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White House officials alarmed at education secretary's '60 Minutes' performance

14 March 2018, 06:16 | Myrtle Vega

Jacquelyn Martin AP FILEEducation Secretary Betsy De Vos speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, at National Harbor Md

De Vos speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, at National Harbor Md

DeVos gave an odd interview with CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" to discuss her tenure thus far as the head of the Department of Education.

"Maybe you should", said Stahl. DeVos questioned that, saying test scores have "stagnated" compared to the rest of the world.

Stahl appeared somewhat taken aback, and she pressed DeVos on her claim that privatizing education like this works better.

Stahl: Why take away money from that school that's not working, to bring them up to a level where they are, that school is working?

Stahl mentioned MI schools' poor performance, something a University of MI study appeared to confirm previous year. We're in Michigan. This is your home state.

DEVOS: "Yes, well, there's lots of great options and choices for students here".

A study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University found that students who moved to another school district through schools of choice policies didn't improve test scores.

"I don't know. I don't know". "Overall, I can't say overall that they have all gotten better".

"The whole state is not doing well", Stahl responded.

Of course, DeVos knows that Michigan's not doing well. Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

Betsy De Vos testifies during a hearing before the Labor Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee
Alex Wong Getty Images

During her confirmation hearing a year ago, she was utterly defeated by complex subjects such as "teachers" and "students" but was certain that schools need guns to repel attacks by "potential grizzlies". There is no doubt about it.

DeVos conceded that she has never "intentionally visited" underperforming schools in her home state of MI, where she spent decades promoting school privatization.

I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

An assessment of student performance on a national test showed that MI students have made little improvement since 2003, according to the Detroit News. A report released last week raised concerns about large drops in student proficiency among third graders in the state and found that MI had the biggest declines compared to 11 other states that use a similar exam.

"I'm not so sure how exactly that happened", DeVos responded in the interview, which aired Sunday night on CBS.

Trump recently has referred to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is African-American, as "low IQ".

When the Education Department reported on the issue in 2010, it similarly said that "no consensus has been reached on whether competition from charter schools has a positive impact on the academic achievement of students remaining in traditional public schools".

"Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where the students are doing well", DeVos said. Did she never think before this interview that visiting poor performing schools might be a good idea?

In the end, Vice President Mike Pence had to break the tie to confirm her nomination, making her the first Cabinet nominee in history to require a tie-breaking vote by the vice president to be confirmed. That proposals faces stiff opposition from educator groups.

There she was again on NBC's "Today" show Monday, armed with two things to say - "everything is on the table", and things are "best decided by local communities and by states" - and she recited these rote phrases to Savannah Guthrie no fewer than six times during the brief interview, regardless of relevance to the question. Her interview demonstrated a combination of unpreparedness, a lack of familiarity with basic issues in education and an inability to support her own talking points.

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