But only since the 2016 presidential elections has the question began popping up during the Q&A portion: How is (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos going to affect my child’s education?
I respond by asking those assembled to name the secretary of education before DeVos. And what he (there, a clue, I’ve eliminated 50% of the population) did that affected their child’s education.
In almost three years, nobody has been able to provide an answer.
I go on to explain that education is primarily a local concern. Who they elect for mayor and the city council, even governor, has a much greater effect on what their child’s school might be like. Worry about Richard Carranza, NYC’s school chancellor, not Betsy DeVos.
But there is a bright side. For the first time since I began writing and advocating for education, more average citizens are taking an interest in education.
And they are horrified by what they see.
Did I know that the United States ranks #31 in math, reading, and science according to The Program For International Student Assessment (PISA)?
Was I aware that less than 50% of NYC students can read and do math at grade level? That over 30% of NYC high school graduates can’t meet basic academic competency requirements for City College? That over 80% of Black NYC seventh-graders failed the state math exam?
I was aware of all those things.
I was also aware that very few people gave a damn.
Educational Outcomes Are Now Front Page News
Mentioning any of the above prior to 2016 typically provoked the response that everything was generally fine—sure, there were a few trouble spots here and there, but that was due to poverty, not instruction or curriculum. There’s nothing you can do to educate poor kids. Or kids who didn’t speak English. So what if it took the average NYC English Language Learner (ELL) four years to move into a general education classroom? It’s not like they were missing anything.
Even Arne Duncan, the secretary of education for a much more popular president (though not the answer to my stumper, above) got pushback when he suggested that all American kids—not just ELL’s and poor ones—weren’t doing as well as they ought to. His Race to the Top, like George Bush’s earlier No Child Left Behind, was criticized from both sides of the political aisles.
Too much testing! Tests don’t measure true learning! It’s too much pressure on the kids, that’s why the scores are low! You can’t judge teachers based on student performance! Our public schools are stellar. Why else would an “A-” be the average grade? Saying otherwise is just politically-motivated teacher bashing!
Under Trump and DeVos, America’s terrible educational outcomes for all children—especially the poor, of color, and new immigrants—is front page news.
Voters who couldn’t be bothered before are suddenly all up in arms. Look at what’s happening in our schools! Someone should do something! This can’t be allowed to continue!
I hope it does continue. Not the terrible educational outcomes. But the outrage and the attention.
We might even be able to get something done. Especially if those marching for families’ rights to immigrate to America might also be convinced that the same freedom of choice in where to live might be extended to letting those same parents choose where their children should attend school.
As long as it’s on Trump’s watch, every action his administration takes—including education under DeVos—will be scrutinized and judged, with citizens demanding action, accountability, and equitable, quantifiable outcomes for all.
Thank you for that, Mr. President.