Dissapointed In Obama, Reformista Attacks Linda Darling-Hammond
I have some real problems with the tone, substance, and strategy of DFER moneyman Whitney Tilson's post (here) about Stanford professor Linda Darling- Hammond. Tilson being upset about Obama choosing her as a campaign adviser isn't the issue - he and others have contributed to Obama hoping that he would be a reform-minded candidate and at times like this it's pretty clear that Obama isn't going that way. And Tilson seems to have figured out in the last few hours that LDH is not going to be Obama's education staffer (click here to see who is).
But Tilson's anger is focused on LDH, not Obama, and in the process I think he distorts her record and does disservice to his own interests. I don't always agree with her, but I respect her and think the record is pretty clear that it was Darling-Hammond, among others, who brought the whole issue of teacher quality to the fore as head of NCTAF 10 years ago. Without NCTAF, I'd argue, we're not talking about performance pay today. And LDH's critique of TFA is ancient history at this point -- attacking her for that is fighting an old war and makes Tilson and his allies look defensive and mean. Attacking Obama for his choice just seems politically naive.
Previous Post: Who The Hell Is Whitney Tilson?
Here's the full text of the Tilson email:
Obama is making
many good moves and is
closing (and in some places, reversing!)
the gap between himself and Sen.
Clinton, this selection of a wolf-in-sheeps-clothing ed advisor is
troubling. This is an issue Sen. Obama
could really win with by staking out positions that Sen. Clinton would be
hard-pressed to follow, allowing him to speak to several vital constituencies in
key states who crave genuine school reform, but instead he's making her
look like the reformer! With the selection of Prof. Darling-Hammond, he continues a pattern of snatching defeat
from the jaws of victory on this issue (for my comments on his recent education
speech, see: http://edreform.blogspot.com
Darling-Hammond's recently released study reflects only two grade levels in a single Teach For America site, draws conclusions from old data, and appears not even to meet the research standards for its own less rigorous design. Perhaps most concerning, the analysis and conclusions of Darling-Hammond's study were not subjected to rigorous review by other objective researchers or the subjects themselves before being released to the press.
While Teach For America was not given the opportunity to ask questions about the study design, or to view the study before it went to the press, our initial look since the public release has revealed significant flaws in the analysis and methodology. In fact, every researcher with whom we have spoken who has seen this study has concluded there are problems that could invalidate the conclusions. We summarize several of these problems below.
"I'm an advocate for good schools, and I think some charter schools allow us to do some things to create those schools. Some charters don't. The movement is very diverse. I don't think the issue is charter versus non-charter, it's how do we get schools to change in ways that are going to be more supportive to kids? I'd like to see regular public school districts taking charge of the issue the way charters are.""Competition does not always breed quality. All you have to do is sit up one night and try to find a station on cable TV. The same thing is true in schools. The studies about charter schools across the country have shown that in many states the charter schools are doing less well than the regular public schools. So they're not a whole lot of competition in some ways. On the other hand I do think that creating good school models does show people that it is possible to break out of the mold. So the provision of high-quality modeling for schooling, whether charter or non-charter, is a good thing and in a sense may be what the proponents of competition have in mind."
A Marshall Plan for Teaching could insure that all students are taught by well-qualified teachers within the next five years through a federal policy that (1) recruits new teachers using service scholarships that underwrite their preparation for high-need fields and locations and adds incentives for expert veteran teachers to teach in high-need schools; (2) strengthens teachers' preparation through support for professional development schools, like teaching hospitals, which offer top-quality urban teacher residencies to candidates who will stay in high-need districts; and (3) improves teacher retention and effectiveness by insuring that novices have mentoring support during their early years, when 30 percent of them drop out.
For an annual cost of $3 billion, or less than one week in Iraq, the nation could underwrite the high-quality preparation of 40,000 teachers annually--enough to fill all the vacancies taken by unprepared teachers each year; seed 100 top-quality urban-teacher-education programs and improve the capacity of all programs to prepare teachers who can teach diverse learners well; insure mentors for every new teacher hired each year; and provide incentives to bring expert teachers into high-need schools by improving salaries and working conditions.
Punishing the Neediest Schools and Students. At least some of the schools identified as "needing improvement" are surely dismal places where little learning occurs, or are complacent schools that have not attended to the needs of their less advantaged students. It is fair to suggest that students in such schools deserve other choices if the schools cannot change. However, there is growing evidence that the law's strategy for improving schools may, paradoxically, reduce access to education for the most vulnerable students.
NCLB's practice of labeling schools as failures makes it even harder for them to attract and keep qualified teachers. As one Florida principal asked, "Is anybody going to want to dedicate their life to a school that has already been labeled a failure?"
schools that have been identified as not meeting AYP standards must use their federal funds to support choice and "supplemental services," such as privately provided after-school tutoring, leaving them with even fewer resources for their core educational programs. Unfortunately, many of the private supplemental service providers have proved ineffective and unaccountable, and transfers to better schools have been impossible in communities where such schools are unavailable or uninterested in serving students with low achievement, poor attendance and other problems that might bring their own average test scores down.
December 7, 2007
School-Reform Expert to Be Obama Adviser
Barack Obama has picked as an education-policy adviser Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University who for two decades has been a key figure in the nation’s school-reform debate.
Ms. Darling-Hammond volunteered to become part of Mr. Obama’s team of education-policy advisers last month, said Jen Psaki, an Obama spokeswoman. “As one of the leading thinkers on education, we are thrilled to have her on the team,” Ms. Psaki said in an interview today.
At Stanford, Ms. Darling-Hammond is co-director of the School Redesign Network and the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute. Before moving to Stanford, in 1998, she was a professor of education at Teachers College at Columbia University, a researcher for the RAND Corporation, and director of the National Urban Coalition’s Excellence in Education program.
At Columbia, she also served as co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching, and as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. She is the author of The Right to Learn, which received the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award in 1998, and has been a leading critic of the federal No Child Left Behind law, arguing that it does not do enough to encourage schools to teach higher-order thinking skills.
Ms. Darling-Hammond’s involvement in higher education has consisted mainly of weighing in on debates over teacher education. She has been a prominent critic of Teach for America—a program that sends recent college graduates into rural and urban schools—telling The Chronicle that it has failed to take steps to make sure it adequately prepares its participants.