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Betsy DeVos: Many Students Aren't Being Prepared for the Careers of Tomorrow



U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told a roomful of CEOs here Tuesday that many students aren't mastering the skills they need to be prepared for the careers of the future.

DeVos argued that 65 percent of today's kindergartners will end up in jobs that haven't even been created yet. Business people, she said, have told her that students need be able to think critically, know how to collaborate, communicate clearly, and be creative.

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"My observation is a lot of students today are not having their needs met to be prepared in those areas," DeVos said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council's meeting. And later she noted that the U.S. education system was largely borrowed from Prussia, a country which she noted no longer exists. The system, she said, needs to be changed to offer more students and parents individualized options. "When we empower all parents, that will ultimately prepare students to be active participants in the workforce," she said in remarks at the Four Seasons Hotel.

For the second time this year, DeVos held up school choice-friendly Florida as a model for the country. The Sunshine State, she said, offers, "the broadest range of choices and the greatest number of kids taking advantage of those choices." (Other school choice stand-outs, according to DeVos, include Indiana, Louisiana, and Wisconsin.) 

But she said no state has ever gone truly big with choice, offering it to every single student. "All of these are still at relatively small scales," she said. "We haven't had a state that tried it with everyone." 

DeVos said she feels like her school choice agenda has support in Congress and in the White House. However, lawmakers failed to fund new voucher and public school choice programs included in President Donald Trump's budget. And sources say that Trump declined to push for a tax credit scholarship to be included in the recent GOP tax overhaul bill. Even so, the legislation isn't a total loss for school choice fans. It would extend 529 college savings plans to K-12 private school tuition.  

DeVos reiterated some of her comments from Monday at a meeting on an interagency apprenticeship task force  about the need for schools to help students think beyond a four-year college degree. Children, she said, need to be exposed to other postsecondary options, including apprenticeships.

"A lot of kids would benefit from being exposed to those options as early as middle school," DeVos said.

DeVos also gave a shout-out to "personalized learning," calling it "one of the most promising developments in K-12 education." Personalized learning, by her definition, allows kids to learn at their own pace and move on once they've mastered a particular skill. Critics, however, have questioned the evidence behind that approach. And researchers have warned schools to be cautious on going too big with personalized learning too fast, a recent  Education Week special report noted.

Oh, and DeVos said she is sticking around for Trump's entire term. That's something she told Education Week earlier this fall. But apparently not everyone got the message, given that there have been a flurry of misleading stories suggesting she's poised to resign.

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