K-12 Innovation

Betsy DeVos:

The cost to you for all of this? Not one cent. Your state passed an education-savings-account law five years ago. Instead of sending the dollars allocated to your child’s education to a school building you didn’t select, the new law puts them into an education account you control. Your daughter’s love of learning has exploded since then. Sure, there are still mornings when you have to cajole her out of bed, but once she’s up, she’s learning, and there’s no stopping her.

Or perhaps you’re the parent of a high schooler in a rural area in middle America. He goes to what most consider a pretty good regional public school, and for the most part, he would agree. His teachers care, and the classes he can take are fairly engaging.

But they don’t have any of the courses he really wants. His aim is to become an artificial-intelligence and machine-learning engineer. It’s not a common job in his farming community, but he thinks integrating robotics and sensors could really improve crop yields and reduce the amount of water and pesticides required.

He starts his morning on the farm, helping his dad. He’s enrolled in the “Great Books” program at Columbia University and uses the tractor time to listen to the novels. At 9 a.m., he heads to the John Deere factory, where he’s employed in an apprenticeship, working side by side with some of the best thinkers in the AI field. He’s there through lunch and then heads back home and attends a virtual charter school for his core coursework (which also gives him class credit for the apprenticeship). He’s found that the self-paced lessons help him focus better than he did in the classroom; plus, he can work through the material much faster than the classroom pace. Five p.m. is football practice. They’ve shifted to a community-based team rather than a school-based team. Previously there was only one school, and they excluded non-enrolled students. They realized a couple of years ago that that didn’t really make sense. The team has won a lot more games since then.