One of the starkest problems that has confronted American public education for the last 60 years has been the seemingly intractable achievement gap. This concept denotes the difference in scholastic performance between rich, primarily white suburban schools and poor, primarily minority urban schools. This manifests across many different metrics, the most well-cited of which is standardized testing like the MEAP, ACT and SAT tests.
While a potpourri of explanations have been offered to explain why the longstanding achievement gap persists, no one has ever been able to devise anything resembling an adequate solution. At least this is the narrative that public education bureaucrats would have us believe. The truth, however, is that the achievement gap has been slammed closed by a number of highly innovative figures in the education sector. One of those figures is Dick DeVos.
DeVos is the quintessential education outsider. He is a successful entrepreneur, sometimes politician and philanthropist who developed an early interest in education. As a lifelong benefactor to local schools throughout his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, DeVos recalls taking a tour through one of the inner-city schools in his area. He was shocked by the vast disparities that existed between that ghetto school and the one that his kids attended. Even though this was part of the same public-school system, the urban school was woefully lacking in such basic features as student safety, quite learning environments and minimally decent infrastructure. This was one of the events that opened DeVos’ eyes to the huge disparities that exist within America’s education system.
His interest piqued, DeVos began researching alternative ways to help kids reach their educational goals. As a lifelong successful entrepreneur, DeVos believed strongly in free-market principles. He eventually came across a new model of education called charter schools. As DeVos read up on this model, he realized that they could be used not just for educating the scions of the ultra-rich but also for educating some of America’s most neglected kids.
He put his ideas into practice with the creation of the Detroit New Urban Learning School. Almost immediately upon opening, the school began to badly decimate the arguments that it was bad students who were responsible for the persistence of the achievement gap. DeVos’ school recruited from some of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit. Yet the school routinely produced standardized test scores that rivaled some of the richest districts in the state.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.