Inside the US Department of Education

On November 16th, I was honored with the opportunity to visit the US Department of Education in Washington, D.C. While there, I was able to connect with Department staff and with leaders from ASCD and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). In addition, I was also able to meet many of the other ASCD Teacher Impact Grant finalists.

I enjoyed hearing from other grantees about the successes and challenges of grant implementation. I learned about STEM-focused professional learning communities in New York and religious literacy training in Maryland. I heard from teachers in Arizona developing a Parent Empowerment Project and from teachers in Idaho focused on distributive leadership and code-writing. From Wisconsin to Kansas and North Carolina to New Mexico, I heard stories from practicing teachers doing amazing things in their classrooms, schools, districts and beyond.  

Through our training, I also developed a better understanding of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA). I've written about ESSA before in relation to my work with Learning Forward. Simply put, ESSA is the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), originally passed in 1965. The reauthorization of ESEA was five years overdue, the most recent being No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed under the Bush administration in 2001. ESSA, signed by Obama on December 10th, 2015 will fully go into effect on July 1st, 2017.

One of the highlights of the day was the opportunity to have tea with current Secretary of Education Dr. John King. We discussed the implementation of our grant projects and the benefits of investing with teachers at the local level. As we all discussed, I couldn't help but feel optimistic about the future of our nation's schools. I feel blessed to know so many passionate educators who are doing incredible work all around the country.

As federal administration shifts in the coming months, I hope that the incoming Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, will build on the work done by previous Secretaries Duncan and King. I hope the Department remains open to teachers and that it continues to advocate for best practices by elevating the voices of practicing teachers. There is power in teacher leadership and our collective efforts as Teacher Impact Grant recipients are demonstrating just how impactful grassroots efforts can be in creating sustainable solutions in our schools and communities.