Friday, March 31, 2017

Betsy DeVos thinks schools could not get much worse.

Betsy DeVos thinks schools could not get much worse.:

Betsy DeVos’ American Carnage
Echoing her boss, she sees horrendous decline in America’s schools—but even the numbers she cites undermine her point.


 Throughout the 2016 campaign and since his election victory, Donald Trump has been spinning Americans a bleak yarn of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. On the campaign trail, he repeatedly insisted that black voters “suffering” under Democratic control had nothing to lose by casting a vote for him. On Inauguration Day, he told of industrial decline and “American carnage.” The president thinks that public schools “deprive” students of knowledge; that inner cities are riddled with crime; that the health care system is about to implode (or perhaps explode); and that the country is losing out big league to allies who’ve been treating Americans like chumps.

But this doomsaying isn’t just coming from the Oval Office. On Wednesday, at a forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, the president’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was asked whether she would concede that when poorly implemented, the “school choice” doctrine she has championed for much of her career could have a negative effect on students. She saw no such risk:
“Well, I’m not sure how they could get a lot worse on, you know, a nationwide basis than they are today,” the secretary said. “The fact that our PISA scores have continued to deteriorate as compared to the rest of the world and, you know, that we’ve seen stagnant—at best—results with the NAEP scores over the years—I’m not sure that we can deteriorate a whole lot.”
American carnage—right in America’s classrooms!
The problem with DeVos’ sweeping assertion—and by extension, her apocalyptic view of American public education—is that the numbers tell a more complex, muddier story. Take PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, a test that compares 15-year-olds’ performance across dozens of countries. Depending on how you read the most recent PISA results from 2015, American schools could be described as doing great (we’re ahead of Switzerland in reading, and above France and Sweden in science), as doing OK (the U.S. placed near the middle overall), or as failing miserably (America’s math ranking is bad and has gotten worse since 2012).
And, of course, numbers can also be an unreliable diagnostic tool: Just because you think the PISA or National Assessment of Educational Progress numbers are awful doesn’t mean you know what to do to improve them—or even know how to track that you’re doing something right. DeVos certainly doesn’t seem to: Asked earlier in the Brookings Q&A what dataset could be used to assess her own performance as education secretary in four years’ time, DeVos rambled a little about the primacy of policies that favor choice while conceding, “I’m not a numbers person.”
If the secretary of education were a numbers person, the data and researchBetsy DeVos thinks schools could not get much worse.:

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