Sunday, December 7, 2008

Defending Linda Darling-Hammond for Secretary of Education

NY Times columnist and conservative, Republican David Brooks offered a scathing attack against the prospect of Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond becoming US Secretary of Education. Today's online version of the Times printed our reply at

Our response appeared in the Times, but here's the unedited version:

David Brooks got it exactly wrong (“Who Will He Choose?” Dec. 5 Opinion column). Linda Darling-Hammond was appointed as head of Obama’s transition team precisely because she represents the real and deep education reform faction in the national education debate. Her track record of analysis of what it takes to improve the quality of teaching and teachers has been the most consistent critical voice over the past 25 years. She is anything but the establishment. On the other side, we have self-described change agents without a real plan for improving teaching and learning. Brooks does a disservice labeling Klein, who ended the successful reforms in New York’s District 2, a reformer. The question is one of deep versus superficial reform. Deep reform demands that school systems nurture skillful teaching, and that standards assess students’ higher order thinking skills, not just multiple choice tests. We can do better than the superficial reforms that have led to very mixed results over the past eight years. Obama should go with the real reformer, Linda Darling-Hammond.

Mark Simon
The writer is a member of Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform, DC


Anonymous said...

I remember listening to Mayor Fenty at a community meeting shortly after he was elected. One quote I remember the Mayor saying quite clearly was, "Fixing the schools is not rocket science." This is exactly how the reform efforts in DC are being approached.

It is easy to fix DCPS-- just make everyone at will, contract out as many services as possible and pay high salaries to teachers and the Chancellor-- and you've got 90% of the reform take care of.

DC Teacher Chic said...

There is no way Obama will go with Darling-Hammond. He will go for a reform/progressive person. C'mon, he was the "Change" candidate after all.

Anonymous said...

I find it distressing that my hometown paper edited out your reference to Joel Klein. He is a travesty, but has a PR machine that skillfully distracts attention from that fact.

As for DC Teacher Chic's response, did you even read the letter? The whole point is that Darling-Hammond is the real deal when it comes to progressive reform.

I'm a New Yorker, so I can't talk to Rhee, but IMO Klein merely coopts the language of progressives. He seems to care not one iota about democracy and the reductiveness of his focus on testing as a panacea is heartbreaking.

I am not a teacher, but I am a parent of elementary school children.

meaningful change said...

DC Teacher Chic,

According to Rhee, who you praise incessantly, Obama is not the "change" candidate but one of politics as usual and that is why Rhee said she did not want to vote for him.

What qualities do you see in Linda Darling-Hammomd to make you believe that she is not progressive? If you look at her record it is quite obvious that she doesn't tow the line but has consistently spoken out for the educational needs of children.

Ame in DC said...

REAL REFORM. Not magic transformation fueled by higher salary and lower age.

Anonymous said...

The issue with Linda Darling-Hammond is not that she does not have credentials, but she believes that the government should create a utopian society to make teaching easier. Yes, if all kids were ensured to be fed every morning and we all had more money, educating may be easier. It's a chicken or the egg issue though. If we work on the culture of education in this country more children will be educated.

Who knows, if in the end, Rhee will work out. My problem with the District is that you chew up and spit out superintendents. For the first time there is someone trying to do something different, going against what unions have taught teachers for years, and the district wants to get rid of another.

Anonymous said...

Klein, Klein, Klein. He's not an educator, how can he do this? That's like saying that Obama was never in the armed forces so how can he be our Commander-in-Chief or that he's never been an executive so how can he be the top government Executive in our government. One does this by managing and placing top quality people in top quality positions.

Klein has done more as far as graduation rate than anyone before him. He actually works in the most "democratic" (the party) by working with Bloomberg to centralize education (remember it was a Republican [what a bad word] that decentralized education).

Other than just scores, report cards, graduation rates and whatever else may be inflated (and remember test scores, if inflated, are inflated by the state, not the city) Klein and the current group in the DOE are working tirelessly to increase the 21st Century intiative. They are working to expand educational opportunities to include Career and Technical Education. CTE not only opens up more career pathways, but also teaches curriculum in innovative ways.

I find that those who don't like Klein tend to be teachers tied to the union, and either parents that get duped by these teachers or affluent parents whose schools got a bad grade on their report cards because those schools are not educating their lower level learners. But, I am projecting.


meaningful change said...

“…she believes that the government should create a utopian society to make teaching easier.”

I have not read Linda-Darling Hammond say this and I disagree with your reasoning. Create a utopian society to make teaching easier? How about provide safe affordable housing, job training to parents, adequate mental health and support services for families and stop closing down homeless shelters and public hospitals in DC- do this not to make teaching easier but to improve the lives of our children.

DC has the highest child poverty rate in the country. It is truly heartbreaking to see children who live in dangerous, dilapidated housing, with not enough food to eat, with mothers who abuse drugs, with fathers who are incarcerated, etc. These children are the ones who suffer when DC decides to give corporate welfare to developers to build high end condos, to build an almost billion dollar baseball stadium, to giveaway land and tax breaks to the rich. It is absolutely disgusting.

I have never spoken to Linda Darling Hammond but perhaps she wants to ensure children have the basic necessities of life because she cares about children.

Anonymous said...

Again, chicken or the egg. Children need to be educated now. And part of it is self responsibility and a little bit of the pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality in all areas of society and stop the "me generation" effect.

DC has had these problems for years, they are nothing new. The last ten years has seen people finally voting for common sense candidates who need to come in and manage. Just like Sharp James in Newark, Marion Barry and his allies have had policies that made government bloated, wasted resources and have ruined the city. Now the city is paying for it and there is a long climb back.

Yes, government should work for the positive of the citizens. Help spur jobs and work to change the atmosphere in corporate America that executives need to be paid 100 times more than workers and continue reforming all types of welfare whether it's at the lowest levels or corporate.

Anonymous said...

For a totally different take on education reform here is an interesting post from a union blog on the problems with both the Darling-Hammond/ Ayers group and the "Reformistas."

From, same person who wrote last posting

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