Home > Uncategorized > Proof that a Blind Squirrel Will Occasionally Find a Nut: Betsy DeVos’ View of Bush and Obama “Reform” is Spot on… BUT…

Proof that a Blind Squirrel Will Occasionally Find a Nut: Betsy DeVos’ View of Bush and Obama “Reform” is Spot on… BUT…

January 26, 2018

Readers of this blog know that I am no fan of Betsy DeVos, but I must acknowledge that her assessment of the Bush and Obama administration’s results is on the mark….and this headline summarizes her point well:

Nothing Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush did in education reform really worked

As Valerie Strauss reported in a blog post last week in the Washington Post, Ms. DeVos “…delivered her first speech of 2018 and flatly declared that school reform efforts under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had not worked…” Had she stopped there she would have won my unequivocal praise for her insights. But she went on a little longer and, in doing so, demonstrated her lack of understanding about “reform”. in examining the two administrations, she stated:

We saw two presidents [George W. Bush and Obama] from different political parties and philosophies take two different approaches. Federally mandated assessments. Federal money. Federal standards. All originated in Washington, and none solved the problem. Too many of America’s students are still unprepared.

This is wrong on two counts. The approaches the two administrations took were identical… and both came from the misguided belief from the hinterlands that schools could only be improved if they were standardized like cars or computer software.

She also saw fit to characterize the standardized-test obsessed DOE as “a giant nod to union bosses”, none of whom, to the best of my knowledge, favor the “reform” endorsed by BOTH political parties.

Ms. Strauss’ post includes the speech in it’s entirety, but focusses on the points Ms. DeVos DIDN’T make but should have.

  • The market driven “choice” model of reform Ms. DeVos favors had not improved any schools anywhere
  • The charter schools Ms. DeVos favors provide less opportunities for teacher-led initiatives than the traditional “government schools” she disdains
  • The Common Core is NOT dead: it’s been effectively re-branded and re-inforced at the state level because when ESSA gave states greater latitude they did not seize the opportunity. Instead the great majority of states adopted test-driven metrics that are based on— you guessed it— the Common Core!

As is often the case with Ms. DeVos and her fellow reformers, they get the “bullet points” highlighting the flaws of public education correct. Who could disagree with this statement?

Our children deserve better than the 19th century assembly-line approach. They deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. Every student deserves a customized, self-paced and challenging life-long learning journey. Schools should be open to all students — no matter where they’re growing up or how much their parents make.

That means no more discrimination based upon Zip code or socio-economic status. All means all.

But who could agree that the solution implied in the next paragraph, that deregulated market-based reform is the way to improve schools?

It’s about educational freedom! Freedom from Washington mandates. Freedom from centralized control. Freedom from a one-size-fits-all mentality. Freedom from “the system.”

Let me translate what Ms. DeVos is really saying. “Washington mandates” means those pesky desegregation orders. “Centralized control” means requiring all children to learn how democracy works and how to think independently. “One-size-fits-all” means providing children in less affluent areas with the same funding levels as children in wealthy areas. “The system” in this case means government funding and regulation that ensures equal opportunity for all…. and the provision of revenues through a fair and just system of taxation.

 

 

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