Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said earlier this week that Common Core — a controversial set of federal education standards — “is dead” at her department.
What did DeVos say?
During a conference hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday about “lessons learned” about school reform during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, DeVos said that, despite “valiant efforts to improve education” from both parties, “federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.”
“That’s not a point I make lightly or joyfully,” she said. “Yes, there have been some minor improvements in a few areas. But we’re far from where we need to be.”
DeVos said she didn’t want to “impugn anyone’s motives” but asked, “Why, after all the good intentions, the worthwhile goals, the wealth of expertise mustered, and the billions and billions of dollars spent, are students still unprepared?”
She criticized both No Child Left Behind and Common Core as ineffective at combating problems in American education, noting that the former “did little to spark higher scores.”
DeVos said the Obama administration then “dangled billions of dollars through the ‘Race to the Top’ competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards.”
“With a price tag of nearly $4.5 billion, it was billed as the ‘largest-ever federal investment in school reform,’” she said, adding that “nearly every state accepted Common Core standards and applied for hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘Race to the Top’ funds.”
DeVos noted there was “public backlash to federally imposed tests and the Common Core.”
“I agree — and have always agreed — with President Trump on this: ‘Common Core is a disaster,’” she said. “And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”
She argued that “two presidents from different political parties and philosophies” took “two different approaches” but both left America’s students “unprepared.”
“Perhaps the lesson lies not in what made the approaches different, but in what made them the same: the federal government,” she said. “Both approaches had the same Washington ‘experts’ telling educators how to behave.”
DeVos argued the results of the two programs show “federal action has its limits.”
“Ideally, parent and teacher work together to help a child discover his or her potential and pursue his or her passions,” she said:
When we seek to empower teachers, we must empower parents as well. Parents are too often powerless in deciding what’s best for their child. The state mandates where to send their child. It mandates what their child learns and how he or she learns it. In the same way, educators are constrained by state mandates. District mandates. Building mandates… all kinds of other mandates! Educators don’t need Washington mandating their teaching on top of everything else.
DeVos offered few specifics about a plan for education reform, but emphasized she wants a more state-centered approach with more “parental empowerment.”