2/9/11

Linda Darling-Hammond.....my new education policy guru

On The Future of Education I heard an amazing interview with Linda Darling-Hammond. If ever there was a person I would most aspire to be like in the education world it's her! She is the author of the book, The Flat World and Education. How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future and here again is a book I ordered on Amazon. I think I need to stop listening to these interviews I would save a lot of money.
The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (Multicultural Education)

She also wrote another book about 20 years ago called The Right to Learn.
Here are my notes from the interview and my reactions. Please be advised that some quotes come directly from the author.

* Linda states that today schools are run from the outside 'by remote control'. She states that while this is 'well intentioned, quite a lot of it (policy) gets in the way' more than help.

* She labels today's school system as a 'test and punish paradigm' and asks how do we create a setting when students can be supported, where teachers and parents can collaborate on students' behalf.

* Linda believe that schools exists within an extreme inequality in opportunity. The Dilemma, she explains is that 'politics does not do a good job with complex issues'. We continues that we look for a federal level policy for answers yet, that can't be done at that large level. There is a tremendous need to individualize what is done at the level of the school to make sure it's appropriate for that population and that cannot be addressed from above. Policy, she further explains, is 'standardized and unable to handle differentiation and nuance'. For example, policy make it difficult for professionals to do their job for with all types of restrictions they do not feel trusted.

Better way to meet students....than try to figure out the one right way....

* In her Book, Right to Learn Linda describes why progressive educational philosophy demand infinitely skilled teachers which is not sustainable in the long run. She writes in the book that the systems are not organized to fuel reforms over the long haul for there is a tremendous widening inequality to schools. She offers an example of how is a school comes up with a solution, then others try to replicate it, yet, with no support, the ideas 'crash and burn'

** Linda addresses what she called 'popcorn reform' movements. In which systems changes course very often. She compares this approach to education policy to other countries who got it right and demonstrates how other countries adopt one system and improve upon it for 26-30 years giving the whole system more stability and trust on the side of teachers. She attributes this behavior as part of the 'disposable culture that characterizes US, and our failure to invest systematically' in one idea.

** She is very strong on the idea that in order for reform to work we need to investment in our teachers. She brings as an example the Teach For America program and claims that there are 'ideas about teaching that are just not fair to teachers'. She compares America to Singapore and in Singapore a teacher makes 3 to 4 times more than a beginning doctor in government service. In Singapore a teacher is very well trained for the work she will do. We (in America) have this idea as short term work in teaching, that a few weeks of training and a scripted curriculum will do. Instead of recruiting 2-3 year commitment teachers we should instead be focused on getting very bright people who want to make teaching a career.

** One of the most shocking revelation Linda shared and one that got me thinking were her views on teaching as a profession. She claims teaching is not a profession. She backs up her argument by listing 3 qualities of a Professionals.
1. A moral commitment to do what is best for client, not cheapest or the most expedient.
She says, 'we rely on engineers to know how to build a safe bridge even if they're working for county gov. who might like to cut corners.' Linda states that in some cases teachers are asked to do things that are actually malpractice. For example, a school board, or policy might decide on a new requirement and teachers would have to follow it and held to technical requirements that are not professionally well grounded.
2. Professionals have a knowledge based. shared by profession; a common denominator shared by all. Teachers do not have that. Teachers can come into teaching with no experience at all.
3. Last, professional take responsibility for the body of research and knowledge in their profession. Teachers are not able to take control of standards of practice in their field.

For these three reasons, Linda claims teaching is not a profession.

** Linda gives several suggestions for getting in track. (1) She suggests offering free high quality preparation for everyone who wants to teach in exchange for 4-5 years of service in a high need area/location. (2) She suggests that all curriculum be aimed at higher order
assessment that looks to improve not punish. She brings up the state of NJ as having achieved gains by equalized funding, offering coaching, etc.
Linda worries that multiple choice has become the curriculum and states that other countries lave less assessments, higher quality ways of assessing what students know, and they do not attach low quality test measures to their assessments. She warns not to make multiple choice standardized tests 'the tail that wags the dog.'

** Linda believes in putting teachers in position to work together to create solutions. She still believes that there needs to be area that are regulated from above, yet, it's important that decisions be made close to families communities for the purpose of individualizing to the local level. Teachers and parents know best what the needs are of their children. The system has to be engaged by those who are affected.

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