Federal Opinion

What It Takes To Be An Effective Legislative Staffer, Then And Now

By Alexander Russo — April 17, 2007 1 min read
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I came to the Hill having been a teacher, an ed school student, and a researcher -- not from the campaign or the political side. And I came to the job actually wanting to do education. But every year I was there, I found that I was more effective the more I thought like floor staff or a press secretary. Going fast and low like that was extremely uncomfortable, but it worked, by and large. I stopped reading the reports and started bugging my LD for gossip and news about upcoming floor schedules. And I got things done, for better or worse.

Sure, education research has gotten a lot better since then, and there were (and are) lots of education staffers much much better than I was. But being reflective and opportunistic at the same time is not easy, especially given daily demands of floor statements, press releases, constituent meetings, trip and hearing prep. And it’s the rare member who actually knows much more than a few things about the issues to say in front of the cameras. For better or worse, five years of talk about research-based learning don’t seem to have made much of a dent on that basic dynamic, nor are they likely to change the basic shape of NCLB 2.

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