Opinion
Education Opinion

Help Wanted: Qualified Secretary of Education

By Megan M. Allen — January 25, 2017 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

I dug up a bunch of job qualifications for different education jobs earlier this week, and didn’t find any job in education that seemed to fit nominee for secretary of education Betsy DeVos. I also wasn’t completely happy with what I found on the U.S. Ed website as far as job responsibilities.

My suggestion: We need to tighten that up. Firm up what the bare minimum should be for someone to qualify for the job. What’s the threshold? What experience is needed? What are the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that are needed to at least be considered for the job of running public education in our country?

So I begin to unpack it. It’s just a start, but I’d love to create a job description that some day, some how, might be used as a baseline to pick this important appointee. They have the WHOLE world of education in the United States in their hands. That impacts every person with children. We deserve to be a little picky and have high expectations.

As you read this, I know you will see the job posting and think it seems long. I know it seems lofty. The job seems impossible. But you know what? We need the best of the best, someone who can accomplish this list and more, to lead education in our country. I know they are out there. I have high expectations, and I do think what I am asking is reasonable. Our kids count on it.

Here’s what we’re starting with, from the Ed.Gov website. Under mission and responsibilities:

The mission of the Department of Education is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation.

Side note: MAJOR side note unless I am missing something: There seem to be no responsibilities listed. Just a mission. Vague. This would be a great place to dig in and start...does this need to be proposed in legislation? How might we go about suggesting changes?

The secretary is responsible for the overall direction, supervision, and coordination of all activities of the Department and is the principal adviser to the President on Federal policies, programs and activities related to education in the United States. The Secretary serves as Chief Operating Officer for the Department under the President’s Memorandum of July 11, 2001.

So here is the beginning of my own list.

Job responsibilities:


  • Uphold the mission of the Department of Education, to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation.
  • Believe in and have experience in ensuring equal access to education and promoting educational excellence for ALL children throughout the nation.
  • Believe that in public education, all things are possible. And that no matter a student’s race, culture, background, SES, gender identify, sexual orientation, dialect, zip code, or anything else, they are ensured a safe place to learn, grow, and thrive.
  • Work with all stakeholders to create policies that improve public education for all children. These stakeholders include but are not limited to: Teachers, school staff, administrators, parents, education researchers.
  • To be the face and voice for public education, leading transformational change that will support learning for students and adults.
  • Support the employees in all 50 states and territories, realizing that morale, professional culture, and student success all work hand-in-hand.
  • Collaborate with education stakeholders to help all public education employees work towards a united vision of education in the United States (do we even have a united vision of what education is or should be? I don’t think so...another great starting place).
  • Ensure that every child has access to a great education, regardless of race, culture, background, socio-economic status, or other factors that could impact a child’s access to an equitable education.
  • Help support states in their education work and ensure that every state is meeting the high expectations and dreams of every child and family.
  • To be a trusted source and expert voice to the president, helping ensure that our American education system is growing stronger.
  • Engage in learning in every step of the job, knowing that education is constantly evolving and bright spots can be found in many places around the country and world.

Experience, training, and education:


  • At least 8 years teaching experience (expertise would be developed?)
  • At least 15 years in public education
  • Teaching certificate
  • National Board Certification
  • English Language Learners endorsement
  • Experience working with students with special needs and English language learners (and a deep background and training in the law around both)
  • Preferred but not essential: Experience working as a substitute teacher, a paraprofessional, or in some support staff role
  • Undergraduate degree in education
  • Graduate or terminal degree in education and/or education leadership
  • Experience in leadership of complex (disfunctional) teams
  • Experience working in positions dealing with policy matters and issues
  • Experience listening to various perspectives and building consensus with varied groups on sensitive political issues
  • Experience in advocacy and working with people from all political beliefs
  • Experience implementing successful change

Essential Knowledge Needed:


  • A working knowledge of education systems at every level
  • A deep knowledge of the policy and laws impacting the work of education at the federal, state, and local level
  • A knowledge of the history of education in the United States (how do you know where we want to go when you don’t know where we’ve been?)
  • A deep knowledge and understanding of the best practices in learning, teaching, and education, including the systems and supports needed in order implement and to make those best practices survive
  • A knowledge of the education landscape in the United States, including the players who impact education
  • Knowldege of servant leadership and other leadership styles that are integral to successful running and growing an organization of employees in about 100,000 schools and 50.4 million students

Essential Skills Needed:


  • Demonstrate patience, tact and professionalism in dealing with all stakeholders
  • Possess a deep understanding of education concepts and practices
  • Ability to establish and sustain rapport with all stakeholders
  • Ability to work as part of a team; flexibility
  • Organizational skills and effective communication skills
  • Ability to apply research and organizational leadership skills
  • Create a positive, informed and collaborative climate for collegial teaching and learning.
  • Demonstrate respect for existing program strengths and have a commitment to support and build upon those strengths.
  • Facilitate constructive change.
  • Plan for, model, and encourage collaboration and shared decision-making.
  • Be comfortable leading conversations around instructional leadership and change
  • Active listening
  • Ability to surround one’s self with experts from varying background and opions
  • Abiilty to work in a high pressure environment
  • Ability to get jobs done with grace and humor

At least 100 letters of recommendation from happy former students, parents, and teachers in the schools that you served.

That’s the beginning of my list, as completed on one train ride. But it continues to grow.

What would you add?

The opinions expressed in An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP