A blog following teacher Aaron Jura as he plans engaging, yet relevant English Language Arts content for High School students in New Orleans, LA.
On Wednesday (11/23/16) president-elect Trump announced he was selecting school voucher and privatization advocate Betsy DeVoss to lead the US Department of Education. Unlike her predecessor, DeVoss has no history working with public schools, never attended a public school, sent all her children to private school, and arguably is woefully unprepared to lead the US Department of Education.
The primary objective of Betsy DeVoss throughout her time in educational politics has been to increase access to school vouchers and thereby increase the charter school landscape in many American cities. DeVoss and president-elect Trump both are in support of increased access to school vouchers, which has consistently been proven to be a nightmare for already disadvantaged students attending public schools nationwide.
In Michigan, the state where DeVoss has made most of her efforts in education teacher attrition is at an all-time high. Research has always proven that students are not best served by inexperienced, unprepared educators. In Michigan, the “business cycle” has been impacting student performance for quite a while. The privatization of education is well known in New Orleans, and Michigan has been going through big changes toward charter schools since 1993. The Great Lakes Education Project, which DeVoss started and funded, pushes charter schools (particularly in urban settings) and has not been able to produce results. As a matter of fact, in 2009 Detroit’s school system (heavily inundated with charter school operators) was the lowest performing district in the nation – New Orleans was not far off.
When looking at ideas like DeVoss’s we must focus on the key objective – the welfare of our students. In cases where charter schools and school choice really took off we cannot say that there have been major successes. Most of the growth is minimal and cannot be sustained over extended time periods – indicating that students are not succeeding. I would argue that students would see more success if we encourage stability in the system, not massive change. Students in high school today have already undergone at least 5 major curricular policy changes during their academic careers. They have dealt with numerous changes to testing at an almost unthinkable level. Teacher attrition has reached a crisis point, especially impacting students of color and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. While I am not saying all this is attributable to DeVoss and people who think about educating the nation like she does, I am saying that the key objective is not being met if we stay on a track where mediocre results can be spun into gold through the mouths of billionaire lobbyists who have a vested interest in ensuring that society creates more worker bees instead of educated thinkers and critical analysts. I propose that we stop pretending like political elites know what’s best for students and focus on retaining talented educators in our public school systems to ensure that students are well served and provided with a well-rounded education.
Mr. J is a high school teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. J believes in the power of educators to help children and families achieve. Follow his blog for tips and techniques to keep engagement high and student achievement at the forefront.