The Ed Foundation is the creation of Jeff Sandefer, founder of Sandefer Offshore, an oil exploration company. Sandefer has also created the Acton School of Business, a graduate business school in Austin, Texas, and with his wife, Laura Sandefer, the Acton Academy, a national network of private schools. A recent spinoff of the Acton Academy is the Acton Children’s Business Fair, a national program to encourage children to be entrepreneurs.
Acton School of Business
Jeff Sandefer created the Ed Foundation. Sandefer founded Sandefer Offshore, an oil exploration company. In 1991, while still running his company, he developed a class on entrepreneurship at the University of Texas. He recruited other entrepreneurs, who he told Philanthropy in 2012 were “guys from the trenches, not the ivory tower.” Sandefer and his colleagues taught by the Socratic method. “We never gave students an answer,” Sandefer said in his Philanthropy interview. “We made them think. Students were hungry for that.” Sandefer and his colleagues, including former Dell Computer president Lee Walker and Lone Star Overnight co-founder Jack Long also refused tenure and said they would leave if students gave them negative ratings in evaluations. 2
In 2002, the university sacked Sandefer and his colleagues because it wanted the entrepreneurship program to be run by full-time, tenure-track professors. 3 After teaching at St. Edward’s University for one year, the Acton School of Business opened in 2003 and moved into its own building in 2008. 4
The Acton program condenses a two-year MBA program into one year where students put in 80-90 hour weeks and learn skills not taught in traditional MBA programs, such as cold calling and closing a sale. “We teach you to attract and satisfy customers,” Sandefer told Philanthropy, “to run real assembly lines and supply chains; to spot opportunity and to raise money; and to count the profits and free cash flows one dollar at a time.” 5
In 2018, the Acton School’s accreditation through Hardin-Simmons University ended. The school rebranded its MBA as the “Next Great Adventure” and says it is unaccredited “to free us from bureaucratic constraints.” 6
In 2009, Jeff and Laura Sandefer founded the Acton Academy as a way to combine Montessori education with their ideas about encouraging children to become innovative. 7 The Acton Academy is a franchise, through which members pay an entry fee and one percent of tuition fees in return for rights to the name, the curriculum, and access to the network of academies. 8 The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in September 2020 that there were over 200 academies and that they were popular with parents forming pandemic pod micro-schools as an alternative to public schools that had switched to virtual instruction during the coronavirus pandemic. 9
In 2017 the Acton Academy spun off the Children’s Business Fair, where children spend weekend afternoons at booths selling products they made. Materials for creating a Children’s Business Fair are free, and include a $500 donation from the Acton Academy for prizes. As of November 2020, there were 717 Children’s Business Fairs in 239 cities. 10
- Ed Foundation 2018 Form 990.
- Christopher Levenick, “Back To The Drawing Board,” Philanthropy, Spring 2012, https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/back-to-the-drawing-board (accessed November 22, 2020).
- Lori Hawkins, “Teach This: After A Bitter Split With UT, Jeff Sandefer Takes His Entrepreneurship Gospel To Some Other Hallowed Halls,” Austin American-Statesman, September 22, 2002.
- Lori Hawkins, “Ivy-League Acton School Set For Business Hopefuls,” Austin American-Statesman, August 7, 2008.
- Christopher Levenick, “Back To The Drawing Board,” https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/back-to-the-drawing-board (accessed November 24, 2020)
- Acton School of Business FAQ, https://www.actonnga.org/faq/ (accessed November 24,2020)
- Ashley Bateman, “Innovative Micro-Schools Meet Demand For Education Alternatives,” Heartland Institute, posted December 17, 2019 https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/innovative-micro-schools-help-meet-demand-for-education-alternatives (accessed November 24, 2020)
- Tyler Koteskey, “Are Micro-Schools The Next Big Thing?” Reason, March 2018.
- Bernhard Blythe, “Microschools Pop Up In St. Louis As Alternatives to Virtual School, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 1, 2020.
- Acton Children’s Business Fair FAQ, https://www.childrensbusinessfair.org/faq (accessed November 24, 2020). For a report on the fair, see, Tom Foster, “Inside The Schools That Want To Create The Next Mark Zuckerberg—Starting At Age 5, Inc., March 2017, https://www.inc.com/magazine/201703/tom-foster/kids-inc-entrepreneurship-training.html, (accessed November 24, 2020)