Trump and DeVos’ Lack of Focus on Quality in Education

Where is the Quality?

The Trump administration’s Secretary of Education has recently removed guidance that would help students with disabilities and seems intent on destroying public education through private choice. Along with other departments such as the EPA, the Trump administrator in education touts charter schools and any other choice rather than improving public education through a real focus on quality. There are many ways to measure quality but destroying public education through private money is not a choice for quality, but a capitalistic takeover that lacks research on quality.

Charter Schools are Not the Only Private Choice for Public Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday delivered a gut check to thousands of charter schools advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., reminding them that when it comes to school choice they are not the only player. “Charters’ success should be celebrated, but it’s equally important not to, quote, ‘become the man,’ Devos said at the annual conference of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The three-day conference in the nation’s capital convened charter school advocates of all persuasions, including those who support private school choice and those who do not – two camps whose philosophical divide has recently grown in large part due to proposals in the president’s budget request.

But, as DeVos has done in past speeches, she used the opportunity to tout the administration’s private school choice agenda without providing details about what, exactly, that looks likes.

“We must recognize that charters aren’t the right fit for every child,” she said. “For many children, neither a traditional nor a charter public school works for them. “Attendees lamented the fact that DeVos did not more specifically address concerns about quality and accountability, particularly when it comes to how the administration would ensure that taxpayer dollars for a federal private school choice program are used effectively. “She was vague and nebulous and she kept repeating herself,” says Kayla Meadows, a kindergarten teacher at River Oak, a charter school in Ukiah, California, where she’s taught for 17 years. “There was no substance.”

Meadows, who is working with a cohort of teachers and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform to develop a set of high-quality standards for charter schools, says her biggest qualm with DeVos and the administration is what she considers a lack of focus on quality. “She keeps talking about giving parents more choices, but you have to have accountability,” Meadows says – something she said she believes would be difficult to execute with a voucher or tax credit scholarship program that allows students to attend private schools.

Online Charter Schools Failing Students

One of the problems with Charter Schools is the dependency on parents to pick up the pieces of the lack of school effectiveness when shortcuts are taken…

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted online learning as a school-choice solution for rural America, saying that virtual charter schools provide educational options that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year.

As DeVos seeks to expand school choice nationwide, including online options, Pennsylvania serves as a case study in the shortcomings of the virtual charter school model, or cyber charter schools, as they are known there. The state’s 14 virtual charter schools have flourished in rural communities over the last 15 years — so much so that Pennsylvania, along with Ohio and California, now account for over half the enrollment in the nation’s full-time virtual charters, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.


But as the virtual schools have expanded, so have questions about their effectiveness. Large swaths of Pennsylvania kids leaving a brick-and-mortar school for one of the virtual charter alternatives went to one with lower math and reading performance, according to research based on the 2009-2010 school year compiled by the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Success in these schools depends on a child’s ability — or a parent’s enforcement — to stay on task with no teacher in the room, researchers say. (Politico Reporting)

$2 Million Stolen from Students in Charter Schools

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – He started one of the most prominent charter schools in Albuquerque, but Wednesday, he admitted to stealing millions and lying to the FBI. Scott Glasrud used to be the head of the Southwest Learning Centers, representing three different charter schools. Now, Glasrud faces up to five years in federal prison.


According to federal documents, it appears Glasrud stole more than $2 million from the four schools, which include the Southwest Secondary Learning Center, Southwest Primary Learning Center, Southwest Intermediate Learning Center, and the Southwest Aeronautics, Mathematics & Science Academy (SAMS). (KRQE News Channel 13).

Charter School Research

When looking for a guide to research, one trusted place is the “The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education. We are independent and non-partisan. Our mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.” Thomas W. Brock, commissioner of the National Center for Education Research, has been delegated the duties of IES director.

The Evaluation of Charter School Impacts: Final Report

Adding to the growing debate and evidence base on the effects of charter schools, this evaluation was conducted in 36 charter middle schools in 15 states. It compares the outcomes of 2,330 students who applied to these schools and were randomly assigned by lotteries to be admitted (lottery winners) or not admitted (lottery losers) to the schools. Both sets of students were tracked over two years and data on student achievement, academic progress, behavior, and attitudes were collected. The study is the first large-scale randomized trial of the effectiveness of charter schools in varied types of communities and states.

Key findings include:

  • On average, charter middle schools that held lotteries were neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving math or reading test scores, attendance, grade promotion, or student conduct within or outside of school. Being admitted to a study charter school did significantly improve both students’ and parents’ satisfaction with school.
  • Charter middle schools’ impact on student achievement varied significantly across schools.
  • Charter middle schools in urban areas—as well as those serving higher proportions of low-income and low achieving students—were more effective (relative to their nearby traditional public schools) than were other charter schools in improving math test scores. Some operational features of charter middle schools were associated with less negative impacts on achievement. These features include smaller enrollments and the use of ability grouping in math or English classes. There was no significant relationship between achievement impacts and the charter schools’ policy environment.

Because the study could only include charter middle schools that held lotteries, the results do not necessarily apply to the full set of charter middle schools in the U.S.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More from EdSpeak

Discover the tools and strategies modern schools need to help their students grow.

Community Schools Reform

As a seasoned researcher of K-12 public schools and someone dedicated to improving the quality, equity, and creativity in education, I wholeheartedly support the proposal

Read More »

Subscribe to EdSpeak!

The SchoolWorks Lab Blog, connecting teaching to policy through research.