Injecting Federal Control and Influence in Local School Administration

The U.S. Department of Education has pushed for more and more centralization of education, they’ve injected their influence into educational standards through Race to the Top.  They have bypassed states through their District Race to the Top program.  They are not reaching out to school principals through the Principal Ambassador Fellowship program that has been launched last year.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan touted it in a speech he gave in February:

At the debrief afterwards, one of the principals pointed out that our department’s Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program was a great addition to the department and our TAFs have been instrumental in helping us shape policy. But, he challenged me, why didn’t we have a Principal Fellowship?

It was a great question. I took that comment and idea to heart. And so I have asked my senior staff to find a way, even in a time of tight budgets, to create a Principal Fellowship that would bring several principals into our department each year to provide input on policy from a principal’s perspective. Having great, current principals working with us on an ongoing basis will only make us better.

That may sound great, but it really more about the U.S. DOE influencing schools and principals than it is the other way around.

Over time, it is possible that like Teaching Ambassador Fellows, all PAFs will spend time gaining greater knowledge of the content of key federal programs and policies, in addition to the context and process by which they are designed and implemented. They will be asked to share their expertise with federal staff members; provide outreach and communication about federal initiatives to other educators on behalf of the Department; and facilitate the involvement and understanding of educators in developing and implementing these efforts at the federal, state and local levels, to improve the likelihood of their success.

Mercedes Schneider wrote yesterday on this program.  She said:

The “context and process” of “design” of  “federal programs and policies” reads like a re-education effort to convince practitioners that “federal programs” like CCSS (let’s just admit it openly) really did originate with education practitioners such as classroom teachers even though the CCSS creation process outlined in the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) does not mention current classroom teachers as being members of the CCSS work groups.

Thus, it appears that Duncan’s “ambassadors” might be equipped to reshape the CCSS development narrative into a clearly-false-yet-feel-good fluff designed to convince teachers that they must buy into CCSS because they really did write it.

Drill a lie–> create a “new truth.”

I echo that concern.

Qualifications for the program are:

  • Be serving as a principal during the 2013-2014 school year in a United States school, including traditional public, charter, virtual, military, tribal and/or private schools, that serves any grades Preschool through 12th.
  • Have a minimum of three (3) years of successful experience as a principal. (If the 2012-2013 school-year is your third year as principal, you are eligible.)
  • Have a United States citizenship, as is required for employment with the Federal Government
  • Have the ability to gain employer support to sign an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreement for your participation in the program.

How does one define success?  Test scores?  Below is a video of Secretary Duncan touting the program: