A Conversation with Lowell Milken:
Philanthropist and Champion of Educator Development and Recognition — Featuring added perspective from Vicki Phillips who spent eight plus years with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Leading a successful dual career as an international businessman and hands-on philanthropist, Lowell Milken has earned a reputation as one of the most generous and effective education reformers of his generation.
Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon said of Milken, “When the history of education for the latter 20th and early 21st centuries is written, it will undoubtedly look upon the efforts of Lowell Milken – especially in his groundbreaking successes with the TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement – as seminal in addressing the core issues of high quality teaching and learning.”
Milken is the co-founder and chair of the Milken Family Foundation and founder of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. Through these organizations and others, Milken has created and funded countless successful education reform efforts.
For instance, Milken’s TAP system requires teacher buy-in before a school moves toward implementation. Seventy-five percent of teachers within a given school must agree to get behind TAP, which effectively retools the entire school culture – resorting human capital, instituting new evaluation and performance systems connected to compensation and creating new career paths.
The success of TAP, Milken asserts, also depends on the school district having ownership in the effort. While his foundation invested more than $40 million in building the intellectual property and infrastructure, individual districts must provide for additional costs within their budgets. That sense of accountability is central to all of the foundation’s initiatives. Milken says if foundation efforts are unable to realize results, they will end them, which can’t be viewed as a failure but as learning for his team and others undertaking this work.
“If we work together we can share ideas and make sure money is being well spent.”
Milken hopes there can be more collaboration around what works and what doesn’t in education philanthropy. “Collaboration is a key element,” he says. “If we work together we can share ideas and make sure money is being well spent.”