Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Secretary Betsy DeVos Prepared Alternative Facts National Association of Public Charter Schools | U.S. Department of Education

Secretary Betsy DeVos Prepared Remarks National Association of Public Charter Schools | U.S. Department of Education:

Secretary Betsy DeVos Prepared Alternative Facts National Association of Public Charter Schools

Hello, and thank you Deborah for the kind introduction.
It's great to be here with so many pioneers and champions who are fighting to give our nation's families more quality options in their children's education.
We each have a different story of how we got here. Here's mine. ...
Defenders of the status quo like to paint me as a "voucher-only proponent", but the truth is I've long-supported public charter schools as a quality option for students. I worked with many others to get Michigan's first charter legislation passed in 1993—the third state to do so. And my husband founded a charter high school in Michigan that focuses on aviation, educates kids in the STEM fields and prepares them to contribute in significant ways to our 21st century economy.
Whatever your own journey looks like, we're here because we came to the same conclusion that, as a nation, we are simply not doing a good enough job educating our kids.
We all saw too many kids languishing in schools that did not work for them. We knew that if given choices, these students and their families would find an environment that suited them and challenged them.
Let me be clear up front: this is in no way an indictment of the great teachers working every day on behalf of their students. In fact, they should be honored, celebrated, and freed up to do what they do best. If there are any teachers—past or present—here today, will you please stand up? Thank you for all that you do.
But they—and we—all live with the fact that the current structure of education is outdated and ultimately is not geared toward what is right and best for students.
Let me tell two stories that illustrate this reality:
I met Dan a few months ago. Dan and his wife weren't happy with their children's assigned school, so they did their research and found a school they thought would be a good fit for them. They had to stretch their family budget to buy a house in that school's district, but they thought it was a worthwhile investment for their children's futures.
Unfortunately for them, right after they closed on their house, the school board redrew the lines and poof—Dan and his family were now assigned to a different school, this one with achievement levels much lower than the one they moved away from and the one they sacrificed their life savings for. When Dan took his case to the district, the response was, "Too bad."
The second story: Sandy recently moved to Virginia, she was excited to be living in a highly-regarded, high-performing district. Her son completed the local school's assessments, and while he had just finished first grade, he tested at the fourth grade level. Yet the school told Sandy they didn't have anything to offer a gifted student like him and he would have to stay in second grade because of his age.
So while the school district is well-regarded for its high performance, it shows that not even a great district is the best fit for every child.
I can't justify either situation to these parents when they ask the same question each of us would ask, "Why?"
"Why can't my children go to the school I chose?"
"Why isn't there a program that meets my child at his level?"
The answer should not be, "Take it, or literally leave it."
How can we be ok with an education structure that is so inflexible and so unaccommodating? Education is foundational to everything else in life, yet the process of acquiring it is based on a family's income or neighborhood.
A system that denies parents the freedom to choose the education that best suits their children's individual and unique needs denies them a basic human right. It is un-American, and it is fundamentally unjust.
Thankfully, you are among those who are working to give parents the freedom to find that education for their children.
It's been more than a quarter century since the first charter law was enacted in Minnesota in 1991. That law didn't evolve out of a vacuum and it wasn't developed on a whim. It was passed in response to the stories of families like Dan's and Sandy's. Parents were desperate for more options, and they pressed for change.
What began as a handful of schools in Minnesota has blossomed into nearly 7,000 schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 3 million students nationwide.
Through your great work, you have proven that quality and choice can coexist. You've helped weave charter schools into the fabric of American education.
Charter schools are here to stay. We're now seeing the first generation of charter students raising children of their own. They know the difference educational choice made in their lives, and now as parents they want the same options for their children.
But we must recognize that charters aren't the right fit for every child. For many children, neither a traditional nor a charter public school works for them.
Charters are not the one cure-all to the ills that beset education. Let's be honest: there's no such thing as a cure-all in education. Even the best school in the country with the best-trained educators and the most resources will not be the perfect fit for every single child.
I suggest we focus less on what word comes before "school"—whether it be traditional, charter, virtual, magnet, home, parochial, private or any approach yet to be developed—and focus instead on the individuals they are intended to serve. We need to get away from our orientation around buildings or systems or schools and shift our focus to individual students.
Today, the United States is third in per-pupil spending among developed countries, yet our students rank 19th in science, 20th in reading and 24th in math. The problem is not how much we're spending; the problem is the results we're getting.
Charters alone are not sufficient. Private schools alone are not sufficient. Neither are traditional schools.
And that's ok. Let's humbly admit this fact and recognize that no top-down, one-size-fits-all approach will ever help us achieve the goal Secretary Betsy DeVos Prepared Remarks National Association of Public Charter Schools | U.S. Department of Education:
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