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NYTimes Editorial on Clean-up After DeVos’ Devastation Misses the Mark

January 5, 2021

This past Sunday NYTimes editors rightfully point out the devastation wrought by Betsy DeVos during her four years as Secretary of Education. But, as usual, they want to retain the test-and-punish program that undercuts true reform in schools and glibly gloss over the difficulty legislators will face should they REALLY want to target funding for students raised in poverty. 

The editorial opens with a concise and accurate broad brush overview of the challenge incoming Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona faces:

If the Senate confirms President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee, Miguel Cardona, as Ms. DeVos’s successor, he will face the herculean task of clearing away the wreckage left by his predecessor — while helping the states find a safe and equitable path to reopening schools.

Beyond that, the new secretary needs to quickly reverse a range of corrosive DeVos-era policies, including initiatives that rolled back civil rights protections for minority children as well as actions that turned the department into a subsidiary of predatory for-profit colleges that saddle students with crushing debt while granting them useless degrees.

But the editors pivot to testing and conclude that at all costs the regiment of standardized testing testing must continue to help legislators and the Department “allocate educational resources strategically“. 

How more testing data will inform legislators and the Department to allocate resources strategically is unclear. We already know who the data will tell us! It will tell us the same thing it has told us for decades: children raised in poverty do poorly on standardized tests whose metrics are based on comparisons with their more affluent age peers. We know this. We know that affluent districts and schools within districts have smaller class sizes, higher paid and more experienced teachers, more resources, and— as a general rule— more parent engagement. We know that directing more funds to schools serving children who are raised in poverty could make a difference. If it DIDN’T matter, why do affluent school districts spend more? 

To their credit, the editors DO take the DeVos Department of Education to task for its support for predatory for-profit schools and it’s blocking of loan forgiveness for those duped by for-profit institutions. And the editors DO conclude with an accurate assessment of the urgent need for action:

The Department of Education lies in ruins at precisely the time when the country most needs it. The president-elect and his new education secretary, whoever that turns out to be, need to get the institution up and running as swiftly as possible. Given the dire context, there is no time to waste.

There IS no time to waste… and, as noted in this and earlier posts on this topic, there is no need to waste time or money or expending political capital to test students to prove what we already know. 


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