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More on the USDOE Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program

May 15, 2014

On May 14, 2014, I wrote this post on the US Department of Education’s (USDOE) Principal Ambassador Fellowship Program (PAF). I note that via PAF, it is possible for US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to monitor and control local districts of education.

My concern is that districts employing Duncan’s PAFs unwittingly open the door to site-level federal intrusion in education affairs.

I am not advocating that all principals who demonstrate an interest in the PAF program desire to equip Duncan to enforce his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver and Race to the Top (RTTT) conditions, not the least of which are evaluating teachers and administrators using student test scores and adherence to the “state led” (tongue in cheek) Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I am advocating that principals participating in PAF might well find themselves placed in the regrettable position to do so.

First, consider this PAF job description from the USAjobs website:

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is looking for the best and brightest to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation. If you are a highly-motivated , creative individual who would like to work for an agency that establishes policies on federal financial aid for education, distributes as well as monitors those funds; collects data on America’s schools and disseminates research; focuses national attention on key educational issues; and prohibits discrimination and ensures equal access to education, ED is the place for you! 

This application is for ED’s inaugural Principal Ambassador Fellowship (PAF) program, specifically for the 2013 part-time Campus Principal Fellowship. The Department of Education recognizes the critical impact that principals have on student achievement, family engagement, and school improvement. Building on the success of its sister program, the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship Program, the Department wants to engage these important voices more deeply into the national policy dialogue in a more structured way. This position will provide outstanding principals who have a record of leadership, student achievement, strong communication skills, and insights from their school experiences an opportunity to highlight the voice of the principal within the education community and the country at large. [Emphasis added.]

The PAF job description indicates that PAFs would be working for the federal government– USDOE– an agency that “establishes policies for federal aid” and “collects data.” Thus, “engaging” these PAFs “in USDOE… in a more structured way” could well involve communicating to USDOE (now the PAF’s employer in concert with the PAF’s school district) the degree to which the PAF’s site school (and possibly district) are complying with those federal-aid-garnering “policies.” It is also possible toat the PAF could be used by USDOE to “collect data” related to those USDOE “policies.”

The PAF actually becomes a federal employee as well as being a district employee via the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA).

Here is some of the IPA language that could apply to the PAF program:

If the assignee is detailed to a set of unclassified duties, the assignee continues to be paid directly by the non-Federal organization at a rate of pay based on the assignee’s non-Federal job. The Federal agency may agree to reimburse the non-Federal organization for all, some, or none of the costs of the assignment. [Emphasis added.]

Note that the IPA includes language that would allow USDOE to pay the PAF’s employing district for the services of the PAF.

In other words, via the IPA, USDOE could offer to pay a local district for employing a PAF.

Such fiscal “reimbursement” language opens the door to the possibility of USDOE attempting to lure districts into PAF program participation in order to establish a federal connection between a local education site.

Via this language, USDOE could entice districts to employ PAFs at a cheaper cost (due to federal reimbursement) than non-PAFs, and as employees of USDOE, those PAFs could be required to deliver to USDOE information regarding school or district compliance with federal education policies, such as student-score-based teacher and administration evaluation and adherence to CCSS.

Given the increasing pressure from USDOE for state and local compliance with federally-endorsed corporate reform of public education, districts would do well to consider the implications of such potential portals for increased federal intrusion into local education.


  1. Valier Barricklow permalink

    This terrifying scenario is unconstitutional. Period. How do we go about formally addressing the legality of this federal power grab and to whom?

  2. joseph permalink

    George Orwell’s 1984 is thirty years late as we bring “Thought Police” into the Schools. Arne Duncan as “Big Brother”. Interesting that journals were forbidden, like writing in schools being replaced by ELA.

    The government (controlled entirely by the Inner Party) attempts to control not only the speech and actions, but also the thoughts of its subjects, labelling unapproved thoughts with the term thoughtcrime, or crimethink in Newspeak.
    It was the Thought Police that had arrested Winston and Julia.
    The Thought Police operate a false resistance movement in order to lure in disloyal Party members before arresting them. One of the Thought Police’s agents, O’Brien, is part of this false flag operation. It is not revealed however, if a genuine resistance movement actually exists, though the tactic of using a false resistance group to lure out dissidents was used by the State Political Directorate in the Soviet Union.
    Every Party member has a telescreen in his or her home, which the Thought Police uses to observe their actions and take note of anything that resembles an unorthodox opinion or an inner struggle. When a Party member talks in their sleep, the words are carefully analyzed.
    The Thought Police also target and eliminate highly intelligent people, since they may come to realize how the Party is exploiting them. An example of this was Syme, a developer of Newspeak, who, despite his fierce devotion to the Party, simply disappeared one day. Winston rebels against the Thought Police by writing “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” in his journal (which he is not even allowed to have) without knowing it. He attempts to cover up his own thoughts, but believes he will be caught quickly.
    The Thought Police generally interfere very little with the Proles, although a few agents always move among them, spreading false rumours, identifying and eliminating any individual deemed capable of independent thought or rebellion against the Party.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Sounds like a clone of the Broad and other “fellowships,” but designed to enlist career-ambitious, credential-seeking principals as enforcement agents. I think your (grim) interpretation is correct. The ultimate target is dismantlement of elected school boards.

  4. Judy Rostello permalink

    According to the PAF job description, this position is no longer available. What would be the reason for that? Do you think they have as many as they need, or has the light of day caused this idea, as with most bugs and slimy things, to run and hide?

    • It was the job announcement for the inaugural year. The program has not been formally canceled. There might be a renewed application somewhere on the web.

  5. When I googled the program, the first link to come up was for the program’s website:
    It requests that interested parties email for information for the 2014-2015 “class.”

  6. Mercedes. Thank you for your great, informative and investigative journalism. Utah’s new State Superintendent went through a school turn around training program called the Darden/Curry PLE (Partnership for Leaders in Education) at the University of Virginia that I believe is part of this federal school leadership shift. It’s paid for by federal grants through Title 1. It’s a two year program for school leaders, including principals. Please see: The Darden/Curry PLE lists this as one of their Foundational Beliefs: “Excellent schools have a relentless focus on addressing individual teacher and student needs and learning from assessment and behavioral data.”

    • JaKell, thank you for the info and links. USDOE is sponsoring such “leadership training” in order to promote its test-driven agenda.

      We will be fighting this for a long time.

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