Linda Darling-Hammond has recently announced she will not be offered a position in the Department of Education. Darling-Hammond stated that some things had “persuaded” her to stay in California to support Obama’s education policies from there.
Many in the education reform community have shown disappointment. Some have even gone as far as to accuse Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, Michele Rhee, and others of smearing Darling-Hammond’s reputation. They feel threatened by the preeminent authority on teacher quality one poster said.
My opinion is more in line with this one from a New Republic article.
Several reformers had indicated in interviews that having Darling-Hammond in the second-in-command role would symbolically, and possibly substantively, undermine Obama’s credentials as an education change-agent.
Though it is always nice to have a variety of voices and opinions, I think Linda Darling-Hammond’s views are too far from the others on Arne Duncan’s team for them to get any real work done. Duncan and Obama are part of the new breed of reformers. Darling-Hammond, though she claims otherwise, is squarely in the status quo.
Dr. Darling-Hammond: You wrote that No Child Left Behind “layers onto a grossly unequal—and, in many communities, inadequately funded-school system a set of unmeetable test score targets that disproportionately penalize schools serving the neediest students” (p. 4). In which states do you think test score targets are “unmeetable” by the neediest students? Are you aware that several studies have found most state standards and test “cut scores” to be set at laughably low levels? Do you think needy students are incapable of reaching even these minimal standards?
Dr. Darling-Hammond: About the NCLB law, you wrote that “Some believe this is a prelude to voucher proposals aimed at privatizing the education system” (p. 4). Do you include yourself among the “some”? If so, how do you explain the law’s strong support from the chairman of this committee, Senator Edward Kennedy, as well as most of the Democrats on this panel? Do you believe that we are committed to “privatizing the education system”?
Dr. Darling-Hammond: You consistently point out the inequities in our school system, and complain that federal funding (less than 10 percent of what’s spent on k-12 education) is too little to correct the awful conditions in many schools (p. 8). How much federal money would be enough? Another $25 billion? (That would push the federal share close to 15 percent.) Another $50 billion? (20 percent) And in the meantime, are you proposing to scrap the accountability provisions associated with the law?
In a utopian world, schools would be an agent of social change. Everyone deserves an equal education, but schools should not be expected to solve our social ills. Schools should be expected to equip our children with the basic skills to pursue anything they wish.
I leave you with a thought by John Adams
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.