In the News: How Betsy DeVos Could Scramble the Ideology and Politics of Education Reform

In the 74, Matt Barnum examines the reactions of different groups to Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

The tepid reaction to DeVos’s selection among liberal and moderate education-reform groups such as Democrats for Education Reform and Education Trust may indicate new and deepened fault lines within the ed-reform coalition. 

Barnum lays out two approaches to choice and accountability that have been embraced by different education reform groups.

One line of thinking goes that families generally should be able to choose schools, but that low-achieving schools, including charters, should face consequences, including closure. 

Another view holds that parents ought to be able to select schools based on their own definition of quality and that families’ decisions should rarely if ever be overruled. 

“DeVos seems likely to land in the “choice as its own form of accountability” camp,” Barnum writes.

ednext-nov2016-blog-ototn-devos-choice-accountabilityBarnum notes that the charter school sector in Michigan, and in Detroit in particular, which DeVos has supported, is seen by some as needing more oversight.

In an article for Education NextRobin J. Lake, Ashley Jochim and Michael DeArmond examined the situation in Detroit, writing that

Detroit is a powerful illustration of what happens when no one takes responsibility for the entire system of publicly supported schools in a city. Parents struggle to navigate their many, mostly low-performing options, and providers face at best weak incentives to improve academic quality. As a result, large numbers of failing district and charter schools continue to operate.

Still, hope is not lost. Many parent groups, nonprofits, and foundations in the city are working to step in where government has failed. Civic groups and leaders are helping parents learn what qualities to look for in schools, working to create high-quality schools in neighborhoods with the greatest concentrations of school-age children, asking schools to voluntarily agree to common enrollment deadlines and application processes, and putting pressure on charter school authorizers to close low-performing schools.

For more please read “Fixing Detroit’s Broken School System” in the Winter 2015 issue of Education Next.

– Education Next



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