Friends to Teachers at the U.S. Department of Education?
Ask just about any teacher in the United States what they know about their federal Department of Education, and you will hear (at least) one four-letter word: NCLB. The general sentiment among teachers in the No Child Left Behind Act era is that the U.S. Department of Education is, at best, disconnected from teaching and learning, and, at worst, filled with malevolent bureaucrats.
As real teachers who worked at the department for the past two years, during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, we have experienced the bureaucracy from the inside. The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship brought eight classroom teachers from across the country to work at the Education Department in Washington through a program developed by a teacher. Thirty teachers remained in their classrooms as fellows, but the eight of us who were at the department every day got an intimate view of the work that occurs.
We arrived with many assumptions, some of which were reinforced. In a 4,300-person bureaucracy, some people are not going to have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of individual students. This did not surprise us. What surprised us, however, was the remarkable number of smart, passionate, hard-working people who were genuinely concerned about the needs...
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