Today, four million children – mostly low-income children of color – attend a school that has been identified as failing for six consecutive years. The result is that 54% of African-American and 50% of Latino 4thgraders are functionally illiterate – they cannot read a simple children’s story – and the average African-American and Latino 12thgrader reads and does math at the same level as white 8th graders. The large number of failing schools and the resulting vast achievement gaps are the shame of our nation. Tens of millions of our children, especially low-income children of color, are not being given a fair shot at the American Dream, which I believe is one of the fundamental promises of this great nation.
I’m convinced that most people – even well-read, concerned citizens – are simply not fully aware how catastrophically bad inner-city schools are. Yet there is reason for optimism: many schools, spending less money, are taking the same children, providing them with an excellent education and sending 80% or more to four-year colleges (for more on these schools, see below).
Over the past 20 years of being involved in efforts to improve educational opportunities for all American children – first, helping Wendy Kopp start Teach for America and then in my current roles on the boards of KIPP charter schools and the Council of Urban Professionals in New York and of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, one of the founders of Democrats for Education Reform, and the co-founder of the Rewarding Achievement (REACH) program – I’ve read a great deal, collected hundreds of articles and studies and written extensively on the topic. I’ve created this web page, which links to the most compelling information I’ve identified, collected and written, to assist those who wish to learn more about this topic.
Whitney Tilson’s Bio
Whitney Tilson is the founder and Managing Partner of T2 Partners LLC and the Tilson Mutual Funds, which manage a number of value-oriented hedge funds and mutual funds. Mr. Tilson is also the co-founder of Value Investor Insight, an investment newsletter, and the Value Investing Congress, a biannual investment conference.
Mr. Tilson co-authored the 2009 book, More Mortgage Meltdown: 6 Ways to Profit in These Bad Times, has written for Forbes, the Financial Times, Kiplinger’s, the Motley Fool and TheStreet.com, and was one of the authors of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, the definitive book on Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger. He is a CNBC Contributor, was featured in a 60 Minutes segment in December 2008 about the housing crisis that won an Emmy, has appeared dozens times on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business Network, was on the cover of the July 2007 Kiplinger’s, has been profiled by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, and has spoken widely on value investing and behavioral finance.
Mr. Tilson spent much of his childhood in Tanzania and Nicaragua (his parents are both educators, were among the first couples to meet and marry in the Peace Corps, and have retired in Kenya). Consequently, Mr. Tilson is involved with a number of charities focused on education reform and Africa.
Regarding the former, he:
- Was among the first people to join Wendy Kopp in 1989 to launch Teach For America.
- Serves on the boards of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the KIPP Academy charter school in the South Bronx, which is part of a national network of 109 college preparatory public charter schools in low-income communities.
- Is one of the founders of Democrats for Education Reform, which aims to move the Democratic Party to embrace genuine school reform.
- Co-founded Rewarding Achievement (REACH), which helps students at 31 inner-city high schools pass Advanced Placement exams.
- Is a well-known writer/blogger/commentator on education reform, with columns in the Huffington Post and web sites at www.arightdenied.com and edreform.blogspot.com
- Has developed a 253-slide presentation, A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine School Reform, that was made into a documentary by the same name in early 2010.
Regarding Africa, Mr. Tilson:
- Is on the board of the Fistula Foundation, which supports the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals in Ethiopia and other fistula hospitals worldwide.
- Is Vice Chairman of the Thorn Tree Project and the Samburu Scholarship Fund, which provide educational opportunities for nomadic children in northern Kenya.
He is also on the board of the Pershing Square Foundation, is a member and past Chairman of the Manhattan chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization, and served on the finance committees of Barack Obama and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. For his philanthropic work, he received the 2008 John C. Whitehead Social Enterprise Award from the Harvard Business School Club of Greater New York.
Prior to launching his investment career in 1999, Mr. Tilson spent five years working with Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter studying the competitiveness of inner cities and inner-city-based companies nationwide. He and Professor Porter founded the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, of which Mr. Tilson was Executive Director. Mr. Tilson also led the effort to create ICV Partners, a national for-profit private equity fund focused on minority-owned and inner-city businesses that has raised nearly $500 million. Before business school, in addition to Teach for America, Mr. Tilson spent two years as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group.
Mr. Tilson received an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School, where he was elected a Baker Scholar, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, with a bachelor’s degree in Government. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and three daughters.
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