Valerie Strauss reports on a tiff with Matt Damon and his mom, education professor Nancy Carlson-Paige, on one side and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel on another. Personally, I think the NEA is not well-served by sidling up with the likes of Teach For America's Wendy Kopp, but I do see the point that she is well-funded and not going away any time soon.
What really hit me in Strauss's post, however, was this:
So Wendy Kopp is some sort of a super-genius at identifying great teachers, huh? She really knows what it takes to be the next Jamie Escalante or Mr. Holland or Yoda?On Sept. 30, the two [Van Roekel and Kopp] appeared together with [US Education Secretary Arne] Duncan and others at a gathering where improving teacher training was the focus. Duncan outlined new steps to bring accountability to teacher education programs by measuring the achievement of students taught by graduates of these schools.In Duncan’s remarks, he thanked Van Roekel for showing “tremendous courage on this issue for a long time,” but spoke at greater length about Kopp, saying in part, “I don’t think anyone in the country has done more over the past 15 to 20 years than Wendy Kopp to identify the talents and characteristics that lead to great teaching.”(That, no doubt, would not be welcome to all of the many educators and teachers who have been focused on exactly that for decades and don’t recognize Kopp’s contributions in this area as being particularly worthwhile.) [emphasis mine]
Because I remember a conversation she had with Charlie Rose back in 2008 (via Bob Smoerby's Daily Howler):
KOPP: Take the Michelle Rhee, the chancellor in New York—sorry, in Washington D.C. She would be the first to say, and she’s said many times, that the reason she’s—she operates so relentlessly and with such urgency is because of her teaching experience in Baltimore, where she took a class of kids who were at the 13th percentile against the national norm—she taught the same kids for two year. They were at the 90th percentile at the end of those two years.
Somerby, to his great credit, called BS on Kopp in real time. And now we know that he was absolutely right; Rhee was never even close to being the miracle worker Kopp claimed she was:She knows from her own personal experience —and no one could ever shake her conviction, because she knows from working with kids and families that we don’t have these problems because the kids can’t do the work or because the families don’t care, all the reasons that most people in America think we have the problem. But clearly because we as adults haven’t given them the opportunities they deserve. [emphasis Bob's]
I highlighted the classes where Michelle Rhee was teaching. In her last year, the scores did rise some, but nowhere near what she claimed. In her first year, they dropped almost as low as they can go. If Tesseract/Edison had been using the IMPACT evaluation system she foisted on DCPS teachers, she would have probably been fired after the first year!So: Kopp praises Rhee for being a great teacher, even though she was not.
And Duncan praises Kopp for identifying great teachers, even though she mistook a mediocre teacher like Rhee for a great one.
Keep in mind that these three people have enormous influence over the national dialog on education. They command respect, attention, and vast resources to allow them to push through their agenda.
But the more we find out about them, the more the evidence piles up: they do not know what in the hell they are talking about.