DeVos: Outcomes at U.S. schools are so bad, they probably can’t get much worse
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Wednesday that U.S. public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.” She cited what she called “stagnant at best” scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, though NAEP scores in math for low-performing students have gone up substantially in the past few decades.
DeVos said repeatedly at a Washington event at the nonprofit Brookings Institution that the federal government should have a largely advisory role in education policy and encourage states to experiment with choice to find what is best “for each individual student.” But when asked by Brookings senior fellow Russ Whitehurst whether the Education Department would reject state accountability plans it didn’t see as promoting choice, she said, “I don’t know. It’s too early to say that.” The plans are required to be submitted to the department by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and officials can choose not to accept them.
Whitehurst pressed her, asking whether the department would turn down a state plan that proposes an accountability system seen as being “antithetical to serving parents’ interests.” She responded by saying, “I think there is certainly going to be a lot of discussion back and forth as we go through this process.”
DeVos is the most controversial education secretary in the department’s history. She was confirmed by the Senate only after Mike Pence became the first vice president ever to break a tie for a Cabinet nominee, and some of her visits to schools have been met with protests. Critics say she is focused on privatizing public education, while she and her supporters say she wants to provide parents choices.