I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Who Cares What Whitney Tilson Thinks?!

What bizarre sort of logic does CNN use to select their guests?

Whitney Tilson is not an educator. He has no degrees, experience, or training in education. He has no labor relations background. He is completely unqualified to discuss the topic in any meaningful way. Why, then, would CNN think he was a good guest for a segment about the Chicago teachers strike?

Both he and Christine Romans are an embarrassment here. For example:

- Romans's xenophobic worry about China's and India's alleged large numbers of engineers is totally misplaced. The US dominates the world in true engineering training; according to experts, the Chinese definition of an "engineer" is laughable.

- Romans is worried that SAT scores haven't budged since the '70's. Here's Daniel Luzer:
The SAT scores have always declined. And they always will. They’re not meant to be an indication of the intelligence of American students, or the quality of American public high schools. The SAT is vaguely an intelligence test but the way the test is administered about half of American students score above 500 on each section. About half score below.
SAT decline is a sign of the success of the College Board’s marketing efforts, not of the failure of the U.S. educational system. The only way to stop this decline, in a long-term sense, would be fewer students taking the test, not better education.

- Romans says national test scores have stagnated; she even put up the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as proof. Here's Diane Ravitch, who actually served on the National Assessment Governing Board, the federal agency that supervises the NAEP:

Advanced is truly superb performance, which is like getting an A+. Among fourth graders, 8% were advanced readers in 2011; 3% of eighth graders were advanced. In reading, these numbers have changed little in the past twenty years. In math, there has been a pretty dramatic growth in national scores over these past twenty years: the proportion of students who scored advanced in fourth grade grew from 2% in 1992 to 7% in 2011. In eighth grade, the proportion who were advanced in math grew from 3% in 1992 to 8% in 2011.
Proficient is akin to a solid A. In reading, the proportion who were proficient in fourth grade reading rose from 29% in 1992 to 34% in 2011. The proportion proficient in eighth grade also rose from 29% to 34% in those years. In math, the proportion in fourth grade who were proficient rose from 18% to 40% in the past twenty years, an absolutely astonishing improvement. In eighth grade, the proportion proficient in math went from 21% in 1992 to an amazing 35% in 2011.
Basic is akin to a B or C level performance. Good but not good enough.
And below basic is where we really need to worry. These are the students who really don’t understand math or read well at all. The proportion who are below basic has dropped steadily in both reading and math in fourth and eighth grades since 1992.
When the scores are broken out by race, you can really see dramatic progress, especially in math. In 1992, 80% of black students in fourth grade were below basic. By 2011, that proportion had dropped to 49%. Among white students in fourth grade math, the proportion below basic fell in that time period from 40% to only 16%.
The changes in reading scores are not as dramatic as in math, but they are nonetheless impressive. In fourth grade, the proportion of black students who were below basic in 1992 was 68%; by 2011, it was down to 51%. In eighth grade, the proportion of black students who were reading below basic was 55%; that had fallen to 41% by 2011.
The point here is that NAEP scores show steady and very impressive improvement over the past twenty years. Our problems are tough, but they are not intractable. The next time someone tells you that U.S. education is “failing,” or “declining,” tell them they are wrong. [emphasis mine]
- Tilson says we're spending twice as much money per pupil in real dollars than we did 40 years ago. Here's Bruce Baker, the country's foremost authority on education financing:
In short, the “cost” of education rises as a function of at least 3 major factors:
  1. Changes in the incoming student populations over time
  2. Changes in the desired outcomes for those students, including more rigorous core content area goals or increased breadth of outcome goals
  3. Changes in the competitive wage of the desired quality of school personnel
And the interaction of all three of these! For example, changing student populations making teaching more difficult (a working condition), meaning that a higher wage might be required to simply offset this change. Increasing the complexity of outcome goals might require a more skilled teaching workforce, requiring higher wages.
The combination of these forces often leads to an increase in education spending that far outpaces the consumer price index, and it should. Cost rise as we ask more of our schools, as we ask them to produce a citizenry that can compete in the future rather than the past. Costs rise as the student population inputs to our public schooling system change over time. Increased poverty, language barriers and other factors make even the current outcomes more costly to achieve. And costs of maintaining the quality of the teacher workforce change as competitive wages in other occupations and industries change, which they have. [emphasis mine]
You know, when a guy like Tilson goes on the TV and tut-tuts at teachers unions, I have to wonder: how well does he do his job?
Whitney Tilson, the co-founder of the T2 hedge fund company and the Tilson Focus Fund (MUTF:TILFX) has parted ways with long time partner, Glenn Tongue. Earlier in the day, ZeroHedge, the most popular financial blog reported:
From the inbox:
Tilson splitting from Tongue, unwinding T2 Partners, new fund at KASE Capital

We have just confirmed that the reports are at least partially true. Value Investor Insight, a website run by Whitney Tilson now has the following information in Tilson’s biography:
Whitney Tilson is the co-founder and Chairman of Value Investor Media, Inc., founder of Kase Capital, which manages value-oriented private investment partnerships, and Chairman of The Value Investing Congress.

Right now, Whitney Tilson is in Italy running a value investing seminar, which donates all the proceeds to charity. Tilson has frequently been sending emails to colleagues, but the practice has slowed down in the past few months.
The T2 hedge fund fund is up for the year 8.5%, however, May was a brutal month. The hedge fund fell close to 14%. Performance for June has not been disclosed to investors, according to our sources. Additionally, Whitney Tilson is no longer listed as being part of  the Tilson Focus Fund on their website. We have no idea if performance has anything to do with changes. [emphasis mine]
Me neither; I don't know anything about investing.

Of course, the biggest difference between me and Whitney - besides the money - is that I actually acknowledge my limitations...

1 comment:

Deb said...

Your stats on the improvement of scores when examined by race are one of the most important (and therefore ignored by corporate reformers) data sets out there. We are making progress - and like most real, sustainable progress - it is slow and steady (gee, not like the drops in Newark's QSAC scores....).

But the takeover groups just ignore what is not convenient and keep telling lies to promote their agenda.

Imagine if they put their money into promoting the progress we have made, investing in what we have learned does work, and supporting the methods that have proven successful. Wow. Oops, this is not a fantasy blog, I should not have gone there.