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Betsy DeVos is “not a numbers person.”

Via WaPo:

At a recent public forum, DeVos said her record in office should be graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies. She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes. “I’m not a numbers person,” she said.

In fairness, that is one phrase and it lacks context.

Also in fairness, however, if one is going to advocate for a substantial change in the paradigm of K-12 education (and seek to divert billions in tax dollars in so doing), one decidedly needs to be a numbers person.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Timothy Watson says:

    Also in fairness, however, if one is going to advocate for a substantial change in the paradigm of K-12 education (and seek to divert billions in tax dollars in so doing), one decidedly needs to be a numbers person.

    Austrian economics applied to the education system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. KM says:

    She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes.

    Consider her freaking job is overseeing and regulating the people that *are* being judged on academic outcomes (ie teachers and students), what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You are now in charge of public academia, DeVos – grades are an intrinsic part of that.

    graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies.

    She wants to be judged on giveways, not substance. Got it. Funny thing about that – conservative and liberals have children that go to school. They expect *results*. Offer all the shiny options you want but little Johnny isn’t going to be able to get into a voucher school if 300 kids are competing and he’s still going to be failing if *he’s* the problem, not the school. Vouchers are a panacea in search of a disease.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. SenyorDave says:

    At a recent public forum, DeVos said her record in office should be graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies. She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes. “I’m not a numbers person,” she said.

    I have worked at five companies in my life, ranging in size from small (200 employees) to very large (50,000 employees). Betsy DeVos would be fired in five minutes from every one of those companies. I see Trump is hiring tremendous people!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. Franklin says:

    @KM:

    Consider her freaking job is overseeing and regulating the people that *are* being judged on academic outcomes (ie teachers and students) …

    That’s essentially what I came to say.

    Although I would also argue we don’t have anything resembling a satisfactory system of judging academic outcomes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Pch101 says:

    @KM:

    The goals of the voucher movement are to resegregate and promote Christianity in the schools.

    They want taxpayers to subsidize the choice of attending white Christian academies of the sort that arose in the South in response to integration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    @Pch101:

    Or so that people can get a decent education outside of the public ed gulag. And minorities are just as likely to support voucher programs as whites. But sure, much easier to just call everyone racist.

    (Since I’ve again challenged some smug liberal orthodoxy, I’ll just save everyone some time and downvote myself.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  7. Hal_10000 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Just to put off any “public schools are underfunded!” stuff, I’ll point out that Detroit schools per-pupil spending is higher than tuition at the University of Michigan — $16k per student. And the schools are literally falling apart. Same could be said of many major cities. Check out what happened when Zuckerburg gave Newark a giant pile of money. Sometimes it’s not a matter of money.

    I’m neutral to slightly supportive on vouchers and charter schools. I’m open to arguments against them. But you need something better than NEA talking points about how it’s racist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  8. Slugger says:

    @Hal_10000: What metric would you suggest to ensure that those objectives are met? The problem that I see with Sec. DeVos’ comments is that she appears to reject keeping score at all. Large expenditures by the government should be accompanied by a measurement of effectiveness.
    I was one who excelled in the conventional school system, but I recognize that it does not work for everyone. There are smart, talented young people who do poorly in school due to not fitting in well with the system. I have a friend who is very bright and artistic. He can fix motors and do a thousand other things. He does not read and consequently did poorly in school. I would like to see alternatives for people like him who are not uncommon. Unfortunately, I see much of the focus of alternatives to public school as ideological rather than pediological.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. Scott says:

    The real problem with the K-12 schools issue is that no one wants to admit the real problem. A school is a reflection of the community it serves. Everyone wants to blame educators, administrators, unions, educational philosophies, even students. The real problem lies in the failing communities where the schools reside. It is particularly the fault of parents (and I use the term parent loosely). The charter programs is really a triage program, leaving the most difficult (and expensive) students out of the process. Charters don’t succeed because of anything they do but who they exclude.

    To really fix the problems with public schools, you have to fix the communities.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  10. al-Alameda says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Or so that people can get a decent education outside of the public ed gulag

    Public schools are not generally a f***ing gulag. Well maybe they are in your neighborhood, I don’t know. As most non-Trump supporters know, public schools aren’t all anything: they’re not all good, not all bad, many are very good.

    In fact, wherever you go in this country it is usually damned easy to guess where and/or actually find very good public schools – find out where middle to upper middle class people live, both parents probably have college degrees, parents have strong attitudes concerning the value of education, and high expectations concerning their children and their local schools.

    By contrast, where are the not-so-good schools? Also generally easy to find. Public school quality general declines as the profile of parents declines in income and education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  11. bookdragon says:

    @Hal_10000: Yes, money alone won’t do it because it’s about how the money is allocated. In far too many school systems, more is spent on administration (esp salaries for central office administrators) than on things that actually touch the kids directly. Somehow I doubt for-profit private schools – esp ones paid for by govt money with absolutely no performance requirements attached! – are going to be better.

    A solution I wish someone would push is the 70/30 proposal – school funds must be allocated so that 70% goes to things that students actually touch – educational materials, school facilities, teachers and principals. No more than 30% of the budget should go to state and district administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. gVOR08 says:

    I sometimes joke that conservatives are innumerate. Other days I don’t think it’s a joke. I wonder if anyone has ever looked at correlation between numeracy and political orientation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Pch101 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    So you’ve never heard of “white flight” and bussing.

    Even someone with your research skills should be able to figure out that the emergence of private white academies in the South were a direct response to integration.

    Here’s a thought: If a particular public school sucks, then fix it.

    Other nations manage to maintain high levels of educational achievement that are superior to the United States without privatization.

    Other nations succeed at doing things that utterly baffle conservatives. It’s as if conservatives have special search engines that prevent pesky foreign content from arriving on our shores.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Franklin says:

    @Pch101:

    Here’s a thought: If a particular public school sucks, then fix it.

    Who are you asking to fix it? Local, state, feds? And who judges whether it sucks (and why)?

    There’s nothing wrong with the thought, but I feel like you’re suggesting there’s an easy solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Franklin says:

    @Franklin: As an addendum to my previous post, I live in Michigan, where the Republican state government is always threatening to take over or shut down so-called ‘failing’ schools. It’s the liberals resisting the ‘fixing’ here. And probably for good reason – it’s not exactly the teachers’ fault that the kids barely show up and rarely listen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Pch101 says:

    @Franklin:

    I don’t recall saying that it was easy. I merely said that broken things should be fixed, notwithstanding the fact that there is no consensus about what that should entail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:

    My local public schools range from excellent to outstanding. But A) it’s a well-off area, and B) The highest-performing students have not been bled off by the private schools.

    Take any school, remove the children of anyone who can afford to go private, and remove those parents from school meetings, and you will severely degrade the school. You are reversing cause and effect. It’s the flight of white racists, and evangelical Christians, and Catholics who skim off segments of the school ecosystem.

    Now, are there other problems as well? Absolutely. Our idiot obsession with forcing every kid to go to college, our snobbish attitude toward anything non-college, and our misplaced emphasis on STEM classes. . . the list goes on. But trying to solve those problems with a gutted school system is impossible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Scott: THIS!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Hal_10000 says:

    @Pch101:

    Here’s a thought: If a particular public school sucks, then fix it.

    Huh. Why did no one think of that before?

    Our public schools around here are also very good too, for a variety of reasons. But that’s not the point. We have entire school districts in this country (for example, a few hours away from me in Philly) that are soaked in money and delivering horrifying results (now made even worse by federal decrees on what constitutes appropriate pedagogical technique). Why should we not give parents the option to leave that system and try something else? Why should that option only be available to the wealthy?

    (PS – I agree on deVos in general. She crosses me as one of these people who just thinks “free markets” is a magical incantation that solves all problems. I’m a big proponent of free markets. But they are not a magic tonic. And if federal/state/local dollars are going to private interests to execute public functions, accountability is a *critical* part of that.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  20. DrDaveT says:

    @Hal_10000:

    now made even worse by federal decrees on what constitutes appropriate pedagogical technique

    This one interests me; got a link or a cite for that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. @Hal_10000:

    now made even worse by federal decrees on what constitutes appropriate pedagogical technique

    My wife is a middle school math teacher, and I have some interface with teacher training at my university, and I am unaware of any “pedagogical technique[s]” imposed by the feds. Please tell me you aren’t talking about Common Core (which is neither imposed by the feds, but more importantly not about pedagogical techniques).

    If you are talking about No Child Left Behind, that is essentially dead these days.

    If you are talking about an over-emphasis (IMHO) on testing, you may have a point (although that is more about assessment than it is about technique).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. Pch101 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Why should we not give parents the option to leave that system and try something else?

    Why should taxpayer dollars be used to pay for their choices?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. @Hal_10000:

    “public schools are underfunded!”

    BTW, I fully recognize that money isn’t everything, but neither is it nothing.

    I live in a state wherein the schools are severely underfunded, and for the exact reasons that Pch101 is noting. The entire origin story of public education in Alabama is linked to white responses to Brown v. Board of Education. Even when race is not the proximate cause of a given choice in terms of where to send a child to school, the entire system of education (public and private) was created out of a fundamentally racist response to K-12.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. Pch101 says:

    I’ll provide an anecdote from a smaller Southern town where I did business, as its experience is that not that unusual.

    During the days of segregation, there was one public school for whites and another (vastly inferior) public school for blacks.

    The state resisted integration for quite a long time, until it could resist no more. This resulted in the white school being closed down.

    Now there is one public school and a private academy. As far as I know, there are zero white students who attend the public school and zero or close to zero black students at the academy. That academy exists because it has barriers to entry — tuition and entrance requirements — that allow the academy to be “selective” in ways that public schools cannot now that integration is required.

    Ironically, the town is more segregated than it was in the past, since the poorer whites left — they can’t afford the cost of the academy and won’t send their children to what is still a black school, so the wealth disparity between the races is greater than before.

    The situation in Little Rock provides another example of how things played out in many urban areas. The construction of suburban interstates facilitated white flight, school districts engineered segregation, and real estate agents promoted it.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/segregation-persists-little-rock/479538/

    Guys like Hal convince themselves that this is some sort of leftist talking point when this is simply a matter of historical fact that is well documented and easily researched. So were back to reality having a liberal bias.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds: There’s certainly a lot of truth in there. But at least in Michigan, the constant budget cuts have lead to, for example, 2nd grade classes that have up to 30 kids. In my opinion, that’s too many.

    But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is the special needs kids without proper support, meaning enough teacher aides to handle them. While it is generally better for special needs kids to be integrated, the rest of the class severely suffers when the teacher has to spend half of their time on them.

    Parents who can afford to get their kids out of the situation will do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Monala says:

    @Pch101: @Scott: I think of the example of Finland, which decided about a decade or so ago to focus on making sure all students had the emotional, social and physical supports they needed, such as counseling, food, family support, etc. They deliberately didn’t focus on academic achievement. Yet the Finns discovered that academic achievement increased when all those other student needs were met, such that Finnish students, of all income levels, now have among the highest academic achievement in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0