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Examining why the pandemic was no accelerator for U.S. education

June 7, 2021, 9:40 AM UTC

Good morning.

For many organizations, COVID was the great accelerator—forcing them to transform their operations and better prepare for a digital future. Countless CEOs have told me their companies are better off today because of the experience during the pandemic. And numerous industries, like health care, jumped years ahead in their digitalization plans.

But what about education? Sad to say, the picture is much less clear. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the great accelerator left the education sector in the dust.

To try and get a data-driven answer to that question, Fortune is teaming up with EverFi, which has a digital platform that teaches real-world skills to K-12, higher ed, and corporate training partners, and has collected a huge repository of student learning data. Fortune will mine that data, as well as other information, to produce a 10-part “report card” on the state of education in America starting this fall.

EverFi, founded in 2008, is funded by TPG’s The Rise Fund, which supports companies driving measurable social and environmental impact alongside strong business returns. Tom Davidson, the CEO of EverFi, and Steve Ellis, co-managing partner of The Rise Fund, have a commentary piece on this morning that’s worth your attention. It looks at how companies are committing to social goals “in ways we never would have expected just a few years ago,” leading to what they call “a new crop of companies in a new category we call ‘Impact-as-a-Service’” that use technology to help the business community “tackle and report on intractable social issues at scale.” 

“Software-as-a-Service quickly became a $123 billion industry… We anticipate that Impact-as-a-Service will expand at a similar pace, enabling companies worldwide to scale their impact and address our global challenges while building strong businesses that benefit all stakeholders.”

Separately, Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team—another organization trying to put rigor and metrics around social impact—wrote me Friday to object to the presence of Facebook at the top of the “Return on Leadership” list. “To rank a company that bears huge responsibility (but shows little accountability) for the erosion of the democratic fabric—not just in the U.S., but around the world—as well as the mental wellbeing (or lack thereof) of people—seems off, to put it mildly, and hardly feels purpose-driven, and certainly not principled.”

News below.

Alan Murray


15% minimum

The Group of Seven has agreed in principle to a global minimum corporation tax of at least 15%, to cut down on tax avoidance and make them pay more tax in the countries where they operate. Now the deal goes to the G20 for consideration, as early as next month. The agreement could presage an end to the debate over the taxation of digital giants, in which European countries in particular have annoyed the U.S. through the introduction of unilateral revenue taxes on Big Tech. Fortune

Vaccinating kids

China has authorized the use of its Sinovac COVID vaccine in children as young as three, though it isn't clear yet when this will happen. Sinovac CEO Yin Weidong said kids could get "the same vaccine, the same amount, and the same process" as adults. Bloomberg

Crypto slump

Bitcoin and most of the other big cryptocurrencies slumped yesterday over twin issues: a possible deepening of China's crackdown on the sector—Weibo suspended some crypto-related accounts—and a Goldman Sachs report that said institutional acceptance of cryptocurrencies isn't quite there yet. Fortune

Lumbering along

The price of lumber has finally fallen a bit, indicating that the market may have finally tipped. The price of lumber is still more than 300% up on April 2020, but there are signs that mill inventories in North America are slowly building up, so buyers may be holding off on purchases until they see some discounting. Fortune


Psychopath CEOs

Corporate psychopathy, especially in high-level leaders, is a real problem that could cost businesses billions of dollars each year, writes University of San Diego professor Simon Croom in this piece for Fortune. "Psychopathy is up to 12 times more common among senior management than among the general population," he writes. "When some of the defining traits of psychopathy include egocentricity, predatoriness, recklessness, a lack of empathy, and a propensity for manipulation and exploitation, it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to see how a high percentage of unrecognized psychopathy in senior management could lead to all kinds of problems for organizations, their employees, their customers, and society at large." Fortune

Hong Kong

Multinationals are reconsidering their presence in Hong Kong, due to mainland China's authoritarian crackdown there, as well as the pandemic. Dozens of companies have already moved their regional offices out of the city, and 42% of American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong survey respondents last month said they were considering or planning to leave. Meanwhile, Hong Kong listings are tracking at their slowest pace in 12 years. Wall Street Journal

J&J vaccine

The unsanitary conditions and unsatisfactory pharmaceutical practices at the Baltimore plant of J&J contractor Emergent Biosolutions are having a knock-on effect in South Africa, which is desperate to move forward with its J&J vaccine rollout. The pharma firm has a South African plant that is producing doses for the country, but key ingredients come from the Baltimore facility—ergo, J&J can't release the vaccines until the FDA gives the green light on the other side of the world. Daily Maverick

Academic credentials

The "outdated and elitist system" of academic credentialing is keeping young women from getting into the competitive field of computer science, writes Girls Who Code CEO Tarika Barrett in this Fortune piece: "Many of them work multiple jobs while carrying a full college course load, have to balance homework with caregiving responsibilities, or have an unstable housing situation. They are the embodiment of courage and resilience—none of which is reflected in conventional academic credentials that tech firms overwhelmingly rely on." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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