Thursday, November 20, 2008

More on Darling-Hammond, Obama education working group head

Here are more findings on Linda Darling-Hammond, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for his education policy working group. (Incidentally, in addition to being an education professor, she is a former high school teacher.)

Darling-Hammond is leading one of seven policy working groups. Corine Hegland at "National Journal Online", introduced an overview of the heads of several work team leaders,
The Obama transition team has announced policy working groups in seven areas: economic; education; energy and environment; health care; immigration; national security; and technology, innovation and government reform. Full biographies of the lucky wonks leading the groups are up on the Change.Gov Web site.

Darling-Hammond' bio at the President-elect's official website on Policy Working Groups:
Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school reform, teaching quality and educational equity. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the executive board of the National Academy of Education. She has been a leader in the standards movement, chairing both the New York State Curriculum and Assessment Council as it adopted new standards and assessments for students and the Interstate New Teachers Support and Assessment Council (INTASC) as it developed new standards for teachers. From 1994-2001, she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, was named in 2006 as one of the most influential affecting U.S. education, and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy. She received her BA from Yale University, magna cum laude, in 1973 and her Doctorate in Urban Education from Temple University in 1978. She began her career as a public school teacher.

Darling-Hammond's bio at wikipedia.

Dana Goldstein, in the headline to her post at "The American Prospect" website yesterday afternoon interpreted the Darling-Hammond as an effort to avoid conflicts with unions.
In comparison [to Tom Daschle, Obama's appointee to head Health and Human Services], the choice of Linda Darling-Hammond to lead the education working group is quite conservative. Not ideologically conservative, but rather, conservative in terms of what it says about Obama's plans for education. Groups like Democrats for Education Reform -- which favor charter schools and merit pay -- have been hoping for Obama to embrace their agenda. And indeed, early in the primaries, Obama was booed at a teachers' union event for saying he supported merit pay. But since he clinched the nomination, Obama's statements on education have been more circumspect. The appointment of Darling-Hammond, a teacher quality expert who opposes merit pay and is more critical than supportive of NCLB, signals that Obama wishes to avoid a fight with the unions. He'll spend his political capital on energy and health care instead.

All that said, Darling-Hammond, currently a Stanford professor, does have impressive qualifications and some great ideas. Known as a onetime harsh critic of Teach for America, she is absolutely correct to push for teacher recruitment reforms that professionalize the job and seek candidates ready to spend long careers in schools. She refers to education as a "civil right" and said on the campaign trail that the Obama team is committed to equalizing resources between poor and affluent schools. There may be education fights down the road in the Obama administration, but it's reductive to believe the only fight worth having is on merit pay, which pits certain progressive interest groups against one another. Darling-Hammond is unlikely to pick that particular fight -- but when it comes to school funding and other crucial issues, she'll be a powerful advocate on behalf of poor children.

Duane Campbell, the author of the leading Internet petition of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, cited Darling-Hammond in a September blog-post headline, in the context of promoting Obama.
He linked to Darling-Hammond's September 22 endorsement of Obama, "Why Educators Should Support Barack Obama," in a blog post at . The bulk of her post is featured below.
In a nutshell, educators should support Obama because:

Obama will provide schools and teachers the tools they need to educate all students.

He understands that No Child Left Behind left the money behind, while setting unrealistic goals and providing little support to reach them. In addition to boosting funding, he has promised to overhaul the accountability and assessment provisions of the law so that students are not “spending the year bubbling in answers on standardized tests” but are instead are challenged to think critically, conduct research, engage in scientific investigations, read and write for genuine purposes, and master the skills needed in the 21st century. He wants to be sure that schools are able to teach a full, rich curriculum that includes science, technology, history, the arts and music, as well as reading and math.

He will use a continuous progress approach to evaluating students and schools — one that assesses special education students and English language learners more appropriately and funds stronger services and more productive school improvement efforts. By contrast, McCain is content with No Child Left Behind as it is; he has no plans to increase funding for the law, which he voted against, along with his votes against hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes and funding teacher training.

Obama plans a major technology initiative to put computers, connectivity, and courseware within the reach of every student and teacher, incentives for redesigning middle and high schools, and expansion of after-school and summer enrichment programs, especially for students at risk of dropping out. Obama understands that educators deserve support for their own learning. His plans invest in high-quality preparation for both teachers and principals, service scholarships to underwrite preparation for those who will become teachers, mentoring for all beginning teachers, and useful professional development — not the drive-by workshops or “spray and pray” approaches that most teachers have learned to dread. His plans provide incentives for schools to set aside time during the day for teachers to collaborate.

Obama understands that teachers and schools cannot close the achievement gap by themselves, and there needs to be a broader effort by government and society to support children’s health, welfare, and learning.

With nearly a quarter of our children living in poverty — far more than any other industrialized nation in the world — Obama’s plans to address health care, housing, and employment needs are critically important.

Educators who work in low-income communities know how important it is that Obama will provide health care for all children and families (don’t look for anything meaningful on this score from McCain), as well as preschool education and services that support parenting from 0 to 5. His $10 billion investment will enable 700,000 children to attend Head Start and Early Head Start. Meanwhile, McCain offers empty rhetoric about the importance of preschool, pledging only $200,000 per state, if funding is available — enough for about 20 more children per state.

Obama supports education reforms that are designed in partnership with educators, not imposed on them.

His career ladder initiative will encourage districts to develop innovative compensation plans in conjunction with teachers. These plans should support higher base salaries and approaches that encourage teachers to continually improve their skills and share their expertise with others, for example, by serving as mentor teachers. Recognition for knowledge and skills and for excellent teaching that supports student learning can take many forms, like the career ladders developed with teachers in Arizona, New Mexico, Rochester, New York, Cincinnati, Ohio and Helena, Montana. Meanwhile, McCain’s plan to impose merit pay across the country, without working with teachers to avoid the many failures of the past, will be funded by raiding most of the current Title II funds for professional development and class size reduction.

Obama supports public schools and opposes vouchers.

Whereas McCain plans to expand vouchers, Obama has been a consistent and outspoken opponent of vouchers that would drain money from public education. Twice in the Illinois State Senate, Senator Obama voted against bills that would have created tuition tax credits for parents to use for private and parochial schools — legislation that he believed would create “backdoor vouchers.” In a major speech in July he noted, “The ideal of a public education has always been at the heart of the American promise. It’s why we are committed to fixing and improving our public schools, rather than abandoning them and passing out vouchers.” Obama’s School Innovation Fund will support new school designs launched by teachers, administrators, and parents in public school districts. He will also expand accountability along with funding for public charter schools, so that public funds go to support successful schools that serve all students equitably.

Obama would launch the most comprehensive supports for public education we have seen the 1960s, and he will help develop a 21st century system that can ensure quality schools for every child, every year, in every community. The choice for education could hardly be clearer.

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