Two months ago I wrote about Wendy Kopp stepping down and two new co-CEOs of TFA taking her place. As the weeks have passed, I’ve been able to get more of sense of who these CEOs are and what their views are.
Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva-Beard have been carefully chosen to be the faces of TFA. I am beginning to see how they each might embody one of Wendy’s two public personas: There’s Wendy the extreme corporate reformer who pals around with Joel Klein and who refers to TFA critics as ‘haters’ in commencement addresses. Then there’s Wendy the moderate corporate reformer who writes editorials about how teacher evaluations should not be publicly released and who wrote a thoughtful response to my open letter to her. Though I still don’t know a lot about either of them, it seems like Matt is the extreme reformer (Bad Kopp) and Elisa is the moderate reformer (Good Kopp).
Matt and Elisa have embarked on their TFA Listens tour. Based on what they are tweeting about, they are listening, but only hearing what they want to. And what they want to hear is that schools are plagued by non-TFA teachers who abuse students with their soft bigotry of low expectations:
Of the two, the one who I can relate to more is definitely Elisa. She has taught, unlike Matt, as a 1998 TFA corps member so she understands the realities of what goes on in schools. She recently spoke at her alma Mater DePauw University and made a very humble speech. In general she seems to be trying to welcome different ideas, though she doesn’t always succeed at this.
I’m having trouble understanding how Matt is qualified to be a co-CEO of TFA. I just don’t see what he ‘brings to the table.’ Though I did appreciate that he responded to one of my twitter messages to him, I’ve found some of the things he’s written to be a bit unusual. I know I’m not his media adviser, but if I were I’d advise him to stay clear of tweets like this:
Someone must have brought up that ed reform is dominated by white males and Matt deflects the question by implying that the only other option is for them to ‘abdicate responsibility.’ I don’t know. I suppose that someone can easily go through anyone’s Tweets and find the least thought out one and pounce on it. Still, you’ve got to admit that this one is kind of strange.
Whether you’re a ‘Good Kopp’ or a ‘Bad Kopp,’ you’re going to be enthusiastic of the TFA celebrities. In this change of leadership, all the reform superstars have retained their status, with the very conspicuous absence of public school enemy number one Michelle Rhee. It seems like TFA is trying to distance themselves from her, at least publicly. They didn’t even publicize her recent autobiography. However they are still eager to promote Rhee’s disciples. Rhee’s ex-husband Kevin Huffman is the current commissioner of education in Tennessee. Tim Daly took over as head of The New Teacher Project after Rhee left to become chancelor of D.C.. Chris Barbic founded YES prep and now works for Huffman. Jason Kamras was one of Rhee’s top deputies in D.C. and continues to do his damage there. And no matter what brand of ‘Kopp’ you are, a KIPP shout out is always in order.
I’ll continue to monitor the #TFAlisten tour and also continue to wait for them to come to New York. I’ve decided that as long as I’m permitted to go to a #TFAlisten event in NYC I’ll attend even if I don’t receive a hand-delivered invitation signed by both Elisa and Matt.