Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos kicked off a back-to-school tour on Tuesday, visiting schools in six States through today. The four-day trip, named the “Rethink School” tour, has brought DeVos to a variety of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, public and private, to highlight how schools across the country are taking a non-traditional approach to education.
Throughout the trip, DeVos has advocated for a move away from a traditional blackboard and desk model of education and toward providing a more personalized educational experience for each student that would focus on individual progress to allow students to advance at their own pace.
In a speech at Woods Learning Center in Wyoming, which kicked off her tour, DeVos said “most students are starting a new school year that is all too familiar.... They follow the same schedule, the same routine—just waiting to be saved by the bell.” In addition, she referred to the traditional model of schooling as a “mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”
The Wyoming school where DeVos spoke follows a non-traditional model, with teachers working collaboratively without a school principal. The school emphasizes individualized learning by developing personal learning plans for each student
DeVos also visited the Firefly Autism House in Colorado this week, which has gained national attention recently for its connection to a U.S. Supreme Court case related to schools’ obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The plaintiff in the case – a boy named Endrew – enrolled at Firefly after his parents determined he was failing to make adequate progress at his local public school.
Although this week’s tour was intended to highlight schools that are using alternative approaches to education, DeVos has not provided any information on action that the U.S. Department of Education is planning to take to “rethink schools.” So far, the administration’s proposals to expand school choice opportunities have fallen flat in Congress, with neither the Senate nor the House incorporating school choice-related funding requests into their fiscal year 2018 appropriations legislation.
Resources:Alyson Klein, “Betsy DeVos Wants to Rethink ‘Mundane Malaise’ of Traditional Schools,” Education Week: Politics K-12, September 12, 2017.