DeVos to Conservative Conference: I Will Replace the Bush-Obama Failed Ideas with My Own Failed Ideas

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DeVos to Conservative Conference: I Will Replace the Bush-Obama Failed Ideas with My Own Failed Ideas

A young demonstrator holds a sign protesting Betsy Devos as Education Secretary. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/flickr/cc)

Betsy DeVos gave a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), explaining that the programs created by George W. Bush and Barack Obama had failed, and she would replace them with her own ideas. She did not point out that her own ideas have failed too. Just look at the mess she has made of Michigan, where the state’s rankings on the federal test (NAEP) have plummeted, and where Detroit is a mess thanks to the miasma of school choice.

DeVos argued Thursday that education is failing too many students, pointing to “flatlined” test scores (presumably on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card) and more than 1.3 million youth who drop out of school each year. The Obama administration’s $7 billion investment in overhauling the worst schools, called the School Improvement Grant program, didn’t work, DeVos said, making reference to a study by the administration that found no increase in test scores or graduation rates at schools that got the money.

“They tested their model, and it failed miserably,” she said. She emphasized that she was not indicting teachers.

She has said that she wants to return as much authority over education as possible to states and districts, and intends to identify programs and initiatives to cut at the Education Department. She has also made clear that she intends to use her platform to expand alternatives to public schools, including charter schools, online schools and private schools that students attend with the help of public funds.

“We have a unique window of opportunity to make school choice a reality for millions of families,” she said. “Both the president and I believe that providing an equal opportunity for a quality education is an imperative that all students deserve.”

Her own model of vouchers has not a single success to its name: evaluations of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Indiana have found no gains for the students enrolled in voucher schools. Parents are happier, but that’s not a good reason to destroy public schools.

DeVos does not have a single innovative idea. It is the same old retreads of the privatization movement.The overwhelming majority of charter studies have found that charters perform no better than public schools unless they exclude children with disabilities, English language learners, and behavior problems. When the charters kick them out, they go back to the public school, which must take them.

Cybercharters have been proven to be disastrous failures in every state. In Tennessee, the Tennessee Virtual Academy is the lowest performing school in the state. Ohio boasts the cybercharter with the lowest graduation rate in the nation, called Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

DeVos does not have a single innovative idea. It is the same old retreads of the privatization movement.

I recommend that she read “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” where I patiently demonstrated, using data from the U.S. Department of Education that American students as of 2013 had the highest test scores in our history–for all groups, white, black, Hispanic, and Asian; the highest graduation rates in history; the lowest dropout rates in history.

The scores flatlined from 2013 to 2015, and that may have been because of the application of the Common Core standards and the disruptions foisted upon the schools by Obama and Duncan for the past eight years.

DeVos has proven that she is unqualified to be Secretary of Education. She is not dumb, she is just ignorant. She should do some reading and break free of her ideological contempt for public schools.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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