Yesterday Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Secretary of Education, had a hard time answering some basic educational policy questions at her confirmation hearing.
One of the shocking exchanges came when Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) asked DeVos to explain whether she thinks that test scores should be used to measure students’ proficiency or their growth. This question is important because it has implications for how a school is classified as achieving results or failing.
Growth has to do with how much progress students are making, while proficiency is related to whether students are meeting a certain benchmark. For context, the No Child Left Behind law measured proficiency, not growth, so schools were penalized if they didn’t meet proficiency standards.
See how DeVos became confused when asked about proficiency vs. growth:
Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) asked DeVos whether schools receiving federal funds should meet the same accountability standards, meaning that all schools that receive taxpayer funding be held to the same accountability standards across the board. DeVos wouldn’t give Kaine a yes or no answer. See the exchange below:
DeVos’s failure to clearly answer questions clearly shows how little she knows about education policy. Yesterday was supposed to be her chance to show the Senate what she knows; this was supposed to be her opportunity to shine. Promoting this nominee would not send a good signal to the nation’s students and families. She should understand the difference between proficiency and growth in the context of student assessments, and she should want to make sure that all schools receiving federal funds are held to the same set of standards. DeVos also doesn’t seem to understand how federal policy works for students with disabilities.
Do we want to send a message to the nation’s students that if you don’t do your homework, you are rewarded with a top job?
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