Teachers@ED: Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle

Deb Delisle at a bus tour stop

Assistant Secretary Deb Delisle speaks in Elko, Nevada during ED's back-to-school bus tour. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle, says that after thirty-seven years in education, her “heart lies with kids everyday,” and is grounded in her role as a teacher.

Delisle joined the Department of Education in April after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), she directs, coordinates and recommends policy for programs designed to assist state and local education agencies with improving the achievement of elementary and secondary school students.

Teachers@ED LogoAssistant Secretary Delisle’s career has been dedicated to students across the country. Starting her elementary and middle school teaching career in Connecticut, she later moved to Ohio where she served as a gifted education specialist, curriculum director, elementary principal, associate superintendent and superintendent.

Delisle served as state superintendent of Ohio from 2008-2011, where she was instrumental in leading a successful application for ED’s Race to the Top Program.

With all of her experience, Delisle’s roots as a teacher remain a strong foundation for the decisions she makes each day. “When I think about the work we’re doing, and behind every piece of data,” she says, “there is the heart and soul of a child who wants someone to care about them.”

Click here to keep up to date with Assistant Secretary Delisle and OESE by receiving email updates.

Teachers@ED profiles some of the hundreds of current and former educators who work at the U.S. Department of Education, and how their experiences in schools inform their work for the agency.


  1. We are seniors at Southern Cayuga HIgh School and we are seeking information on students’ level of college readiness when leaving high school. We are doing a project for our Public Affairs class and have introduced you as a key player. We were hoping to get you contact information and imput on our topic. Also, if you would be willing, our class would love to have you as a guest speaker. Please contact us by email. Thank You.

    • Katie,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m following up via email.

      Cameron Brenchley
      Office of Communications and Outreach

  2. I would also like to add that not much progress has been made in meeting the needs in Special Education. I was taught in a wealthy area in Chicago and was shocked when I was given no proper materials to teach a classroom comprised of students with multiple disabilities! We actually have gone backwards working with those who learn different. I reported the school because the students were all of one race and placed in a self-contained classroom all day long. I have worked with students that have Emotional Disablities for many years. Many, if not most never seem to be mainstreamed back into regular education with success. I have advocated for years for these students and have been met with adversity from all angles. More research needs to be done in the how to better support those teachers who work with severely disable students in order better help their students.

  3. There is a great learning divide between what children know and the “hoped for” desired outcomes on mandated tests in low performing schools. There are many contextual reasons for this. Some reasons are rooted within the classroom and some without. Teachers can only control those within the classroom. The learning divide is so great in many instances that teachers in low performing schools are not teaching or even reviewing foundational material to new learnings even though they are aware of a child’s learning deficits. Out of fear of the test, these teachers attempt to teach test content emphasizing rote learning strategies because the children lack basic working knowledge of foundational material. I have been in education all my life…61 years of age with a Ph.D. and this just gets progressively worse. The more we talk about testing and accountability, the more the focus moves away from learning and onto outcome measures demanding rote learning when children lack basic understandings. We have children who cannot read taking tests. Why don’t we require some level of competency in reading before we paper test? We are getting in deeper by not addressing children’s learning needs while we are heavily focusing on system needs to score better on test. There are limited short cuts in teaching or learning. No innovation is going to take away a child’s need to grasp basic understandings that are rooted in long term memory. We need to admit our contribution to allowing contexts that support such ineffective practices and provide contexts that offer more meaningful learning opportunities. Addressing the learning divide may require us to move a little less defensively and a little more proactively teaching to a child’s needs as opposed to a system’s need to test. Such ineffective approaches will only be halted when we all get it that teaching to a test is not meaningful learning. Testing is not the solution….teaching within a child’s critical learning divide is the solution. We are only helping children when we respectfully acknowledge where they are in their learning and appropriately challenge their edge. Exposing children to material for which they are not prepared is not teaching.

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