Linda Darling-Hammond at The City Club

Education researcher and writer Linda Darling-Hammond spoke at The City Club of Cleveland on Friday, January 25. I attended with a group from the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education.

The sellout crowd heard a talk that was inspiring, entertaining, and informative. Darling-Hammond provided a steady stream of observations about what works and what doesn’t. She identified challenges in modern education that were of interest to an audience representing many parts of the education community.

  • The world’s knowledge is increasing exponentially at a time when technology is diminishing the value of simple informational recall.
  • The high-achieving school systems of the world started by designing “a funding system so that all the schools are funded equitably, and more money goes to the places that have the kids with the greatest needs.”
  • Those countries “have designed a teaching workforce so that they invest deeply in the knowledge base of all teachers and all principals.”
  • In many ways, American schools deviate from smart educational practice. “One of the great challenges we have is to get policy in education that supports how people learn,” she said. “Many of our policies have been at odds with how people learn.”
  • “We are alone in the annual multiple-choice test phenomenon. We do more testing of our kids than any other country in the world, and we use multiple-choice tests almost exclusively.”
  • Relationships matter and can relieve the effects of toxic stress, but they are not easily promoted in factory-style schools.

About Ohio, Dr. Darling-Hammond encouraged improvement where she could find it, congratulating Say Yes for Education, the State Board of Education, and State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria on positive steps. However, she missed opportunities to call out some of the pernicious practices in place in Ohio schools:

  • state takeovers of troubled schools via 2015’s House Bill 70;
  • the continued absence of effective, equitable school funding;
  • Ohio’s continued misuse of the very testing regimes that she attacked so vigorously.

Some will focus on what she didn’t say and cite her for an opportunity missed; my friend Jan Resseger appropriately takes her to task in her post, “Linda Darling-Hammond Disappoints in Cleveland City Club Address.”

Overall, I am glad we heard her: she laid out enough points of information to serve as guidance for policymakers, even though she left it to her audience to connect those dots.

(A slightly different version of this post appeared originally on The City Club’s blog as “Darling-Hammond Provides Food for Thought.”)

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