An Idea to Fix Our Broken Education System

Our public education system is a disaster. It is not the teachers, students or even the curriculum. It is the SYSTEM. We utilize a 19th century manufacturing system that meets the needs of only a few students. We need a new innovative approach that utilizes 21st century tools to keep our students competitive.

Robert Caveney has developed a new concept for education that works, but he needs resources to build a pilot program. The system allows for self-motivated learning, with a structure that provides students immediate feedback while using the latest technology.

In our current, antiquated system, a common teacher teaches children the same way. If students don’t master a subject, most still move on, like a widget in a manufacturing plant. If they have already mastered the subject, they still move with the same classmates, which can lead to boredom and less interest in the process. We know individuals are different and only a small percentage learn at the same rate.

The Caveney model is revolutionary. Small children master a toy and then move on to the next toy. Anyone who has watched an infant knows it is the challenge and mastery of the toy that makes it interesting. It is the same in education. If a child in first grade can do third grade math, that’s what they should be learning. If a child in third grade hasn’t mastered second grade math, they will fail at math from that point on. The Caveney solution recognizes this fundamental truth.

That’s why it is so important to change the system. We can continue to have core curriculum, teaching math and science and testing students all the time. But none of this will address the underlying problem of the old system. If the US is to compete in the 21st century and beyond, we must adapt to the best learning methods. An additional benefit to the Caveney model is it allows teachers flexibility—they’re not forced to teach the lowest common curriculum or teach to the test.

Right now, Caveney is looking to prove his system through a pilot program in some of the poorest schools districts in California. He is looking for $10 million to implement the program, which would revolutionize education based on Silicon Valley principles of ingenuity and innovation.

It is an educational start-up that needs venture capital. There is no better place and no group of people who understand the need for better education than CEOs in Silicon Valley. In fact, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, under the leadership of Carl Guardino, is best situated to embrace Caveney’s innovative solution and provide a conduit to resources.

There are many ideas and solutions on how to “fix” our educational system. We have tinkered, we have thrown money at the system, we have cajoled, threatened, revised—and the results continue to disappoint. It is time for new ideas that are uniquely Silicon Valley.

The questions remain: If we don’t step up to the plate to get it done, who will? And if not now, when?

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. The public education system is not broken and it is not a disaster. The public educational system is educating more kids better in every demographic than ever before. The U.S. does not lag other industrialized nations in education when achievement is disaggregated to appropriately compare similar students including those with learning disabilities, language learners, and students from low-income households.

    The public education system does need to continuously improve and the Caveney model might be a good one to evaluate and incorporate into the existing model. However, “revolutionizing” the system runs the very real risk of abandoning the educational techniques that have already been successful.

  2. I still fail to see why we have a State Board, a County Board, and local School District Boards. It seems like so many levels between the source of funding and the students sucks a HUGE portion of the money away. Why can’t the State give funding directly to the local School Boards? Wouldn’t eliminating the County Board do wonders?

  3. It’s worse than that–there are 1,039 separate school districts in California. I say keep the County Board and eliminate the plethora of over-lapping school districts. But saving money isn’t the only problem–it’s the system itself. And while I appreciate Ms. Wheeler’s comments, my belief is that even kids we are graduating–except for the top tier students–are under-educated in the tools they will need in the future. Graduation rates are up slightly, but nearly 15% still drop out, with another 8% somewhere in limbo and a disproportionate number are from low income families. So I still believe in a revolution But even when we kicked the British out in 1776. we still kept a couple of things that worked–including their language. So I accept the notion that not everything must go–especially teachers who are working an uphill battle to make an unworkable system successful.

    • The problem with most public schools is you have involved, and uninvolved parents mixed together. It’s not always the fault of the uninvolved parents since some have to work.

      It’s a pretty philosophical question of what to do. How do you balance out a district between those that can afford the time, and those that can’t? Short answer is staffing. Sometimes you get lucky, and find teachers willing to go into those more time consuming districts, and sometimes you can’t pay anyone enough to come.

      I don’t know the answer to this.

  4. Everyone wants to solve the problem that they see as the problem. Optimizing learning may be a good thing, but part of what kids learn in school is patience, the ability to put up with annoyances and the ability to follow directions.

    What you’re describing is the technical equivalent of home schooling. Home schooled kids don’t always do well in college or in the workplace.