News, Trump Administration

Betsy DeVos accused of citing bogus statistics

President Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using bogus data to back up recent calls for reforms in American public schools, Chalkbeat reports today.

From Chalkbeat:

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made a remarkable claim: “Children starting kindergarten this year face a prospect of having 65 percent of the jobs they will ultimately fill not yet having been created.”

This statistic bolsters DeVos’s view that schools need to radically change in order to accommodate a rapidly evolving economy.

But there’s a problem: that number appears to have no basis in fact.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education did not respond to a request for a source for this statistic.

DeVos is not the first person to use a version of this claim. In fact, it’s been percolating for some time, across the world. After a number of British politicians repeated some iteration of the statistic, the BBC investigated its source.

Apparently the claim gained popularity in a 2011 book by Cathy Davidson, a CUNY professor; this in turn was cited by a New York Times article. But attempts to track that claim back to an actual study have failed, which Davidson herself now concedes, saying she no longer uses the figure.

Others making the claim offer an even flimsier citation. For instance, a reportreleased by the World Economic Forum says, “By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types,” and simply cites a series of popular YouTube videos (which doesn’t even appear to make that precise claim).

Some even say the number is higher: A Huffington Post headline said that “85% Of Jobs That Will Exist In 2030 Haven’t Been Invented Yet.” The piece links to a report by Dell, which bases the claim on “experts” at a workshop organized by a group called Institute for the Future.

In short, no one has pointed to any credible research that lands on the 65 percent figure.

Of course, making predictions about the future of work is inherently tricky. But a recent report by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated areas where the most new jobs would be created between 2016 and 2026. The positions included software application developers but also personal care aides, nurses, fast food workers, home health aides, waiters, and janitors — and though that’s less than 10 years in the future, these are mostly jobs that have been around for some time.

Sweeping, unsourced claims like this about the future economy are not uncommon — and seem to be a driving force behind some policymakers’ approach to education. The fact that DeVos’s go-to number isn’t backed up by evidence raises questions about the foundation of her view that schools need dramatic overhaul.

After citing the 65 percent figure, DeVos continued, saying, “You have to think differently about what the role of education and preparation is.”

DeVos is a wealthy GOP booster and school choice advocate tapped by President Trump for the nation’s top education policymaking job this year. She’s been a lightning rod for critics since then.

During her confirmation hearings this year, DeVos was even accused of plagiarizing sections in a Senate questionnaire. 


One Comment

  1. Daniel J VanderLey

    November 21, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Increasing America’s Tax Base through the Reduction of Corporal Punishment in Public Schools

    Proposed Priority 9 — Promoting Economic Opportunity, underscores the very purpose of education. Economic progress is strongly correlated with educational attainment, where a high school graduate will earn almost $10,000 more per year than a worker with less than a high school diploma. Similarly, a worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn about $24,000 more per year than a worker with only a high school diploma.1 The average projected increase in wages for a bachelor’s degree holder over a work-life is $1,056,000.2
    College graduation potential of learners has been shown to be negatively correlated with the use of corporal punishment on learners in their teenage years. Studies have isolated corporal punishment’s impact on college graduation, separate from other variables namely: violence between the parents of the student, age of the student, race of the student, and educational attainment of the student’s parents. The research, based on cohort studies conducted in 1975 and 1985, shows a negative correlation with the use of corporal punishment and the probability of college graduation.4 The 1975 study shows that for each of the first three corporal punishments received by a male student their probability of graduating from college is decreased by 11% per corporal punishment session. Similarly, the 1975 research shows that female teens subjected to corporal punishment have a decrease by 8% in college graduation rates for each of the first three corporal punishment sessions. The 1985 study reaffirms these results, displaying a consistent 8% decrease in college graduation rate per corporal punishment for the first three instances of corporal punishment for both male and female teens.
    The average economic impact of using corporal punishment on a teen is $45,450 per corporal punishment session each for the first three sessions.7 According to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), over 110,000 learners were subjected to corporal punishment in school during the 2013-2014 academic year. While the literature on the correlation between graduation rates and corporal punishment is limited in scope specifically to the teen population and the Department of Education’s recorded 110,000 corporal punishment sessions is presented without age parameter; for the sake of assessment one may assume corporal punishment induces the same consequences for young children as teenagers. With this operating assumption, the averaged economic impact of corporal punishment in public schools for the 2013-2014 education year may be calculated at $4.99 Billion. If the assumption that the young are equally susceptible to decreased college graduation rates due to corporal punishment as teenagers is not accepted, an alternative approach is to limit the calculations to represent only the teenage population, with the associated economic loss of $1.92 Billion per year. Public school corporal punishment, if the cohort studies can be trusted, failed to promote economic opportunity at the cost of between $1.92B and $4.99B in the 2013-2014 tax year alone. If this trend continues unaddressed over the potential eight-year presidency of Donald Trump, America’s economic opportunity, by way of child-hitting, will be reduced by between $15.3 Billion and $39.99 Billion.
    Further, Title I funded schools, in states which allow corporal punishment, are almost twice as likely to use corporal punishment as the schools not receiving Title I funds. The Department of Education’s description of Title I reads in part: “to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.” Everything known about the economically damaging effects of corporal punishment, the disproportional use of corporal punishment at Title I funded public schools, the disproportional use of corporal punishment on male learners, minority learners, and learners with disabilities, raises Title VI concerns of disparate impact. The section on disparate impact within Title VI reads in part: “utilize … methods of administration … (which) have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program”. I kindly request the Department of Education to augment its Proposed Priority 9 “Promoting Economic Opportunity” to specifically address the economic losses created by the use of corporal punishment on the children in our publicly funded education system.

    Daniel Vander Ley
    Director, Grand Rapids Values
    [email protected]
    P.O. Box 230592 Grand Rapids, MI 48523

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