1

If there's a bright side to the Chicago teacher's strike as it continues to victimize (for no good reason) hundreds of thousands of kids and parents, it's that it will provide an opportunity for many Chicago-based entrepreneurs and education start-ups.

Kids attending charter schools, after all, are still in class. But for entrepreneurs, the opportunity goes way beyond new charter schools. Chicago entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that more and more effective out-of-class and self-directed (or computer-enhanced) learning opportunities are available to students of all ages.

These new tools for teaching have multiple advantages: Flexibility, ease of access, cost-effectiveness, scale, and, importantly, appeal to young learners. These attributes suggest the direction in which all educators, and education, need to travel.

Most important, the new educational technologies being brought to market by so many start-ups have another crucial attribute, and this one goes to the heart of the union strike. These new systems, in addition to offering differentiated learning capacity for each and every student, provide extensive measurement, accountability, and testing tools to permit far more robust determinations of whether the students are really learning. That, of course, is the whole point.

How out-of-touch and out-of-date are union leaders and even some older teachers? The real sticking issue in this strike is that teachers don't want to be measured and evaluated. They're even demanding that teachers laid off for their incompetence be automatically rehired before newer, better-trained and more tech-savvy new teachers are hired.

But this strike is going to make parents a lot more receptive to new tools, technologies and learning environments. It will be very hard for them, or for their kids, to ever again settle for the same-old, tired, "I talk, you listen" industrial education model that the teachers' union is trying to prop up. The unions are defending a white picket fence in front of a tsunami.


Last updated: Sep 14, 2012


Howard Tullman is the CEO of 1871 in Chicago where, at the moment, 260 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V, LLC and Chicago High Tech Investors – both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council; and Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. @tullman

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: