California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) just tapped Linda Darling-Hammond, a giant in the world of education, to head the 11-member state Board of Education.
During his first State of the State address Tuesday, Newsom announced that Darling-Hammond would work alongside the newly elected state superintendent, Tony Thurmond, to help “confront” problems plaguing California’s public schools.
Referring to last month’s six-day strike by Los Angeles teachers, he said:
The teachers’ strike in LA is over — but the need to confront its underlying causes has only just begun. Understaffed schools, overcrowded classrooms, pension pressures, the achievement gap, and charter school growth — these stressors are showing up all over the state, right here in Sacramento, in Fresno, and Oakland. ...
Seven years ago, we invested $47.3 billion in our schools. Next year, with your support, we’ll invest more than $80 billion — that includes $576 million for special education.
But it’s not enough. We’re still 41st in the nation in per pupil funding. Something needs to change. We need to have an honest conversation about how we fund our schools at a state and local level.
Darling-Hammond is one of the most renowned names in education. An expert in teacher education and educational equity, she served as transition chief to Barack Obama after his 2008 presidential election win, and many in the education world thought he would select her as secretary of education.
By the time Obama was elected, major flaws in the No Child Left Behind K-12 law were obvious, and its mandates to states were impossible to meet. With Darling-Hammond, then a Stanford University professor, stewarding the transition team, some in the education world were given hope that the new president would make equity a key goal. Those in the corporate-based school reform community, however, saw her as being too tied to unions and blasted that decision.
But instead of naming her as education secretary, Obama tapped Arne Duncan. A former chief of Chicago schools and a friend of Obama’s, Duncan was deeply steeped in the corporate reform movement that embraced the Common Core standards, tests, data and school “choice” as the way to close the achievement gap.
Darling-Hammond then wrote an award-winning book, “The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future,” about authentic educational equity, and had two copies printed in hardcover. One was for her; the other she sent to Obama in an effort to try to steer his reform policies toward equity. He didn’t.
Darling-Hammond has an extraordinary résumé and has long been sought out by federal, state and local officials and educators to help improve education policy and practices.
Starting her career as a public school teacher, she became a professor at Columbia University and at Stanford, where she founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education. She served as the faculty sponsor of the Stanford Teacher Education Program, which she helped redesign.
A few years ago, she founded — and now serves as president — of the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute, which conducts high-quality independent research to improve education policy and practice.
Darling-Hammond is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and recipient of its awards for Distinguished Contributions to Research, Lifetime Achievement, and Research-to-Policy. She is also former executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, whose 1996 report “What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future,” was named one of the most influential reports affecting U.S. education in that decade.
She has written more than 500 publications, including a number of award-winning books (and she has written a number of times for The Answer Sheet).