Betsy DeVos: Traditional public schools are Blockbuster in age of Netflix

In this Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos arrives to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md. The school choice movement has been cleaved into two camps: those who want to use choice to improve public schools and others, like DeVos, who want to go further by allowing tax money to flow to private schools through vouchers, government-funded scholarships or corporate tax credits. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos garnered a lot of attention Wednesday for her commencement speech under duress at an HBCU in Florida. Students at Bethune-Cookman University booed multiple times during her cheery speech, which was the standard pep talk delivered at graduations.

DeVos gave a more policy-laden talk earlier this week at the Arizona State University + Global Silicon Valley Summit in Salt Lake City, hitting on her favorite theme of school choice.

While DeVos plugs choice in almost every speech she gives, she went deeper in this speech. Here are relevant excerpts:

We’ll never be able to solve a problem unless we acknowledge it exists, so here’s the current reality.

The system is based on the Prussian model implemented in the early 1800s. Yes, courtesy of a country that no longer exists.

The system assigns your child to a school based solely upon the street on which you live. If you’re a block away from a better school zone, too bad. This of course creates a problem for those who don’t have the financial means to move to a different home.

If real estate prices are based on the neighborhood school district, it will always adversely affect the economically disadvantaged. Thus the most vulnerable are trapped in the worse performing schools, while the wealthier families get the better schools.

Our students have fallen behind our peers on the global stage In the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, report, the U.S. ranked 20th in reading, 19th in science and 24th in math. That’s worse than the 2012 PISA ranking which was somewhat higher in reading and math.

And it’s not for a lack of funding. According to their 2012 data, we spend 31 percent more per pupil than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average on elementary and secondary students.

The facts show our system is antiquated, unjust, and fails to serve students. This is flat-out unacceptable.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been attempts at reform. “Education reform” has been in vogue since the early 1980s, and has produced plenty of studies, conferences and initiatives. We’ve also seen billions of dollars invested by the private sector to improve the system, but with very little to show in return.

Since the 80’s, we’ve made incredible advances in nearly every other sector of our society except education.

For example: who here can pull out their Blockbuster card? No one. You all likely use Netflix, or Amazon or one of the myriad streaming services available.

Think about your cellphone. It used to be that you could only fit your mobile phone in a duffel bag. Now, we carry a device in our pocket that’s more powerful than computers that used to take up entire rooms. Apple, Uber, Airbnb… the list goes on and on. So much has changed and our lives are better because of it. So why is our education system so far behind the curve?

We can no longer accept this education malaise. The time for simply tinkering around the edges is over.

We already have failed a generation or more of kids, and every year we’re failing another graduating class. In order to prevent repeating this destructive cycle, we need a new generation of education reform. That’s why I’m here. Each of the examples I mentioned stemmed from entrepreneurs who saw solutions to problems we didn’t even know existed.  And, now our lives are better for them.

So, what are we going to do about this problem in American education that we know exists? Since we have a room full of innovators here today, my question to you is this: if you were to start from scratch, what would America’s education system look like?

I doubt you would design a system that’s focused on inputs rather than outputs; that prioritizes seat-time over mastery; that moves kids through an assembly line without stopping to ask whether they’re actually ready for the next step, or that is more interested in preserving the status quo rather than embracing necessary change.

Here’s how I would answer the question I just posed to you: We would build a system centered on knowledge, skills and achievement – not centered on delivery methods. Traditional, charter, private, virtual, and other delivery methods not yet developed: all would be treated as viable options so long as they met the needs of their students.

This starts by focusing on students, not buildings. If a child is learning, it shouldn’t matter where they learn. When we center the debate around buildings, we remain stuck with the same old system where we can predict educational outcomes based strictly on ZIP code.

The system we create would respect parents’ fundamental right to choose what education is best-suited for each of their children. Every individual student is unique, with different abilities and needs. Our education delivery methods should then be as diverse as the kids they serve, instead of our habit of forcing them into a one-size-fits-all model.

So when a school — any school — fails any student, that child deserves the right to move on. The goal is not to promote choice for choice’s sake. The goal is to provide a wide range of quality options that actually help individual children learn and grow in an environment that works for them. For too many Americans, there is only one, single assigned option, and it isn’t working.

In the United States in 2017, no student should be locked into a school that fails them. Even the best-performing school in the country won’t be the right fit for everyone. The simple fact is that if a school is not meeting a child’s unique needs, then that school is failing that child.

Let’s be clear.  This shouldn’t apply only to K-12 education – we need to innovate, reform, and iterate across the entire education spectrum. Higher education must constantly look for ways to update their models to best serve students as well.

So, what can government do to advance these ideas? Well, this Administration started by giving states more flexibility in how they implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. Just like no two students are identical, states like New Hampshire and California, or Utah and New York, have their own unique educational challenges and opportunities. We want states to unleash their creative thinking to tailor their education to the students they serve.

With this Administration, you’ll find a partner that wants to empower you and collaborate with you, not dictate to you from on-high. But while we will take some definitive steps, government alone can’t and shouldn’t solve these problems. The change we need won’t come from Washington – it will come from the people in this room, and from parents, educators, community leaders and philanthropists. My job is to get the federal government out of the way so that you can do your jobs.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

63 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

She gave no specifics. She just wants to give public education money to private companies. If you agree with her, you are most likely:

1. Ignorant - you don't understand the issue and may not have the experience and skills to research it.

2. Stupid(a description of a choice)-you could understand the issue but lack the desire or effort to try to understand, or think you understand just because you used a couple of bias sources.

3. Greedy - you stand to profit personally by getting a cheaper private(like) education for your kin, or you will make money on privatization.


I have studied public, private, online, charter, homeschooling, taxes, pay, funding, etc. for decades. There is no magic solution. The student is the main determinant of outcome. This includes the student's health, intellectual potential, effort, family resources, family educational experiences, etc. 


Do any of you "failing schools" mantra addicts believe that hard working, intellectual capable, healthy children with family support and resources fail in any public school? I don't mean that they could not have made more progress in a more challenging school; I mean their ability to pass their coursework, their standardized tests(the measure of a failing school) and get into college.

time for reform
time for reform

It's the teachers' unions which are relics from another era. Along with the pulp media journalists still shilling for them.

Bethany Hayes
Bethany Hayes

As I recall, Blockbuster required me to plan ahead, put forth effort to get to the store, find what was available but also appropriate and relevant for the time (and company, if I had it), wait my turn, use polite greetings with other people, usually pay with cash, and return home. I then had to remember to rewind it and return it to the store. With Netflix, I put no more effort into it than sitting on my couch. So, given that Netflix is equivalent to the antiquated "sit and get" mentality of education and that Blockbuster requires whole child learning, hands on activities, cultural sensitivity, consideration of others and cross disciplinary cooperation...well...I'll take Blockbuster hands down!

Intteach
Intteach

Public education bashing has become so popular! We are graduating more students than ever before with better averages and, most important of all, with more knowledge than ever before. If parents are complaining that they cannot help their students in certain subject areas beyond certain grade levels it is for a reason. Public education has and continues to give students from families with little education a chance to change their lives. Can we acknowledge the positives before we start nitpicking? We tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Here's a great big ol' nit:

"This starts by focusing on students, not buildings. If a child is learning, it shouldn’t matter where they learn. When we center the debate around buildings, we remain stuck with the same old system where we can predict educational outcomes based strictly on ZIP code."

DerekGator
DerekGator

Too many of our schools suck because too many people that should not be having kids are having kids.  Schools can only perform well if they have parents that care about the education of their kids.  The only way schools get better is mandatory birth control for people that have no business having children.  If you are on any kind of public assistance, you should be on mandatory birth control.  Sounds harsh but if we want to save America, we have to stop idiots and people that can't afford to take care of their kids from having kids. 

Bryan Sorohan
Bryan Sorohan

Not surprising that this birdbrain thinks schools are all about entertainment.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

First I read Ms. DeVos' comments.  Then I read the reader comments.

What a disconnect.  I agreed with every single word attributed to Ms. DeVos.  Her analysis was 100% accurate and spot on.  The vast majority of reader comments below are sneering, angry personal attacks and address NONE of the issues she raised or arguments she made.

30 years or so ago, the Vanguard Group began advocating low-cost index fund investing to mass jeers and derision from pretty much the entirety of the mutual fund industry.  Last year, with minimal advertising and no commissions, Vanguard took in 54% of ALL the new money invested in mutual funds - more than all the rest of the mutual funds in America combined.

Jeer, insult, ridicule.  Over time, people will figure out what's going on. The truth will win out over entrenched self-interest. Ultimately, there is a limit to how long and how extensively parents will permit you to short-change their children.

John Washington
John Washington

No, traditional schools are shakespeare in an age of twilight.

CeCe Burkes
CeCe Burkes

She is totally right on with this statement...

Jan Meyer
Jan Meyer

Have independent businesses run these schools, teachers need psyche testing and much better training'\

Lauren Maxwell Connolly
Lauren Maxwell Connolly

Says the clown with zero experience regarding ANYTHING within the realm of the public education system in this country...

TMD1
TMD1

Public schools having been going down for 30+ years. Time for change- quit living in the past. Devos is right on.

TheDoctor
TheDoctor

Betsy DeVos is to education what Bill O'Reilly is to women's rights

Jacob Elliott
Jacob Elliott

Actually, a lot of what she says is true. There's so much red tape on how money is spent, the length of time to get services to kids that need them, constant change in standards, and more that keeps schools from being on the cutting edge. Schools will constantly play keep up and lead from behind because government has too many rules for schools to move light footedly and make things work for their students.

Lejean Gilmer Messer
Lejean Gilmer Messer

I don't disagree with your assessment of needs, but where has DeVos addressed ANY of those issues?

Jacob Elliott
Jacob Elliott

I never said she has addressed them and doubt she will. These are issues that are never addressed...if anything they just get worse. And government is a big reason why. There are too many rules and restrictions in place that make it difficult for schools to properly teach their kids. Teachers just want to teach. Principals just want to make their schools great. Parents send the best they have. But government says, you can't do that, this isn't allowed, and no. Instead, it should take a more hands off approach. Set up some basic guidelines, then let the system work it out. But that could be said for a lot of parts of government. Too much.

Jacob Elliott
Jacob Elliott

To make it simpler, government is a big reason why schools are Blockbusters and not Netflix.

Amy Young
Amy Young

People are just rude today. When those snowflakes have to work in the real world they will change their tune. If I were their boss I'd fire them. Actions have consequences

Amy Young
Amy Young

Ok let's just say they are uncouth and downright RUDE. Forget about the snowflake comment. No excuse for that crass behavior. Obviously not raised right.

Allen Yuhas
Allen Yuhas

I work with a lot of recent college grads, or as you call it, snowflakes. They have their opinions and still work hard and do a great job. Just because these kids are against having an anti-education Sec of Education delivering their commencement address doesn't mean they won't go onto have long, successful careers. Having an opinion that doesn't jive with your doesn't make them snowflakes. That moniker has been played out by republicans and Dems alike.

Sandra Jones
Sandra Jones

Or, she shouldn't have gone to a HBCU, you know the original model for school choice, to make a speech when she wasn't wanted. She went to gain some kind of political capital, but ended up getting nothing.

Pbae
Pbae

A little rebellion now and again is a good thing.  That paves the way for change.

Allen Yuhas
Allen Yuhas

She asked to speak at that school. Not the other way around. She is a vastly unqualified person to leading that department. She isn't welcome into public high school around the country and needs to stay away from places she isn't welcome. Like high schools and colleges. No one would care if she didn't ask to speak there or anywhere else.

TMD1
TMD1

This is about failing schools - what's your solution?

Amy Young
Amy Young

She was damned if she went and damned if she didn't go. If she didn't go she would have been called a racist and so she went and was horribly mistreated by the student body. There is no winning with people like that. But people are a product of their upbringing and it shows in this instance.

Reginald Nixon
Reginald Nixon

Amy Young If you had told me that historically black colleges and universities were formed by choice, I'd boo you too. Do you believe the first schools for black people were separate b/c THEY chose for it to be that way? It's going to be hard to re-gain credibility after an outrageous statement like that. Not to mention she had no clue what Public Law 94-142 is. Completely unacceptable. You could argue that the behavior may have been overboard, but not the sentiment behind their actions.

Melissa Vance
Melissa Vance

My sons public school is 1000 times better than the charter school we sent him to. Perhaps if a school is failing we should look to state and local officials for answers since they apparently want the responsibility.

Melissa Biegler
Melissa Biegler

Is there need for growth and revision in the public schools? Of course! Is diverting resources to profit-making organizations going to get us there? Has it done so in any significant number of examples? Absolutely not.

Heath Harvey
Heath Harvey

In Milwaukee, the public schools outperformed the charter schools. In Michigan, the result of her efforts has been even worse schools. Her goal is not improved education, but improved profits for educational service companies.

Ashot Pogosyan
Ashot Pogosyan

Oh yes. USA in the transitional phase. Together with Trump came a new era. It is the hope that the US will cease to commit robbery in the Arab states, Europe and around the world ("democratization", "overthrow of dictators" is just a modern version of the crusades). If this works, then the US will grow up. Still, the US is a very young state. The American nation is an infant who has just learned to walk (compared to the Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, Greek and Turkish). Infant states are often militant, bloodthirsty, cruel and expansive. But primitiveness is not eternal. Someday, any nation and any state (who have lived long enough) enter the adult stage. It seems that Trump is a symbol of the fact that the US and the American nation is beginning to grow up and understand something. Historical experience? The quantity goes into quality. For Americans, it's time to comprehend the previous American history and correct domestic and international mistakes, atrocities, and deal with internal problems. The US will be able to grow up only on its own. For the US and the American nation, one can not be an eternal Genghis Khan, Ancient Rome. Remember the inglorious end of the Golden Horde and Ancient Rome! Recollect, than Alexander the Great's aggressive campaigns have ended. Is it not time to stop exhausting American and world resources for the sake of new villainous (and criminal!) Bloody conquests? Maybe it's time to end the bloody plunder of Libya and Ukraine (do you call it "spring", "democratization")? Trump is a serious American attempt to stop the US ("infantile") madness, stop lying, think and become wise. "American hawks" are people who pull the US back into the past. They are Roman legionaries in 1812. "Hawks" are lumberjacks with stone axes in the 21st century. They are archaism. Do you want to become barbarians-woodcutters with stone axes now? Do US taxpayers pay for the blatant lies that were before Trump's presidency (and in other ways just to shave with budget money)? Trump stopped the period of "Nero and Caligula" in the United States. Will there be that insanity (before Trump) in the history archive or will there be a revival of a new evil? Will the American nation be an adult? Only Americans can solve these issues. No one will do it instead of Americans.

Heather Walther Dever
Heather Walther Dever

She's a joke. Such a clueless, entitled, out of touch sycophant who purchased her position. Please exit stage door left and take the rest of the swamp monsters with you.

Brian Peters
Brian Peters

charter school promoters contribute to campaigns?

Pbae
Pbae

Big league!

Pamela Williams
Pamela Williams

She doesn't know her arse from her elbow when it comes to education \U0001f644

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

So is she saying that every kid in Atlanta can go to Walton? 

Christine E Wheat
Christine E Wheat

This whole cabinet is woefully under or unqualified. Having opinions and an ideology is not qualification to run a country's education system.

Keisha Moorer
Keisha Moorer

she's right with that statement though but her ways of trying to change that I don't agree with

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Is DeVos so dense she actually does not know what she is pushing?  Here she is at an all Black college started because admission was refused at tax payer supported Universities and colleges throughout the state, and expressing the opinion that Blacks did not want to go to the tax-payer funded University.  Moron.  Her idea of 'choice' includes creating public schools that have the option of refusing admission to any candidate.  Wrong again.  This person has no business receiving a tax payer supported salary, benefits, transportation, and multiple employee supporters.  She has no credentials or publications demonstrating any data or expertise in education.  Loser pile.

PBY
PBY

The problem is not the graduates. The problem is that the school has a president who cares so little about the graduates that he had no problem ruining their graduation day by having a speaker who the graduates rightfully believe has nothing valuable to say to them. I blame the prez for ruining the graduates' special day and for inviting DeVos into a situation where the people she addressed have no respect for her. She probably had no idea that she was not welcome until she got there. 

Nicholas Mrvos
Nicholas Mrvos

Georgia should never have gotten rid of the Tech Prep diploma. Every kid does not belong and should not attend college. The traditional school model we use now is outdated and does not work.

Pbae
Pbae

You can thank No Child Left Behind for that!

Brett Paige
Brett Paige

Those courses are still available, the name has just been changed to be more relevant. Georgia is the 2nd most leading state in the country in Career, Technical, and Agriculture Education. Schools all over this state are teaching business, early childhood, culinary arts, construction, ag, cosmetology, healthcare science, etc. And because of the changes that were made, it is easier to partner with institutions of higher learning. I attended a CTAE Awards banquet last night where I watched students walk across the stage with licenses and certificates from our local technical college. The traditional model is still available, but we recognize the fact that not every student is meant to go to a 4 year university.

Nicholas Mrvos
Nicholas Mrvos

But they still have to qualify for the same diploma and thats insane. A few different courses but still college prep diploma. Not good since behavior disorder and tech prep kids of old cause major disruptions in classrooms with college prep kids. They should not be trying to do the same work. Also, many systems like in Clarke County got rid of most of their CTAE programs in favor of installing an IB program. Again, at a low performing blue collar district...dumb! High schools should be more internet based as social skills are not as important in our new technical age. Busing kids in to a building for so majy hours and days seems regressive and a waste of taxpayer money.