Dick DeVos’ personal charter school – West Michigan Aviation Academy

One of the gravest problems that have confronted American education over the last 60-plus years have been the woefully inadequate performance of inner-city schools. Literally, trillions of dollars have been spent trying to re-mediate this intractable problem. Almost nothing has proven effective.   Everything has been tried. From desegregation to radical increases in the amount of funding spent per student to the creation of billion-dollar so-called magnet schools, education reformers have tried nearly everything that’s come to mind, wasting unbelievable amounts of money in the process, which has all come directly from the taxpayer.   But then came the DeVos family. Scions of the Amway fortune, the DeVoses have long held an intense interest in the role that education plays in the formation of a more productive society. In particular, Dick DeVos has spent a great deal of his philanthropic pursuits centered around education. Along with his wife, now Secretary of Education of the United States, Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos and his family have collectively spent hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money and efforts to solve what has thus far appeared to be an unsolvable problem. They have sought to radically increase the performance of failing inner city schools throughout the state of Michigan.   As lifelong, active members of the Michigan Republican party, the DeVoses have cultivated a number of political foes. These people have been slow to admit that Dick DeVos may have personally found the Holy Grail of America’s education woes. He has personally developed a charter school model that has demonstrated successs in bringing inner-city children up to the same levels of their more privileged suburban counterparts. That charter school model is manifested in West Michigan Aviation Academy.   West Michigan Aviation Academy is an aviation-based charter school that caters to many of West Michigan’s most disadvantaged students. With more than 40 percent of its student body being eligible for reduced price or free lunches, West Michigan Aviation Academy has made available to inner-city students one of the most cutting-edge pedagogical programs in aeronautical sciences and aviation available anywhere in the world.   The school has had tremendous success. In a state where inner city children graduate from high school at barely more than 50 percent, West Michigan Aviation Academy has graduation rates approaching 100 percent. What’s more, disadvantaged students almost uniformly score in the top quintile of standardized state testing, a result that is almost unbelievably far removed from what would be expected from this demographic.   This is a truly remarkable result. DeVos, someone with absolutely no formal training in the design of educational courses, has apparently solved the problem that experts have not been able to solve with millions of man-hours and trillions of dollars. And he has done it without one cent of public funds.