Progress made in Washington
The Franklin Special School District proudly granted Poplar Grove seventh-grade science teacher Jon Eckert a leave of absence this year so he could help shape education policy at the national level.
While his leadership and teaching skills at Poplar Grove are sorely missed, the FSSD understands that his influence and first-hand classroom experience is exactly what the United States Department of Education needs as it forms policies that filter back down to each and every public school in the nation.
Eckert is one of five Washington Fellows and one of 25 across the nation, representing 22 states in a wide range of specialties at both the elementary and secondary school levels. Eckert is in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), the most visible of all offices in the department since it monitors the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Over the past six years, NCLB has increased accountability for student achievement in the nation’s public schools. American public school teachers perform many vital roles in their classrooms and schools, but often lack the time and opportunities to serve as leaders beyond the local level.
Teachers’ daily experiences give them a distinctive, field-tested perspective on successful instructional and school improvement strategies that target the goals of No Child Left Behind. The U.S. Department of Education uses the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program to tap into this knowledge and experience, and to give outstanding teachers an opportunity to contribute to—and learn more about—the greater debate about education in America.
Through his fellowship, Eckert is serving on the National Technical Advisory Council, a panel of educational testing experts from around the country. The purpose of the council is to advise the Department of Education as it moves toward re-authorization of NCLB, tackling issues such as performance indexes, growth models, and high school end-of-course exams as a component of adequate yearly progress (AYP).
Report from Jon Eckert, Washington Fellow:
While I have really missed my students, colleagues, and classroom, I have been involved in work that has been extremely interesting, informative, and rare for a practicing classroom teacher. I have had the opportunity to provide feedback on a number of issues related to NCLB.
My work in OESE’s front office on state assessment and accountability has afforded me some invaluable opportunities. I have been examining issues related to differentiated accountability for students and growth models designed to afford states greater flexibility in meeting NCLB requirements and focusing resources on the students in greatest need.
Another component of my work in OESE is reviewing Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants and allocations.
There are 34 TIF grantees and approximately $100 million in allocations around the country. I have been involved in reviewing annual performance reports for three of the grantees as well as compiling guidance for all grantees.
For the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s School Leadership Program, I developed an evaluation matrix for programs in their third year and final year. I met with the grantees and facilitated a roundtable discussion on ways to improve data collection.
The past two months have afforded me some tremendous learning opportunities, and I hope that this learning will enable me to make a difference for students.