And a couple of additional items.
In the lead-up to billionaire Republican megadonor and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, numerous media outlets published deep-dive investigations into DeVos’ background, significant political contributions, potential conflicts of interest, far-right ideology, and negative influence on Michigan policies.
But since she formally took over at the Department of Education, the investigative work seems to have mostly dropped off; coverage of DeVos has focused more on her public gaffes than the inner workings of the agency she now runs. It certainly doesn’t help that DeVos and her department have struggled with media transparency. As education media writer Alexander Russo wrote, “DeVos takes press questions at events only occasionally, has yet to grant a formal interview with a major national education reporter, and heads a department that only intermittently provides answers in a timely manner – through a spokesperson whose name reporters are forbidden to use. The agency has even struggled to put out her weekly schedule in advance of public events.”
It’s time for investigative journalists to dig deeper and shine light on DeVos’ priorities, such as early staffing decisions at the Education Department. There’s certainly plenty to explore — many of the temporary staffers in the Education Department are veterans of the right-wing think tank echo chamber on “education reform,” and some have anti-LGBTQ and anti-black track records. Like DeVos, almost none have spent significant time as educators.
In the case of government mandating consumers to buy a particular product, it’s perhaps the strongest case of a captive market. Consumers have no choice but to comply and thus have little to no protection from abuse. They are at the mercy of the supplier.
It’s a terrible position to be in for consumers, but a powerful one for businesspeople. And it’s exactly the situation for public schools and the standardized testing industry.
Let’s break it down.
These huge corporations don’t sell widgets, they sell tests. In fact, they sell more than just that, but let’s focus right now on just that – the multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble assessments.
Why do our public schools give these tests? Because peer-reviewed research shows they fairly and accurately demonstrate student learning? Because they’ve been proven by independent observers to be an invaluable part of the learning process and help students continue to learn new things?
No and no.
Lubienski and his wife Sarah, a researcher with the University of Illinois, authored a book entitled, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools. The two looked at several early childhood longitudinal studies and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and found, just like the title says, public schools outperform private schools.
“When we did the analysis, and we controlled for the fact that there tends to be more affluent parents sending their children to private schools, when you account for those demographics, that more than explains any gaps in achievement. In fact, public schools are actually more effective in teaching mathematics” said Lubienski, who believes math is a better reflection of what’s being taught in schools compared to reading, which is often learned at home.
“This definitely turns the common wisdom on its head, and it undercuts the basic narrative we have around school reform now exemplified in Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.”
From Mac Hall: ICYMI #1. The New York Times reported that Robert S. Eitel, a former compliance officer at for-profit college operator Bridgepoint Education Inc., is working at the Education department. Eitel, a former deputy general counsel at the Education Department from 2006 to 2009, has been a critic of federal regulations on for-profit colleges. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last September ordered Bridgepoint, Eitel’s former employer, to refund $23.5 million to students whom it had deceived into taking out loans that cost more than advertised. Bridgepoint is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the attorneys general of New York, North Carolina, California and Massachusetts.
ICYMI #2. Federal marshals are protecting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a cost of $7.8 million through September (the fiscal year end).
ICYMI #3. The House will likey vote on (and pass) HR1387 which will authorize funding for DC Charter Schools (would cost $315 million over 5 yrs) … remember Congress authorizes and controls all spending for the District … so they can allow states to use federal dollars for charter schools in their states, but with the DC schools they can actually give out the money.