Nation’s Report Card is flawed

To the editor:

When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the recent NAEP results (The Nation’s Report Card) she announced, “Our nation’s report card shows that two-thirds of American students can’t read at grade level. Two out of three!” But according to NAEP, which is part of the education department which DeVos oversees, “The NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade-level proficiency.”

According to a report by the National Superintendents Roundtable and Horace Mann League, NAEP sets a higher bar than international assessments, and “the vast majority of students in most countries could not demonstrate proficiency as defined by NAEP.” Proficiency on NAEP tests is not the same as proficiency on state tests or other measures.

Either Secretary DeVos is woefully uninformed about NAEP, or she is deliberately misinforming the people she serves. Given she spent thirty years using her wealth to promote the privatization of public education through vouchers, the latter is most likely. She was chosen to lead the Education Department by those with a political desire to end public education. NAEP’s results are a poor choice to show student progress, but they are the best choice to push that privatization agenda. Welcome to the swamp.

Only in a swamp could DeVos praise Florida’s NAEP scores over those of other states, when in fact Florida’s reading scores fell and math remained flat. What she actually admires is Florida’s expansion of school choice and policies that reduce spending on public schools. That sounds familiar.

In 2011 Republican leaders in the MN legislature invited Jeb Bush to speak about how he reformed education in Florida. But Minnesota’s graduation rate was third in the nation while Florida ranked 44th, and Minnesota was (again) first in ACT scores, while Florida was 25th. What were legislators expecting to learn from Bush?

Apparently they wanted a lesson in how to replace public schools with privately managed, publicly funded, and poorly regulated charters. That is the dream long shared by many billionaires, including Betsy DeVos, who use their fortunes to pursue “reform” through foundations with no accountability to the people. Eighty percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit corporations, after years of investment from the DeVos family, and those schools have not outperformed public schools. These “reformers” donate to lawmakers who block measures to hold charters accountable for academic performance or financial stability. Only in a swamp could any of this be considered actual education reform.

Patricia Missling