25 August 2012

Rewards and Challenges of Working for the State Department of Education

When I left the classroom for a position as a state literacy consultant with the department of education, a mentor advised me to pay attention, to listen, to learn, and to reflect.  And, that’s exactly what I've been doing for the last 3 ½ years.  Monday is my last day at the state department of education, so I thought it appropriate to share my musings here at Learning to Muse, the blog I started to encourage myself to continue reflecting on teaching, learning, literacy, life, and public education. 

Working for the state certainly does not bring monetary rewards of any sort, so it’s a good thing I entered the position with a teacher mentality of being willing to learn and give of myself.   The professional learning opportunities were my biggest reward; they were job embedded, ongoing and collaborative.

Washington, D.C December 2010
Working in a collaborative setting was a highlight for me.  We had a rocking literacy branch led by a literacy leader known for her work nationally.  We contributed to the writing of grants for literacy work, developed models for adolescent literacy intervention, presented at state and national conferences, delivered webinars, met with nationally known literacy researchers, developed a state literacy plan,  updated a literacy effectiveness review system, collaborated with the Kentucky Writing Project network, interacted with the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, supported speaking and listening programs through forensics, encouraged multi-modal literacies to be taught in Kentucky schools, facilitated content leadership networks, collaborated with faculty in higher education, facilitated cross-disciplinary workgroups to develop units of study aligned to the CCSS for Literacy in content areas, provided input on the review of items for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), provided content consultation for Kentucky’s new assessment system which assesses the Common Core State Standards, provided feedback and representation at national assessment convenings (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers PARCC), contributed to the best practices applications for work with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, collaborated with other states at the SCASS groups and probably more that I’m not even remembering.

Whew!  We accomplished much in 3 ½ years, and I am grateful for the opportunities to learn, to lead, and to contribute to public education.

Even with all the accomplishments of our office, there were also challenges in working for the state department of education.  Challenges I faced included: representing the agency not myself or my own professional expertise, adhering to the strict rules and procedures in state government, accepting decisions which were not always congruent with my professional judgment , not getting to interact regularly with schools, teachers & students, and listening to people complain about the state department being out of touch and unrealistic. 

It’s not a perfect system by any means, but what I’d like others to know about the state department of education is that there are competent, intelligent, and committed people toiling to improve public education for students in our state.