In a thoughtful article, Matt Barnum writes in Chalkbeat that Betsy DeVos used the disappointing results of the NAEP 2019 national tests to call for her “Education Freedom” plan, which would further disinvest in public schools and divert funding from the federal government, states, and local school districts to charters and vouchers.

Barnum writes:

But the call for more school choice — which, alongside deregulation of education at the federal level, DeVos has rebranded as “education freedom” — in response to stagnant test scores is certain to spur debate.

Research has generally found that charter schools perform comparably to district schools on state exams, with those in cities performing better and online charters performing worse. There is some evidence linking the growth of charter schools in cities to rising test scores across the board.

But recent studies on three voucher programs that subsidize private school tuition have shown that they reduce test scores in math. (DeVos has previously blamed over-regulation for Louisiana’s results.) In D.C., voucher recipients did about the same as public school students test-score wise, according to a recent study.

He added:

A number of studies have found that tougher test-based accountability rules, including No Child Left Behind, raised NAEP scores in math. Another recent studyfound evidence that the introduction of the Common Core standards reduced NAEP achievement.

Two studies have also linked more resources for schools to higher NAEP scores — though DeVos suggested otherwise Wednesday.

“Over the past 30 years, per-pupil spending has skyrocketed,” she said. “A massive increase in spending to buy flatlined achievement.”

One study showed that school finance reforms that resulted in more money boosted scores, and another found that education cuts in the wake of the Great Recession led to lower scores.

One undeniable fact is that the two lowest-scoring cities in the nation on the NAEP–Detroit and Milwaukee–have extensive choice. Detroit has loads of charter schools, and Milwaukee has charter schools and vouchers. If choice is the answer, as DeVos claims, it certainly has not helped these two cities.

To someone who has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Despite any evidence to the contrary, Betsy DeVos will push the same agenda that she has pushed for the past thirty years: school choice. It doesn’t raise test scores, it intensifies segregation, it defunds the community’s public schools, but DeVos doesn’t care. She wants public money to go to religious schools, corporate charter chains, for-profit schools, online schools, homeschooling. That’s her agenda, and nothing will persuade her otherwise.