Linda Darling-Hammond, arguably the most prolific educational researcher, has announced she will head up a new education think tank – The Learning Policy Institute.

In the Huffington Post on Thursday Darling-Hammond said, “It is time to get serious about how to support and enable our education system to respond to the massive changes in learning that some other nation’s systems have been addressing more systemically, with much better results, over the last two decades.”

In 2008, Dr. Darling-Hammond was slotted for the position of US Education Secretary under President Barack Obama. However, even though her qualifications far exceeded Arne Duncan’s, she was passed over at the last minute and the president appointed Mr. Duncan. Linda Darling-Hammond’s credentials are vast and wide and she would have most likely opposed many of the Race to The Top and Common Core initiatives being pushed by politicians and testing executives. So the switch from Darling-Hammond to Duncan was not too surprising.

As a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, Darling-Hammond has continuously published on the topics of:

  1. Improving teacher professional development to ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills necessary to teach students with diverse needs.
  2. Making organizational changes within schools to support more intensive learning.
  3. Ensuring that targeted supports and services are available for struggling students.
  4. Conducting classroom assessments that better inform teaching.

She has also helped develop the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the test used to assess the Common Core Standards in some states like California. She has said this about the Common Core Standards:

My view about what we should be doing re: curriculum and assessments can be found in the last chapter of my book, The Flat World and Education, where I describe how many other countries create thoughtful curriculum guidance as part of an integrated teaching and learning system. In short, what I would prefer and what other more deliberative countries do is a careful process by which educators are regularly convened over several years to revise the national or state curriculum expectations (typically national in smaller countries like Finland and Singapore, and state or provincial in large ones like Canada and China). Then there is an equally careful process of developing curriculum materials and assessments (managed by the Ministry or Department of Education with the participation of educators) and organizing intensive professional development. The development process takes at least 3 years and the initial implementation process takes about the same amount of time and deeply involves educators all along the way. Unfortunately, this was not the process that was used to develop and roll out the CCSS.

Darling-Hammond, once the education darling of President Obama, has since come out opposed to the way Race to The Top has pushed for teacher accountability through high-stakes test scores. Her research shows that she is far more concerned for students and teachers rather than test scores.

Darling-Hammond’s Learning Policy Institute will provide necessary research for decision makers to use when imposing policy onto schools. According to Darling-Hammond, The Learning Policy Institute’s agenda will include:

  • Examining effective designs for new schools with structures, curriculum and types of learning that young people will need to thrive in a “radically different, knowledge-based world economy.”
  • Sharing early education programs with strong outcomes so that they can be brought to scale. There is an emerging bipartisan recognition nationally of the importance of early education, she said.
  • Making recommendations and sharing research on how to attract, train and effectively retain the next generation of teachers; California and other states are already experiencing a diminishing supply of prospective teachers.
  • Helping to shape an “equity agenda” that draws attention to the United States’ high rates of child poverty and homelessness and unequal school funding and staffing, compared with other industrialized nations.

Funding for think tanks is typically a concern for those who follow education policy.  The San Francisco-based Sandler Foundation is the lead funder of The Learning Policy Institute, with the Atlantic Philanthropies, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Stuart Foundation also providing initial support for the institute.

While there is excitement among many that someone like Darling-Hammond is going to Washington, some people in the education world are concerned this is just another think tank with motives that may not be aligned with the best interests of students and teachers. In fact, here are just a few responses from parents, teachers and activists about Dr. Darling-Hammond’s new organization.

“Oh, no!…”

“It is being touted by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in CA as well. I’m having the same reaction.””

“Linda Darling-Hammond is a very good educator. Maybe she can change things for the better.”

“I agree and hope so. She’s also a major player behind the Race to the Top initiatives. She’s been a roller coaster. It’s hard to know how to feel about her starting a new major policy initiative. The last time she got involved with that, public education met it’s most destructive policies to date. We’ll see. We need to watch this very closely.”

Indeed people will be watching very closely, especially those who are inside school buildings having to implement and come to terms with current and future education policy.





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