One of the most heated debates in the United States today is what to do about the country’s failing educational system. Public schools in the United States have been on the decline for the last 50 years. Paradoxically, this decline began shortly after the civil rights era, an era that promised sweeping reforms that would give equality to all people, no matter what the color of their skin was.
However, for a variety of reasons, that dream was never reached. In fact, the opposite trend has since taken hold. Today’s public schools are worse off, on average, then almost any school that was seen prior to the year 1960. In California, as many as half the state’s public school students are unable to read at even a basic level. These kids are going into adulthood as functionally illiterate workers, a grievous handicap, which all but ensures that they will never be employable in the advanced economy.
Some cities have truly shocking levels of public scholastic failure. In the city of Detroit, for example, nearly all public school students score below proficient on standardized tests of math and science skills. They do little better on reading comprehension or writing. These schools have failed and are creating a generation of students who will likely be unable to support themselves or contribute anything meaningful or a value to modern society.
But one man has decided to take a stand and do something about this horrendous level of academic failure. Dick DeVos has long been a strong proponent of one of the only solutions that has ever been demonstrated to work for inner-city and disadvantaged school children. Long one of the country’s staunchest advocates of charter schools, DeVos has not only advocated on behalf of this novel institutional structure, he has put his money where his mouth is and created charter schools himself from scratch, spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money on longshot bets that had no guarantee of succeeding.
However, many of his projects have not only succeeded, they have hit the ball out of the educational park. One of these charter schools that DeVos has created by his own hand is the West Michigan Aviation Academy. West Michigan Aviation Academy is a charter school that caters to all students but focuses particularly on disadvantaged youth from around the West Michigan area. Its focus of study is aviation and the aeronautical sciences, one of the most in-demand fields in the advanced economy today.
The academy has been so successful that it actually has year-long waiting lists to get in and has started to become more selective about the individual students who are allowed into the program. In sharp contrast to the local public school systems, almost all students who graduate West Michigan Aviation Academy are 100 percent proficient in all subjects.