Instead of criticizing teachers in ‘receive mode,’ DeVos ought to adopt listen-and-learn mode

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks as President Donald Trump listens during a listening session at the White House last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Betsy DeVos‘ first visit as U.S. secretary of education to a public school did not start off well.

During the Feb. 10 visit to Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, protesters confronted DeVos outside the school with signs declaring, “Our children are not props.” However, once inside the school, DeVos appeared to have a lovely time and described the classrooms and teachers as “wonderful.”

But then DeVos told a columnist at Townhall, a conservative publication, the teachers at Jefferson were in “receive mode” and “waiting to be told what to do.”

That led former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Kaya Henderson to direct a Twitter response to DeVos: “Sorry lady. Tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. But this is so amateur and unprofessional that it’s astounding. We deserve better.”

At Jefferson, DeVos visited classrooms of teachers who have made great strides with economically disadvantaged students. Jefferson was chosen as the site of her first official visit because of the pace of its academic gains. The Washington Post described it as “one of the fastest-improving schools in the city’s public school system. While fewer than half of students are meeting or approaching grade-level expectations, according to new Common Core tests, the school’s growth has won it classification as a ‘rising’ D.C. school.”

It may have been DeVos went to classrooms where teachers let students show what they know. When I first observed classrooms as a reporter, I was impressed with the teachers who put on a floor show, who were practically tap dancing in front of the room. Over time, I learned teachers shouldn’t be the ones doing all the performing. What makes the difference is getting the students to perform. Jefferson may have designed its classrooms so kids take center stage, not teachers.

DeVos could have mistaken student-led learning for teacher passivity. In any event, DeVos has never taught or held a job in a school. It might be prudent for her to reserve judgment on what is effective classroom practice until she knows a bit more about it.

I will let the Jefferson Academy staff tell the rest of the story.

Teachers at Jefferson Middle School were not happy with Betsy DeVos' comments after her visit.

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Reader Comments 0

60 comments
Casey Kauffmann
Casey Kauffmann

Unfortunately the school she visited was reportedly attacked by a well planned Union group who asked her to come only to plan the attacks before hand once she got there. I left the Union teachers group in the 70's when the organization became a beligerant group. I , along with other professional teachers, joined the newly formed PAGE group. That was disgusting and unprofessional behavior from teachers in Washington who should have known better. Taught school for 37 years and changes certainly are needed. One example is families are having to move to areas where their kids can get a good education. Instead of finding solutions to improving failing schools. And believe me MONEY is not the solution.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

DeVos sees HerSelf on 'god's" mission and Trump said he thought the Federal DOE was mentioned in One Samuel, or Three John.


Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on giving—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education...Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's kingdom."


http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary

Margaret White Wallace
Margaret White Wallace

I taught for 30 years, and in most cases, it was someone who had never been in a classroom that made the decisions about the education of our children. Some things never change!

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

DeVos - like many in the billionaire oligarchy - is opposed to the basic principles of equality.  With adequate funding, including major increases in teacher salaries and benefits, public education becomes what it was intended.  Devos' primary objective is to create a system where each student is evaluated for admission - and either accepted or rejected.  This is a clear cut violation of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights which this administration is attempting to over-throw at multiple levels.  My guess is, she will be a complete failure and become one of the 'laughing stocks' of this so-called oligarchy.  Supports the age-old concept of the lack of taste and class in the Nouveau Riche.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

According to the Detroit News, Michigan ranked lowest in the nation for states in educational gains for last year.  This was after Betsy DeVos tried so fervently to implement her school "choice" and voucher plan for school children throughout Michigan.

Frances Brandes Neal
Frances Brandes Neal

Teachers know what needs to be done, but non-teachers won't listen and get to make all the decisions and laws. When did teachers become the enemy?!?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Here's a political summary of why public schools have been branded as "failures."

1. After LBJ's presidency, the political emphasis shifted from "fighting poverty" to "fighting crime" - two very different ways of viewing the world's inequality.

2, Since the 1970s, the Rightwing political agenda has been to cut government problems to an absurd degree.

3. Public, "government" education became a major target to proclaim as inadequate so that public education could be run by private markets for profit.

4. Now, traditional public schools are being underfunded, and school "choice" through charters and vouchers has not been more successful than traditional public schools, overall.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Correction in #2, above: "to cut government programs," not "problems."

class80olddog
class80olddog

Underfunded by increasing their funding threefold after correction for inflation!

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

What first column in years that she hasn't mentioned money/higher salaries ! Hey lets keep doing what we are doing it's been working so well for the last few decades!

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

 "DeVos has never taught or held a job in a school."


Only in education land...

day off
day off

Clearly, this newspaper column is unhappy with the results of November's election, and intends to spend the next 4-8 years passing along teachers' union talking points.

But education reform won't be stopped, and choice will be a big part of it.



Kamau Mason
Kamau Mason

This has nothing to do with educating children. This is about routing congressional dollars towards private companies. Fight the correct battle.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

 Given the abysmal record of the for-profit colleges --   22 percent of the first-time, full-time bachelor's degree students at for-profit colleges graduate within six years, compared with 55 percent at publics and 65 percent at private nonprofit colleges -- this is troubling. (And taxpayers get stuck with the tab. While the for-profit sector has about 8 percent of those enrolled in higher education, it has 15 percent of taxpayer-subsidized student loans. I often get calls from for-profit college students who contend their schools ripped them off.  These students often have the highest student loan debt.)

From The New York Times:


Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent.

You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it.

President Trump ran the now-defunct Trump University, which wound up besieged by lawsuits from former students and New York’s attorney general, who called the operation a fraud. Within days of the election, Mr. Trump, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $25 million settlement.

Betsy DeVos, the newly installed secretary of education, is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/business/for-profit-education-trump-devos.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Gandolph
Gandolph

@MaureenDowney You seem to suggest that public schools are a resounding success.  If so, why are we ranked so low in the world compared to other nations, and, we spend more money doing it.  Maybe we should keep doing what we are doing and look for that different result.  I am an observer, don't have an answer and not a DeVos supporter but just maybe we should look outside of the teacher's union box to look for improvement.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Gandolph @MaureenDowney

Do you have a google? Or. do you just ask questions you want answered as a blog post?


Here. I'll help you with a decent starter site. Be sure and go to the PISA page and answer a couple of test questions to get a feel for how students were tested.


You will now want to investigate reporting and population differences.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian @MaureenDowney


"Very telling"


Not really.Short term stock prices can be influenced by a multitude of factors.


In fact, DeVry stock has risen since DT was elected-But it hit its all time high during Obama's first term,at a price more than double the current one:


https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/DV?p=DV


Strayer peaked in March 2010 @ over $243 a share.It's at a little over $75 today.Was Obama in cahoots with STRA? Sure looks like it.


https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/STRA/?p=STRA


And Grand Canyon has barely kept up with inflation:


https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/LOPE/?p=LOPE



So maybe you want to re-think that MBA thing.It might help you not look foolish on financial matters.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian @MaureenDowney

As in your example? you are cracking me up.


Journalism? I am offering you instruction to become more knowledgeable so your posts will be be less like boring opinions with no substance.

Mary Jo Burkholder Beck
Mary Jo Burkholder Beck

I think most politicians need to adopt the listen and learn mode. No one is listening to the what the teachers need. Which is why they have so much testing and paper work and salaries based on performance.

antboogie
antboogie

Why not print her embarrassing and borderline illiterate statement?


“I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a ‘receive mode.’ They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”



At no point in her visit did teachers express or demonstrate being "limited". She has an agenda, hasn't a clue what teaching is like, and is likely a dummy regarding education and a hustler like her Amway clan.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@antboogie

How many years is DeVoS behind in spoken English? Goes to show you can be a billionaire and still be less than smart.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@antboogie That quote from DeVos is in the first tweet I reprinted on the blog from Jefferson Academy. Is it not showing up in the platform you use to read the blog? 

class80olddog
class80olddog

I think it is telling that only half of the students are "on grade level".  Although they are "improving", someone LET them get behind.  Now they will be forever in 'catch-up" mode.  Of course, the ones who ARE on grade level are held back because they won't separate the kids according to level, so the teacher spends her time trying to "catch up" the lower students, while the ones who could excel are forgotten.  Typical failing school where social promotion is the norm.  I would like to hear how the attendance is at this school.  How is the discipline?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Moreover, every child is not exactly like every other child, à la cookie-cutter format.

class80olddog
class80olddog

K is the beginning of school - you can't be behind when you start. Now good parents can give you a head start before K, but a kid starting in K should be able to stay at grade level ( if they study, come to class, are not held back by discipline problems)

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog But, if they come to school in sixth grade reading at a second grade level, and they leave eighth grade reading at a seventh grade level, hasn't the school made huge gains?  Which brings us back to the question that Sec. DeVos couldn't answer when asked by Sen. Franken.  Should we judge schools based on growth or proficiency?  Are these teachers, who bring kids up multiple grade levels in one year, still considered "failing" because those students are not yet up to grade level?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @class80olddog It is totally asinine that a student should ever enter sixth grade reading at a second grade level.  Even MES says that is not good.  If schools do their job, you will have growth AND proficiency, since student will never fall that far behind (because they don't get socially promoted).

SuperCelebrity
SuperCelebrity

@class80olddog  You would think so, wouldn't you? I taught K for 12 years, and I assure you, over half of the kids came in behind. There is a list of words called "Preprimer" which means kids should be able to read those words coming into Kindergarten. Most kids didn't even recognize half of the letters, much less able to read Priprimer words. So before you spout off that "once they enter Kindergarten, they should be kept on grade level," know your stuff. A great percentage of kids come in behind and that has nothing to do with teachers or schools.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I am waiting for Betsy DeVos to fail and all of the other business-centered Cabinet members of business mogul and president Donald Trump's presidency.

With the arrogance inherent in the business mind which thinks they can run every aspect of government better than the trained professionals, their failure is the only thing that will get their attention that they do not have all the answers for governing and educating.

Pride before the Fall.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Study American politics and political agendas, in depth, for the past 45 years and you will know what I am talking about.

Beth Day
Beth Day

Enormous wealth provides a degree of importance that is mistaken for competence. She is used to wielding influence and power. She does not understand diplomacy, finesse, or the value of opinions other than those who share her values.

Grob_Hahn
Grob_Hahn

Ah, so you'd like her to sit back and shut up while those who created the mess that is public education tell her how it should be? 

 How about you quit assuming she knows nothing and show some respect for the office she holds and her history of using her own money to advance the cause of education.  

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Ralph-43 @Grob_Hahn It IS a failing school - only half of the students are on grade level, yet they cling stubbornly to the "social promotion" theory - that is my definition of a failing school.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Grob_Hahn


Your claim is that public education

is a mess, but somehow when the

same students attend accredited

universities in the United States

and graduate they are considered

outliers. The narrative that most

public schools are failing is not

accurate, and negates the positive

gains that many students have made

in k-12 and higher education.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@E Pluribus Unum @Grob_Hahn Please review the NAEP scores from 11th graders from 1977 and today and tell me how much "positive gains" have been made - especially since spending per student has gone up about 200% since then.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@Grob_Hahn Like Trump, you wish they were failing.  Actually, most of us received an excellent education and went on to University.  The reason we believe Devos should have no in-put is:  1.  She knew nothing about education in thorough public hearings, 2.  She has never even attended a public school, let alone taught in one, 3.  She has no publications or research addressing education at any level, and 4.  She has been fed and bathed her entire life and has never managed anything.  Why would that person be given management of the United States Education? (Run it like a business?  I guess this is where Donald and Perdue declare bankruptcy and run with the money.)

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

FINDINGS FROM THE RESEARCHOverall, neither social promotion nor retention leads to high performance. If the goal is to bring low-performing students up to the higher standards now being asserted across the nation, neither retention nor social promotion is effective. In different studies, one or the other has been found to offer an advantage, but neither has been found to offer a large, lasting advantage, and neither leads to high performance.http://www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/policy.htm

RationalThoughts67
RationalThoughts67

@class80olddog @E Pluribus Unum @Grob_Hahn A learning moment for you....  

200% spending growth from 1977 does not keep up with inflation that occurred over that same period.

To match the same inflation adjusted spending levels as 1977, the current budget should be 415% of the 1977 levels.  So based on inflation adjusted numbers, the dept budget has gone down 50%.


Math skills are important.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@class80olddog @E Pluribus Unum @Grob_Hahn


First, we have generally defined

student success by the number

of high school, and college 

graduates. Not a single employer

asks students to submit NAEP

scores when they are applying for

employment. Second, high school

juniors faced with multiple tests

(various state assessment tests,

SAT/ACT tests,AP tests etc.) sometimes do not give the same 

effort ,or priority to the NAEP test.

Last, the average total math score

for the SAT in 1977 was about 496

,but in 2016 the total math score

average for the SAT was 508.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@AvgGeorgian So if neither one works for the student who won't study, why not just retain them so the teacher doesn't have to slow the rest of the class down for them?