Getting to Student Success: Thoughts from the Education Confirmation Hearing

By Cindy Veenstra

 The confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education took place on Tuesday. Below are links to four articles that provide summaries of questions asked by the senators on the confirmation committee and Ms. DeVos’ responses. The first three articles focus on responses, mostly with respect to K-12 education, both for public and public charter schools.  The 4th article is from the Chronicle of Higher Education and discussed the few questions she was asked about higher education and improving  the affordability of college.  

Betsy DeVos: Unprepared, and undeterred to serve as education secretary   (Detroit Free Press)

 Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing (The Washington Post)

Hearings Confirm One Thing: Betsy DeVos Is Unqualified to Lead the Nation’s Public Schools   (Huffington Post)

 DeVos Takes Center Stage: Highlights from her Confirmation Hearing  (Chronicle of Higher Education)

The consensus is that Ms. DeVos' professional experiences and knowledge of educational policies does not prepare her for this important leadership position as secretary of education.  In a previous blog, I expressed concern about her nomination and the confirmation hearings confirmed my concerns.  We have made significant progress with improved student proficiency, more students graduating from high school on time and completing college, and this progress needs to continue.  We need a more experienced nominee for Secretary of Education. 

I appreciate Ms. DeVos’ passion and sensitivity for helping all students.  I appreciate her wanting to help low-income parents by giving them more school choice such as high-income parents have for schools. But Detroit's experience of its schools has been disappointing, to say the least. (DeVos has influenced the charter school effort in Detroit through her her efforts). Detroit parents have not gotten good choices from most of the charter schools, most of which are run by for-profit organizations.  More oversight of accountability would have helped significantly.  I cannot overstress the importance for quality control with school choice. We are throwing good money away when we (taxpayers) invest in public charter schools and get poor student learning results, such as we have seen in Detroit. 

I hope that there will be further discussion in Michigan leading to higher student learning outcomes. 

Cindy Veenstra, PhD, is principal consultant and researcher, Veenstra and Associates, and an ASQ Fellow. She believes  that the use of systematic approaches and continuous improvement strategies will improve student success in our schools and colleges. She can be reached at