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    A Photographer’s View of the ESSA Signing

    by Charles Borst posted December 21, 2015

    Associated Press staff photographer Evan Vucci gives a behind-the-scenes account of his assignment to photograph President Barack Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act into law.

    President Barack Obama, flanked by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., left, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., signs the Every Student Succeeds Act on Dec. 10 in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. Evan Vucci/AP

    President Barack Obama, flanked by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., left, and the committee’s ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., signs the Every Student Succeeds Act on Dec. 10 in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest-performing schools are pushed to improve. –Evan Vucci/AP

    The White House is a unique place to work. Whenever the president makes a big announcement or signs a piece of legislation, you’re going to be working alongside a dozen other photographers trying to make a unique photo or a series of photos that tell the story. It can be a difficult thing to do, and it doesn’t always work out in your favor.

    President Barack Obama talks with student Sofia Rios, of Arlington, Va., right, as he signs the "Every Student Succeeds Act," a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is at center. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    President Barack Obama talks with 8th grade student Sofia Rios, of Arlington, Va., right, before signing the Every Student Succeeds Act. –Evan Vucci/AP

    The Every Student Succeeds Act bill signing was held in a conference room on Dec. 10 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex. Usually the event would have been held in the more ornate East Room of the White House, but due to annual holiday parties the president hosts, it was unavailable. This conference room is a tough place to work- it doesn’t have the grandeur of the East Room. It’s a much smaller room that was packed with lawmakers, educators, students, and journalists.

    Events at the White House are scripted and controlled to the finest details, from who introduces the president, to where the press will be allowed to work. Bill signings usually follow a prescribed script as well: The president is introduced by someone impacted by the law, the president makes brief remarks, then walks over to a table surrounded by lawmakers who helped the legislation pass, and finally signs the bill. One of the stranger things that occurs is the president will use a number of different pens to sign his name to the document. These pens are then given out at a later date as ceremonial gifts.

    The "Every Student Succeeds Act," a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, sits on a table before being signed by President Barack Obama, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    The Every Student Succeeds Act sits on a table before being signed by President Barack Obama. Pens used by the president to sign the legislation will be later given away as mementos of the occasion. –Evan Vucci/AP

    From start to finish the event lasts less than 20 minutes, and most wire photographers will file dozens of images. In the end, the best pictures will usually be the ones that show some real emotion. It doesn’t always happen, but when the president signed this bill there was a genuine smile on his face. A bipartisan bill passed by Congress and signed by the president can be a tough thing to do these days. “A Christmas miracle,” Obama said. “A bipartisan bill signing right here!”

    President Barack Obama smiles after signing the "Every Student Succeeds Act," a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    Attendees applaud, and President Barack Obama smiles, after he signed the legislation into law. –Evan Vucci/AP

    President Barack Obama hugs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, after signing the "Every Student Succeeds Act," a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. Committee Chairman Sen, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. is second from left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    After signing the legislation into law, President Barack Obama hugs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. –Evan Vucci/AP

    President Barack Obama waves after signing the "Every Student Succeeds Act," a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

    President Barack Obama waves to the crowd before leaving the Dec. 10 signing ceremony for the Every Student Succeeds Act. –Evan Vucci/AP

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