Whitney Tilson on School Reform


See slides from presentation tonight (10/5/09) by Whitney Tilson on school reform (venue was Howard, Rice law offices in SF).  Major takeaways for me:

  • public schools in US have more money and worse results than any other country
  • why?  poor teacher quality, antiquated systems
  • Kipp is a black swan, proving that better is possible
  • DFER was organized specifically as a Democratic organization in order to influence the Democratic party
  • political organizing is least glamorous and most necessary for true reform

3 Responses to “Whitney Tilson on School Reform”

  1. Don Nguyen Says:

    While it is true poor teacher quality is a large part of our education dilema–I think the root cause our problems are set in the non-merit based system that is pervasive in public education today. The vast majority of students today view a High School Diploma as their highest educational ambition, and for them the current system breeds a culture of mediocrity–rewarding students who aim only to slip by. This is clearly evident when looking at the California High School Exit Exam statistics where a significant portion of our state’s twelfth graders lack basic math, reading and writing skills yet have been allowed to ‘pass’ all their courses. This phenomenon of mediocrity is not isolated to merely students, but to teachers as well. The Teacher’s Union was once a beneficial instrument that afforded teachers with needed protections, unfortunately the institution has lost it’s utility and is now quite harmful to the quality of out education. The Teacher’s Union has constantly strived to enforce a system where all teachers are compensated similarly regardless of performance, resisting any attempts to reform to system.

    No solution to our nation’s education problems will come easily, but we can look at systems in place in other nations as a perspective guide. In Switzerland students are given the choice of what “level” of secondary education they choose to pursue. Students who complete the most rigorous High School level are given a place in national universities while those in the lower levels are expected to complete apprenticeships. Their system ensures that students, regardless of what high school level they are in, are encouraged to perform well whether it be to continue on to college or to secure a good apprenticeship.

    Until the United States can solve its culture of mediocrity public education will not improve.

  2. Guide To Study » Blog Archive » RTTT Final Rules Give Ground on Charters While Continuing to Lie About Charters Says:

    […] anything to end poverty. Click on the slide above to see what former hedge fund investor exec, Whitney Tilson, is pumping onto the Web, as noted in previous post by Ken Libby. The KIPP dropout factories have become the sustaining […]

  3. Dain Says:


    I’ve heard about the tracking system in Europe, and it’s one of the reasons many Europeans move to the US. They feel they’ve been pigeonholed into a certain function, and it can be hard to shift out of it.

    I myself performed badly in high school – even ending up going to a continuation school – but made up for it years later. I don’t think I’d be a very content person today if I’d been put into some kind of apprenticeship program learning to repair vending machines or what have you.

    Though I admit my case is probably a statistical anomaly.

    As for teachers’ unions, I wonder if the D.C. School Chancellor has the right idea: http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB10001424052748704249004575385500484438266.html

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