In a couple of previous blogs, you’ve read some of my opinions regarding Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  In sum, I am not impressed with her ideas and believe her to be a threat to America’s public education system.

In a column by Valerie Strauss, “Venture capitalist visits 200 schools in 50 states and says DeVos is wrong: ‘If choice and competition improve schools, I found no sign of it,” published in the Washington Post last week. She emphasizes the findings of Ted Dintersmith, a successful venture capitalist.

Strauss begins by introducing her subject:  “Dintersmith traveled to every state to visit schools and see what works and what doesn’t . . . “  The remainder of her column is devoted to Dintersmith’s findings.

The following are some of his conclusions: 

“First, America’s teachers are dedicated, passionate and committed — across all types of schools.  They care. .  .  

 Second, I was blown away by the many inspiring examples of great innovation I encountered — in classrooms, schools, districts and states.  In these classrooms, teachers help kids develop essential skill sets and mindsets. .  .  .  Much of the learning is hands-on, tied to real-world projects.  Students have voice in creating initiatives and in defining their path forward. Teachers are trusted, and students approach schoolwork with a sense of purpose.

 Third, I didn’t find charter schools to be, on balance, more innovative than public schools. Some of the most remarkable innovations I observed were in the very public schools that choice advocates dismiss — in places such as Charlotte, Newark, Coachella and Waipahu. .  .  .  Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process, a serious impediment to innovation.

 Fourth, we fail to appreciate the heavy price our students and our teachers pay when we insist, “We have to be able to measure it.”

 Fifth, I met thousands of children during my trip.  Not one showed any enthusiasm for test prep.  But I met many parents, especially the affluent, who relentlessly push test prep on their child, drawing on tutors, pricey devices and manipulative bribes.  This difference helps explain why in-poverty kids lag affluent cohorts in test-score “achievement.”  To a large extent, test-score performance reflects the motivation and resources of the parent, not the child.

 Sixth, I was encouraged to visit districts, and even states, that are transforming their schools — all of their schools.  Their leaders bring a compelling message about the urgency of change and lay out aspirational possibilities.  They prioritize essential competencies, not state-mandated tests and obsolete curriculum.  They trust teachers to lead the way, both in managing classrooms and designing next-generation assessments. .  .  .

 Seventh, DeVos might be surprised at my conclusions about “the very powerful forces allied against change” she alludes to.

 In U.S. education, nonexperts tell experts what to do.  Priorities are set by legislators, billionaires, textbook and testing executives, college admissions officers and education bureaucrats.  These forces, perhaps unintentionally, impede real change in our schools.  They push kids to study what’s easy to measure, not what’s important to learn. No worries that a steady diet of memorizing content and drilling on low-level procedures produces young adults who are sitting ducks in the innovation economy.  Put all the chips on college-ready, discounting the importance of hands-on learning and discouraging those with non-academic proficiencies.  Channel kids down the same standardized path, impairing their ability to leave school able to create and develop their own path forward — arguably the most important competence young adults need in a world where careers come and go.  .  .  .

 There is, though, one business principle that applies to education.  If you want insight, spend time with those in the trenches.  Our teachers know how to engage our children, to inspire them to race ahead, to prepare them for adult life.”

I hope that Devos takes the time, and and has the inclination, to read this Strauss piece.  I’m sure she is aware of it.  After all, it was published in her current “home town newspaper.”  And, best of all, there’s a lot of wisdom in it.

More on Monday  –  –  –

       — Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning

      March 21, 2018  (Mondays & Wednesdays)



(This is a personal blog.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner,, an independent consultant.  They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity.)