On Tuesday, January 17, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold its confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos as our nation's next Education Secretary. Teach Plus teachers are interested in hearing from the nominee on a range of issues including teacher quality and equity for students; ESSA implementation; teacher preparation; and charter schools and vouchers.
Here are some of the questions from our teachers:
On Improving Teaching Quality, Access and Equity for Students
- As Secretary, would you prioritize ensuring that high-need students have access to excellent teachers? If so, how? How would you define or identify “excellent”?
- How will you ensure that all schools have outstanding teachers?
- How will you use your office to promote and celebrate the teaching profession, and retain the high-quality teachers who are currently in the profession?
On ESSA Implementation
- ESSA allows for the potential use of alternative assessments on a state-by-state basis. What types of statewide alternative assessments do you support and how would you encourage states to implement those?
- How will you ensure that English language students are indeed gaining proficiency as ESSA is implemented?
On Standards and Assessments
- Do you plan to continue Common Core implementation? If not, how do you plan to ensure equally high expectations for all students and across all states?
- Do you believe it is important for our international competitiveness to be able to have an assessment that accurately compares student progress from state to state and is also linked to high quality standards?
On Teacher Preparation
- What will the Department of Education do to address the upcoming teacher shortage?
- Advocates for education reform often point to Finland as a model for overhauling the education system, and one of the main ways Finland has changed its system is by completely revamping the quality of teacher preparation programs so that teaching is now a profession largely filled with the most educated people in the country. Do you plan to make any changes or implement/recommend national standards for teacher preparation programs?
- How do you intend to regulate the quality of teacher qualifications in charter and private schools, if vouchers are to be used? Will charter and private school teachers be held to the same standard of education and certification as public school teachers? If no, why not?
On Public Charter Schools
- Public charter schools have mixed success levels with some performing below the standard of their traditional public school neighbors. In these cases, what would you like to see the Department of Education do to ensure quality of charter schools? Are you in favor of revoking charter schools and/or charter management organizations that underperform?
- What is the role of government in preventing financial mismanagement by charter school operators?
- Under expanded public school choice system, how would you address it when “desirable” schools reach capacity? Would you support all charter schools using a lottery system moving forward? Would you enforce a system of busing for students to attend any school they want to attend? What costs would you recommend districts cut if busing costs rise?
- Given your support for vouchers, how would you address the needs of low-income students in struggling schools who may not be able to take advantage of voucher systems due to lack of transportation, lack of knowledge or information about available resources, etc?
- With the potential expansion of vouchers, what quality controls would you recommend regarding where vouchers may be used, such as only at schools with proven records of success?
- If private school vouchers are expanded, how would you ensure that children with special education needs are diagnosed and provided essential related services in private schools, given that private schools are not covered by IDEA?