Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 18
Public Messaging a Key Task for Ed. Secretary
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 16
explanation." In later remarks to
HBCU leaders, DeVos acknowledged the history of segregation
that "failed to provide African-Americans access to a quality education"
and the role of black institutions in
"providing an alternative option to
students denied the right to attend
a quality school."
There have been other comments
and missteps that-fairly or not-
marred DeVos' early weeks. An
Education Department posting on
Twitter last month misspelled the
name of civil rights pioneer W.E.B.
Du Bois. And even an offhand remark by DeVos using the expression "no such thing as a free lunch"
prompted mistaken claims that she
was suggesting cuts to the National
School Lunch Program-something
her department doesn't even run.
DeVos is hardly the only secretary of
education to have made notable verbal
gaffes. Duncan, for example, sparked
outrage for comments suggesting that
Hurricane Katrina was a blessing in
disguise for sparking an overhaul of
New Orleans' troubled school system,
and that "white, suburban moms"
who were put out over more-rigorous
expectations for their children were a
force in the opposition to the Common
Core State Standards.
And DeVos is not the only one to
stumble among Trump's cabinet:
Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development Ben Carson, himself
an African-American, recently referred to slaves as among the "other
immigrants" who came to America
with dreams for their descendants.
"We all make mistakes," said
Cunningham, who is now the executive director of Education Post,
a Chicago-based website focused on
school policy. "Arne made mistakes.
That's a big part of the job."
Going forward, Emily Lampkin,
a former political and communications aide to Spellings, said that
DeVos should set a clear public platform of her goals and a communications strategy and agenda to work
toward those goals.
"The more that people see that
she is driven by a positive agenda,
the better off she is going to be," said
Lampkin, now a principal at the
Washington public-affairs firm the
Spellings stressed the importance
of support staff.
"The first thing you do is get yourself some good help," said Spellings,
who was secretary during Bush's
second term. "You're nothing without your team, especially given how
complicated the job is."
Thomas Toch, the director of the
new Future-Ed think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of
Public Policy, agreed with others that
DeVos needs to ramp up her communications help and refine her message.
"Her speeches are substantively
thin and wooden in tone," said Toch,
a former education reporter at Education Week and U.S. News & World Report who has had a breadth of other
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 16
WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS ...
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos drew heat for some of her comments during
her first weeks in office, but she is hardly the only person to hold the office who has
made controversial or regrettable remarks.
WILLIAM J. BENNETT
1985 to 1988
most of the
No 'Worse' School
System in the Nation
NEA Like a 'Terrorist
Bennett didn't commit gaffes
so much as use his bully pulpit
to lob rhetorical bombs into the
education establishment. Among
his most memorable was a 1987
statement about the Chicago
public schools. "I'm not sure
there's a system as bad,"
Bennett said at a forum with
reform-minded business leaders
in the city. "If there's one
Paige was meeting privately
with a group of governors at
the White House in 2004 when
he responded to a question
by likening the National
Education Association to a
that's worse, I don't know
where it is." The remark stung
in Chicago and contributed
to a wave of state-sponsored
because of its efforts to
resist key provisions in the
federal No Child Left Behind
Act. Paige responded to an
uproar by apologizing, saying
he was aiming criticism at
leaders of the nation's largest
teachers' union, not teachers
'Best Thing' to Happen
to New Orleans;
and 'White, Suburban
Duncan had two major gaffes
during his seven-year tenure. In
2010, Duncan told a TV interviewer
that "the best thing that
happened to the education
system in New Orleans
was Hurricane Katrina."
Duncan quickly apologized for
his reference to the deadly 2005
In 2013, Duncan created a
firestorm when he said some
opposition to the Common Core
State Standards was coming from
"white, suburban moms"
who discover that their children
aren't as "brilliant as they
thought they were and their
school isn't quite as good
as they thought they were."
Duncan apologized for his "clumsy
SOURCE: Education Week
communications and policy experience
in the field. "I would say her problem
is a function of filtering every topic
through a simplified commitment to
markets and local control."
Citing interviews DeVos has given
to a handful of conservative radiotalk-show hosts, Toch said the secretary needs "to engage more broadly."
"She needs to make the case for
her agenda not just to conservative
radio hosts," he said. "They may be a
safe interview, but they're not going
to broaden support for her ideas."
And part of the challenge simply
may be the learning curve for someone new to cabinet-level publicity.
Toch said that one of the most impressionable moments from DeVos'
first weeks in office was the protest scene outside Jefferson Middle
18 | EDUCATION WEEK | March 22, 2017 | www.edweek.org
"The scene of her running away
from a few protesters at a D.C. public
school was telling," he said. "A good
politician would have engaged with
the group, extending a hand, or trying to charm and disarm them. Instead, DeVos hustled into a black government car with tinted windows."
Making the Rounds
In more recent appearances, the
new secretary has avoided further missteps. She was largely in
Trump's shadow during her March 3
visit to St. Andrew Catholic School
near Orlando, Fla. On March 13,
members of the Council of the Great
City Schools gave DeVos a polite but
subdued reaction as she discussed
new regulations under the Every
Student Succeeds Act.
On March 15, DeVos got a more
enthusiastic reception-a standing
ovation-from the GOP-dominated
National Lieutenant Governors Association at a Washington hotel.
"Federalism isn't an antiquated
idea," DeVos told the group. "Our
nation's founders reserved most
powers, including education, for the
states to exercise because they knew
all too well that a distant central
government cannot adequately address the needs of its people."
It was a noncontroversial,
12-minute speech to an especially
low-key group. And after a few
minutes of glad-handing with the
state officials, DeVos was on to her
Meanwhile, in describing the
new template, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a speech
to big-city district leaders in Washington last week: "Too often the
Department of Education has gone
outside its established authority
and created roadblocks, wittingly
or unwittingly for parents and educators alike. This isn't right, nor is
it acceptable. Under this administration, we will break this habit."
But not everyone agrees that the
new template represents a step forward. On the contrary, the American Federation of Teachers, the
National PTA, the National Governors Association, and congressional
Democrats claim that downplaying the importance of stakeholder
engagement in the new template
sends the wrong message about
what should be a top priority under
Just what that means for states
and advocacy groups largely depends
on circumstances unique to each.
Without the Obama ESSA rules,
there will be fewer requirements
around the data that schools must report for various indicators of student
performance, noted Daniel Sellers,
the executive director of Ed Allies, a
Minnesota nonprofit that advocates
for educational equity.
"For us, the federal government always provided a backstop. And unfortunately, with the stripping of these
regs, parts of that backstop will be
going away," Sellers said.
But the new template and the repeal
of the Obama ESSA rules don't necessarily spell big trouble, or changes, for
Arizona, said Rebecca Gau, the executive director of Stand for Children Arizona, which backs standards and tests
as tools for accountability.
After speaking with staffers in the
state legislature, Gau said that the
moves in Washington won't disrupt
changes the state is considering for
its A-F accountability system. And
she said there's enough in both the
law and the new template to ensure
the state addresses achievement
gaps, "rigorous" assessments, and
Gau is hoping that the re-release
of the ESSA plan template pushes
the Arizona education department
to address what she said were unanswered questions in its approach to
In fact, Gau said she has a different worry: that a reduction in federal
K-12 aid-a realistic possibility given
the Trump administration's paredback budget proposal-could reduce
incentives for states to be as aggressive in holding schools accountable
"If you are getting federal funds,
you should be held accountable,"
Gau said. "That's as much as a conservative principle as it is a progressive principle."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 22, 2017
Education Week - March 22, 2017
The Hard Work of Making School ‘For Everybody’
Parents See Benefits in Spec. Ed. Vouchers But No Silver Bullet
Trump Education Dept. Has Yet to Hit the Gas
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
News in Brief
Social Media Connects Students to Authors
Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
ESSA Rules’ Rollback Complicates States’ Planning Process
Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Chris Doyle: Fake News Isn’t New
Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Cybersecurity Skills in Demand
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Fifth graders, from left, Braiden Roy, Pendarrin Cayer, and Lindsay Strout wave to an author visiting them via Skype in Oxford, Maine.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 7
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Arts Standards Stress Broad Concepts, Include Media Arts
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Plan to Shut Detroit’s Failing Schools Reveals Lack of Options
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Kentucky’s Schools Are Poised for a Massive Shake-Up
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 11
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 12
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 13
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 14
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 15
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tuning Up the Message No Easy Lift as Ed. Secretary Settles In
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Deep Cuts Proposed for Ed.Dept.
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 18
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 19
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 20
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 21
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 22
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 23
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Nancy Grasmick: The Brain-Health Effect
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Q&A With Gary Younge: Seven Bullets a Day
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Readers React
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 29
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 30
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - 31
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - Tyrone C. Howard: Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students?
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - March 22, 2017 - CW4