Chan, Zuckerberg Tap 2U’s Shelton to Lead Ed Initiatives

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have announced plans to hire Jim Shelton, who is currently president of online master's education provider 2U, to become the head of their education efforts.

"Jim has already made an impact working in government, business and philanthropy," Zuckerberg said in announcing the appointment in a Facebook post.

Zuckerberg discussed the decision in a Facebook chat, saying Shelton would be focusing on two priorities for the Chan Zuckerberg initiative, including technology-enabled personalized learning allowing K-12 students to learn the best way they can at their own pace, as well as moving toward underserved communities in order to remove "barriers to success for the most vulnerable kids" like poverty and sicknesses.

"I've seen the difference software can make in how we teach and learn. Priscilla's work as a pediatrician and a teacher has taught her how important life outside the classroom is to a child's ability to learn inside it," Zuckerberg said. "And now Jim will bring all of his own experience in improving personalized learning and helping underserved communities."

The initiative was announced last year by the billionaire couple after the birth of their daughter Max. Efforts of the foundation will focus on personalized learning and underserved communities that will allow teachers to tailor instruction to meet the individual needs and interests of students, reports Kia Kokalitcheva for Fortune.

Shelton joined 2U just last June, coming on board as Chief Impact Officer. He was named President in December. Prior to joining the company that works to offer students the ability to earn graduate degrees at prominent schools through a variety of online courses offered on its own platform, Shelton served for six years in the Obama Administration's Department of Education. He also led the President's My Brother's Keeper initiative, which works to increase opportunities for boys and men of color.

While under the Obama administration, Shelton helped to run programs that hoped to improve education and deter poverty in urban and rural neighborhoods, in addition to overseeing a fund providing grants to education agencies and nonprofits to increase student achievement.

Shelton is also the program director for the Gates Foundation and a partner at the NewSchools Venture Fund, writes Jessica Guynn for USA Today.

He said he plans to work on what the couple has already started with the foundation, adding that government, private sector, and philanthropic organizations can all work together for education reform. "My task as the lead of (education) is to use all the tools that we can make available to go after those challenges and actually solve them long term."

The couple announced only last December that they would be giving away 99% of their wealth, estimated to be close to $45 billion, becoming one of the largest philanthropic gifts in history. The duo said they were donating the money to "advance human potential and promote equality."

The Chan Zuckerberg initiative is not a charitable trust or private foundation, but rather a limited liability company, or LLC, which is owned and operated by Zuckerberg. While the setup was initially controversial, Zuckerberg has stood up for it, saying it allows the couple to be flexible in their investments, such as funding non-profit organizations, making private investments, and taking public stands on policy issues.

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