A Hedge Fund Speculator Tells Politicians How to Fix Education

{tongue_in_cheek ON}

Ever hear of a tremendous classroom teacher, with great student teams and classroom activities to his credit, and who has lots of contributions in the field of excellent teaching techniques and strategies, named Whitney Tilson?

Who is so celebrated as a teacher that Tilson has won every teaching award and now gives seminars to teachers on how to have great, active, participatory activities in their classroom, at level X through Z in multiple subjects?

No?

You never heard of the excellent teacher Whitney Tilson, who is Nationally Board Certified in two different subjects, also the Connecticut, California and New York State Teacher of the Year three years running, and coach of the national champion state teams in It’s Academic, MathCounts, soccer and basketball?

No?

{/tongue_in_cheek OFF}

That’s because he’s never taught school, ever.

There is another Whitney Tilson. He’s a hedge fund billionaire or multi-millionaire, and he thinks he knows all about education and can tell politicians how to DEform the public education sector. He claims to have helped Wendy Kopp found Teach For Awhile, and “Democrats” for Education Deform.

With no actual grounding in any classroom, mind you. He has never taught. He has made a ton of money gambling with other people’s money in hedge funds and such.

But he “knows” that most of us teachers, particularly those who are members of unions, are a bunch of lazy, incompetent slobs that skip work and need to be fired. The cheating that goes on surrounding the NCLB testing? it’s only these incompetent teachers doing it, not administrators having erasure parties after the kids go home, according to him.

And he also knows exactly how to “fix” education.

He claims to know that DC public schools are way better off after having Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson in charge for 6 years now.

(If you want to see how much progress there has been on the NAEP in Washington DC since the advent of mayoral control and the educational DEformers, just use the search box on my blog, in the upper right-hand corner of this screen, and enter the words “NAEP gap”. You will see lots of data showing that there has been, in fact, NO miracle of the kind that their Excellencies, Whitney Tilson, Wendy Kopp, and Michelle Rhee promised.)

Tilson is a snake, and his creations, DFER and TFA, are dangerous.

How Teach for America Could Have Been Useful – But Wasn’t

Imagine if Wendy Kopp had taken a different tack.

Instead of throwing untrained elite, newby college grads into an inner-city classroom with virtually no connection between what they studied at their university and what they were teaching, with the promise that once they had those 2 years under their belt, they could then get all their college loans paid off and go on to make big bucks coasting on their resume — while having in fact been AT BEST only vaguely successful (in other words, “Teach For Awhile”)

Instead of that:

Recruiting bright young college sophomores and juniors to seriously consider teaching AS A CAREER, and to take courses on educational theory and practice along with whatever subject they are already interested in;

Making sure that they had a full year, post-graduation, of student teaching and observation, as well as intensive grad-school courses that further promote their understanding of teaching as a craft and of how to teach their own chosen subject matter;

Getting them to commit to at least five years in the Title I classroom, not two, since we know that it takes at least three years to begin to become an effective classroom teacher, and it’s bad to have constant teacher turnover, and it’s wasteful to do all this training and have it all be thrown away;

Encouraging these college grads NOT to become derivative traders, mortgage bankers, corporate lawyers, or educational shucksters, but instead, real, practicing teachers and leaders in that profession;

Then we could have said that Wendy Koop had done something positive for the youth of America.

Instead, we have had a colossal con job foisted on our public educational system.

The Cluelessness of Rhee, Kopp and Mathews

Here is an article by Jay Mathews in which he shows how much he tends to worship at the feet of Michelle Rhee (ex-chancellor of DCPS) and Wendy Kopp (founder of Teach for America, who has never taught K-12 at all). He points out many facts which show how their approach is fundamentally bankrupt, but keeps promoting them anyway. For example, most of the supposedly “wonderful” principals appointed by Rhee were anything but — many quit, many were fired, and many of the rest need to be relieved of their duties ASAP.

It’s telling that even Wendy Kopp’s own son sees that TFA is a waste of time and resources:

<<She quotes her son Benjamin, then 8, after he had interviewed her about her life’s work for a school project. His final question was: “If this is such a big problem — you know, kids not having the chance to have a good education — why would you ask people with no experience right out of college to solve it?”>>

I strongly recommend reading the comments by various readers at the end of the article.

If you are unable to read them on your own, let me know.

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