Linda Darling-Hammond's blog

Education and the Income Gap

by Linda Darling Hammond

There is much handwringing about low educational attainment in the United States these days.  We hear constantly about U.S. rankings on assessments like the international PISA tests:  The United States was 14th in reading, 21st in science, 25th in math in 2009, for example.  We hear about how young children in high-poverty areas are entering kindergarten unprepared and far behind many of their classmates.  Middle school students from low-income families are scoring, on average, far below the proficient levels that would enable them to graduate high school, go to college, and get good jobs.  Fewer than half of high school students manage to graduate from some urban schools.  And too many poor and minority students who do go on to college require substantial remediation and drop out before gaining a degree.

Maybe It's Time to Ask The Teachers

by Linda Darling-Hammond

(The Huffington Post, March 20, 2012)

American teachers deal with a lot:  low pay, growing class sizes and escalating teacher-bashing from politicians and pundits.  Federal testing and accountability mandates under No Child Left Behind and, more recently, Race to the Top, have added layers of bureaucracy while eliminating much of the creativity and authentic learning that makes teaching enjoyable.  Tack on the recession's massive teacher layoffs and other school cuts, plus the challenges of trying to compensate for increasing child poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity, and you get a trifecta of disincentives to become, or remain, a teacher.

Value-Added Evaluation Hurts Teaching

By Linda Darling-Hammond

(Education Week, March 5, 2012)

Here's the hype:  New York City's "worst teacher" was recently singled out and so labeled by the New York Post after the city's education department released value-added test-score ratings to the media for thousands of city teachers, identifying each by name.

The tabloid treatment didn't stop there.  Reporters chased down teacher Pascale Mauclair, the subject of the "worst teacher" slam, bombarding her with questions about her lack of skill and commitment.  They even went to her father's home and told him his daughter was among the worst teachers in the city.

Evaluating Teacher Evaluations

by Linda Darling-Hammond, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, Edward Haertel, and Jesse Rothstein

(The Phi Delta Kappan, March 2012)

Practitioners, researchers, and policy makers agree that most current teacher evaluation systems do little to help teachers improve or to support personnel decision making. There's also a growing consensus that evidence of teacher contributions to student learning should be part of teacher evaluation systems, along with evidence about the quality of teacher practices.  "Value-added models" (VAMs), designed to evaluate student test score gains from one year to the next, are often promoted as tools to accomplish this goal.

In California: We Need Less Testing and More Assessing

by Linda Darling-Hammond

(The Sacramento Bee, February 14, 2012)

There is a saying that American students are the most tested and the least examined of any in the world.  Nowhere is that more true than in California, where students take 35 tests before they hit the SAT and AP exams.

Gov. Jerry Brown's call for less testing and more focus on meaningful learning is a welcome breath of sanity in an American education landscape that has appeared more and more like Alice's Wonderland.  Fortunately, the state's decision to join the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium--a group of more than 20 states creating new tests--will support, rather than conflict with, these goals, as a Feb. 5 story in The Bee suggested.

Why Is Congress Redlining Our Schools?

Redlining was the once-common practice in which banks would draw a red line on a map--often along a natural barrier like a highway or river--to designate neighborhoods where they would not invest.  Stigmatized and denied access to loans and other resources, redlined communities, populated by African-Americans and other people of color, often became places that lacked business, jobs, grocery stores and other services, and thus could not retain a thriving middle class.  Redlining produced and reinforced a vicious cycle of decline for which residents themselves were typically blamed.

Keep Your Hand on the Plow. Hold On!

Linda Darling-Hammond's remarks at the Save Our Schools rally Saturday, July 30, 2011, on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.

Many people are asking: Why are we here? We are here because we are committed to a strong public education system that works for ALL our children. We are here because we want to prepare children for the 21st century world they are entering, not for an endless series of multiple-choice tests that increasingly deflect us from our mission to teach them well. We are here to protest the policies that produce the increasingly segregated and underfunded schools so many of our children attend, and we are here to represent the parents, educators and community members who fight for educational opportunity for them against the odds every day.

The Global Appreciation of Teachers

The first ever International Summit on Teaching, convened last week in New York City, showed perhaps more clearly than ever that the United States has been pursuing an approach to teaching almost diametrically opposed to that pursued by the highest-achieving nations.

No Child Left Behind: Changing the Way We Think About Learning

One of the central lessons of No Child Left Behind is that if school sanctions are tied to test scores, the testing tail can wag the schooling dog. And a key problem for the United States is that most of our tests aren't measuring the kinds of 21st century skills we need students to acquire and that are at the core of curriculum and assessment in high-achieving countries.

While a debate rages about whether our tests should be created at the national or state level, this argument is focused on the wrong issue.

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