What Betsy DeVos Can Learn from Jack


Meet my Jack. Our Jack. America’s Jack. Jack is a spunky, determined, charismatic six-year-old. He plays baseball, basketball and soccer. He swims and reads and dances. Man, can Jack dance! Jack has Down syndrome, but that doesn’t define him. It’s one of the things that makes Jack awesome. And Jack is someone who makes his school awesome. Jack knows that. His peers know. His teachers know. We all know.

Jack Knows that Education Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

Jack is on an IEP—focus on the “I.” Jack’s educational plan is specially tailored to his “individual” academic and functional goals. It’s just for Jack. He knows that the books he reads were chosen for his reading level, that his physical therapist helps him keep up with his friends and that his speech therapist supports his behavioral goals by giving him language to function appropriately in his classroom. Jack encourages his buddies as they excel with extension activities, and they applaud his successes, as well. Jack knows there’s not only room but an intrinsic need for his school environment to be heterogeneous.

Jack Knows High-Quality Public Education

Every student at Jack’s school has an iPad, which they use to take project-based learning to a new level. Jack’s teachers return corrected work daily, never taking a break; they take their personal time to attend students’ extracurricular events and travel to support them in academic competitions; and they reach deep into the curriculum to provide multi-dimensional learning for each of their students. Jack lives, breathes and excels with the accountability of the high-quality public education system.

Jack Knows Equality

Teachers and students see Jack. They don’t see squinty eyes, extra chromosomes and noisy footsteps. They see his present levels, his strengths and weaknesses, his favorite and least-preferred tasks, his charm. They see Jack. And Jack sees them. You see, that’s what they all need. Each other. The secret to the success of public schools is, in part, the equality demonstrated across race, gender, ability, age and sexuality.

This is a guest post from Ashley Barlow of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, sharing her story of how Betsy DeVos, the nominee for secretary of education, could impact her family.