Betsy DeVos the Reformer

For many years now, Betsy DeVos has been at the forefront of the school choice movement. She has not only become a symbol of this movement, but she has also completely changed the conversation regarding it. Before, the argument was that vouchers for private Christian schools would violate the separation of church and state. Now, DeVos and her supporters are claiming that both the separation of church and state and the right for school choice should be upholded on equal footing. We truly live in interesting times indeed.

 

For those who know Betsy DeVos well, a portrait of two individuals has emerged. Critics love to point out that there is the Betsy DeVos who is passionate about giving to generous causes and is wholly devoted to Michigan politics and remaking the state education in a version that is fair to everyone. On the other hand, many individuals feel that the Betsy DeVos who has made her mark as education secretary within the Trump administration is “tone deaf”, “unprepared” and “insulated.” Although it might seem like they are discussing two separate Betsy DeVos personas, these critics are pouncing on some of the gaffes DeVos in her first few months on the job as Trump’s education secretary.

 

One of the first mistakes that Betsy DeVos made was in praising historically black colleges and universities (HCBU’s) as being “pioneers” of school choice. Unfortunately, classifying these proud institutions as arising out of “school choice” is not right. HCBU’s originally arose simply because intelligent black persons were not able to go to a predominantly white college. In short, most HCBU’s were founded simply as a response to NO CHOICE, not as a result of choice. Betsy DeVos also ran into a bit of trouble because she told an individual representing Sandy Hook parents that some schools should allow guns “in order to protect against grizzly bears.” All of this unfortunately made her appear to be astonishingly ignorant.

 

However, on the other hand, many individuals will readily agree that they see in Betsy DeVos an individual who is not afraid to stand by her convictions. One recent incident was where she quietly disagreed with President Trump and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on removing the Obama transgender bathroom policy. She was in favor of keeping it; they decided to go ahead and remove it. Even the political enemies of Betsy DeVos found this to be a good thing. There is no question that Betsy DeVos has a good heart, and there is no question she is a reformer as well.

 

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ClassDojo Is Making the Classroom Available to Parents

ClassDojo is an app that was created by two educators, Liam Don and Sam Chaudhary in 2011. It is designed to help non-English-speaking parents to be able to plug in and be a factor in the education of their children. The app is currently being used in 90 percent of American schools, in over 180 countries, and in 35 different languages.

The purpose of the app is to overcome the gap that is created when parents do not speak English as a first language and to supply support to the students from home. ClassDojo allows parents to have access to student reports, homework, and class activities. Pictures, photos, lessons, plays, musical and art activities, and whatever else the teacher deems appropriate are examples of the information and activities that are available.

ClassDojo can also be individualized as the teacher can create a “class” for that student. With a “class” the teacher can assign exercises that would help a student understand a math problem, practice a musical scale, or extra reading of specific materials for better understanding.

The mission statement of ClassDojo states that the platform is designed to foster the building of community between school personnel, family members, and students. By being able to allow the parents to participate in student lessons and activities be being able to have access, is a huge dynamic for student motivation. Parents will know what is going on at school with student motivation, effort, and results. The parents will have a head start on monitoring school activities and homework.

If for any reason, a parent has a question or a comment for a teacher, they can simply write a note on ClassDojo and the teacher can respond using the same platform. The possibilities are 3endless with the ultimate goal of allowing total transparency between the school classroom and the parents of the students.

ClassDojo runs on Bank Grade security so that no personal information is ever shared with anyone who is not entitled to receive it. ClassDojo is in compliance with the Child Online Privacy Protection Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Rocketship Education: Blasting Off

What could possibly fix our public education system? This debate is an old one with many tired responses. Some debaters claim funding will fix it while others suggest a change in management. The one given fact is that there is a clear problem. Children in low-income areas suffer the most from underperforming schools. This results in an achievement gap among these students that can dramatically affect the course of their lives. This is obviously a fact that can’t be taken laying down and one pioneering school, Rocketship education, is prepared to tackle the issue head-on.

The innovative charter school works specifically with low-income communities. They hope by turning thoughtful police into action they can destroy this achievement gap in our lifetime. Their methods focus on tackling the instability and additional struggles faced by students in the lower economic class. This begins with supporting families in need. When a flood hit one of their districts the school leapt to action. They reached out and partnered with local charities and raised $62,000. This money was then used to help families purchase replacements for essentials lost to the flood. Through this effort, an event that could have destabilized a community and hundreds of students for months was reduced and students were able to focus on their studies instead.

The education program also believes that student’s success can best be achieved by involvement from the whole family. They encourage parents to maintain involvement in their children’s studies. Rocketship begins this process by selecting highly qualified candidates. These candidates must jump through many hoops the most critical being well versed in the stem fields as well as the humanities. Additionally, the teachers are required to meet with the students and their families in their homes. This lost personal touch creates a bond between teachers, students, and their families. While it has the added benefit of aiding parent’s abilities to stay involved it also helps with curriculum design. With this personal knowledge, teachers can easily create plans of studies catered to student’s needs. These methods are just some of the ways that Rocketship education fulfills its mission statement of propelling students to new heights.