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DeVos: 'At the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is Dead'

WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said there has “not really been anything” from President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative and President Obama’s changes to the law that the federal government should “embrace” going forward, calling for a “new approach” to public education policy.

“The bottom line is simple: Federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped – that’s not a point I make lightly or joyfully. Yes, there have been some minor improvements in a few areas but we’re far from where we need to be. We need to be honest with ourselves,” she said during an event on Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute, “Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned.”

“It said that schools had to meet ambitious goals or else. Lawmakers mandated that 100 percent of students attain proficiency by 2014. This approach would keep schools accountable and ultimately graduate more and better-educated students, they believed. Turns out, it didn’t. Indeed, as has been detailed today, NCLB did little to spark higher scores,” she added.

Devos said universal proficiency, which NCLB supporters “touted at the law’s passage, was not achieved.”

“As states and districts scrambled to avoid the law’s sanctions and maintain their federal funding, some resorted to focusing specifically on math and reading at the expense of other subjects; others simply inflated scores or lowered standards. The trend line remains troubling today,” she said.

“According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress data, two-thirds of American fourth-graders still can’t read at the level they should, and since 2013 our 8th-grade reading scores have declined.”

DeVos said the Obama administration’s education policies did not yield better results.

“The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the ‘Race to the Top’ competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the largest-ever federal investment in school reform,” she said.

“Later, the department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA,” she added.

DeVos explained that “nearly every state accepted Common Core standards and applied for hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘Race to the Top’ funds” under the Obama administration’s leadership.

She officially declared Common Core DOA at her department.

“But despite this change, the United States’ PISA performance did not improve in reading and science, and it dropped in math from 2012 to 2015. Then, rightly, came the public backlash to federally imposed tests and the Common Core,” the secretary said. “I agree, and have always agreed, with President Trump on this: Common Core is a disaster and, at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”