Source: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing webcast

Linda Darling-Hammond shares a light moment during a meeting of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

A prominent scholar from Stanford University will direct a new education institute in Palo Alto whose mission is to influence K-12 policies in both California and the nation.

Linda Darling-Hammond, an emeritus professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, is the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, which formally announced its opening Wednesday. Along with headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, the institute has an office in Washington, D.C., an initial budget of $5 million and a staff of 30 that may grow to 50 within a year.

The new position will take most of Darling-Hammond’s time, although she will continue to teach occasionally as an emeritus professor at Stanford and to serve as chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Patrick Shields, who managed research at SRI Education for two decades with a focus on California’s teaching force, will be the new institute’s executive director.

The San Francisco-based Sandler Foundation is the lead funder with the Atlantic Philanthropies, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Stuart Foundation also providing initial support for the institute.

The institute has opened during a critical period for education policy nationwide and in California. Along with implementing the Common Core State Standards, California is transitioning to a new school accountability system and a financing system that targets substantially more money to high-needs students and shifts control over spending from the state to local school districts.

In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are struggling with aspects of the rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law. But their overall compromise would return more authority over education policy and accountability to the states. That will make it all the more important, Darling-Hammond said, for communities “to know what works and act based on that knowledge. States and the federal government need to be in the knowledge-sharing business,” and the institute will be a forum and conduit for that information, she said.

Independent and nonpartisan, the Learning Policy Institute will differ from most research institutions, Darling-Hammond said, in that it will combine original and existing research to focus on “pressing policy questions” and then will translate the findings so that federal, state and local policymakers and practitioners can adopt the recommendations and bring them to scale. A large focus of  the institute’s work will be on California, she said.

She said the institute’s policy agenda will include:

  • Examining effective designs for new schools with structures, curriculum and types of learning that young people will need to thrive in a “radically different, knowledge-based world economy.”
  • Sharing early education programs with strong outcomes so that they can be brought to scale. There is an emerging bipartisan recognition nationally of the importance of early education, she said.
  • Making recommendations and sharing research on how to attract, train and effectively retain the next generation of teachers; California and other states are already experiencing a diminishing supply of prospective teachers.
  • Helping to shape an “equity agenda” that draws attention to the United States’ high rates of child poverty and homelessness and unequal school funding and staffing, compared with other industrialized nations.

The timing may be right for a new institute focusing on these issues and for Darling-Hammond. An early education adviser to President Obama, who considered naming her secretary of education, she has been a critic of the standardized test-based school sanctions and federally prescribed options for turning around low-performing schools under the No Child Left Behind law. She also has criticized the federal government’s pressure for states to use standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.

As California, under Gov. Jerry Brown, rejected federal initiatives like the Race to the Top funding competition and went its own way, education leaders have turned to Darling-Hammond. Brown appointed her to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, where she and the commission have been rewriting requirements for training and credentialing teachers and principals. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson asked her to co-lead the task force that produced his Blueprint for Great Schools in 2011. The State Board of Education has turned to her for advice on creating a new school accountability system based on a collaborative process of improvement and a dashboard of measures of student and school performance. She gave a lengthy presentation of her ideas at the board’s May meeting.

While an advocate for many of these policies and viewed as an ally of the nation’s teachers unions, Darling-Hammond said that the institute is committed to evidence-based, high-quality research that “addresses the complex realities facing public schools and their communities.”

An author of 20 books and 500 publications, she has frequently testified before Congress and was an advisor to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has produced the standardized tests for the Common Core State Standards for California and other member states. While not involved in the creation and adoption of the Common Core – she has criticized its timeline for implementation – she has championed the standards’ goals of deeper learning and problem solving.

Along with researchers, the institute will employ educators, policy experts and communicators who will hold briefings, seminars and debates and do extensive communications outreach and networking, the institute said in a press release.

But David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, a research center, said the institute’s “biggest asset will be Linda.”

“All of us say we want our research to influence policy,” he said. “Linda is uniquely engaged at the highest levels of California and Washington, with a direct line to those making policy decisions so she is in a unique position to make research matter.”

Susan Sandler, a trustee of the Sandler Foundation, will chair the board of directors. Other members are Henry Louis Gates, Jr., director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University; Kris Gutiérrez, professor of Language, Literacy and Culture at UC Berkeley and former president of the American Education Research Association; David Lyon, founding president emeritus of the Public Policy Institute of California; David Rattray, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce; and Stephan Turnipseed, chairman of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.


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  1. Peg Maddocks 12 months ago12 months ago

    I hope Linda will have some impact on funding for transforming existing public schools. Most funders seem to favor Charters. NapaLearns is a unique public-private partnership supporting 13 K-12 public schools that are implementing the New Tech Network model of learning and teaching. We are in our third year with funding from Vintners and individuals. It is very hard work for existing teachers, administrators, and students to make this revolutionary shift, but our superintendents, … Read More

    I hope Linda will have some impact on funding for transforming existing public schools. Most funders seem to favor Charters. NapaLearns is a unique public-private partnership supporting 13 K-12 public schools that are implementing the New Tech Network model of learning and teaching. We are in our third year with funding from Vintners and individuals. It is very hard work for existing teachers, administrators, and students to make this revolutionary shift, but our superintendents, boards, and the community at large are committed to this because we are seeing early signs of success. With 46% poverty, Napa County reflects many in California and we serve as a model for what could become a national movement. I hope Linda and team will come see what we are doing!

  2. James Davis 12 months ago12 months ago

    While I respect the Director and her work to date, I am less than sanguine about this new institute serving as arbiter of "what works" and how to "act based on that knowledge" at the community level or the state and federal level. I find Stanford's history with Ed TPA less than reassuring, as I do the sources of "the check." Perhaps the rest of us will be fortunate if California is indeed demanding … Read More

    While I respect the Director and her work to date, I am less than sanguine about this new institute serving as arbiter of “what works” and how to “act based on that knowledge” at the community level or the state and federal level. I find Stanford’s history with Ed TPA less than reassuring, as I do the sources of “the check.” Perhaps the rest of us will be fortunate if California is indeed demanding – preoccupying.

  3. Ed Advocate 12 months ago12 months ago

    Are there any K-12 teachers or parents involved with experience in California K-12 schools, aside from charters? Also, we have SO many studies about what works for kids - but we never seem to get to the implementation phase. Experts in education are great, but there are so many living out in the real world of California where our 6 million children are being educated (in an ideal world) it would be nice to have … Read More

    Are there any K-12 teachers or parents involved with experience in California K-12 schools, aside from charters? Also, we have SO many studies about what works for kids – but we never seem to get to the implementation phase. Experts in education are great, but there are so many living out in the real world of California where our 6 million children are being educated (in an ideal world) it would be nice to have their voices included. What works in the ivory tower can falter where real kids with real challenges are involved. Linda Darling Hammond has been telling us how to grow great teachers for years – and yet without money or political power, it seems implementation always falls short. Ditto for Ken Robinson…

  4. Michelle Jacques-Menegaz 12 months ago12 months ago

    Please remember to include out-of-school time programs – their importance and impact, and the sharing of programs that make a high impact with efficient use of combined funding streams. Thank you.

  5. Pierre 12 months ago12 months ago

    The problem with k-12 public education is that there is no clear responsibility for staying on the cutting edge of preparation for the world of the future. Yet, organized interests with power are routinely allowed to impede and demotivate innovative initiatives. Two examples are the teachers unions erecting seniority-based pay scales that implicitly rule out rewarding innovative teachers with higher pay. Another is CA high-tech companies adopting global hiring practices that … Read More

    The problem with k-12 public education is that there is no clear responsibility for staying on the cutting edge of preparation for the world of the future. Yet, organized interests with power are routinely allowed to impede and demotivate innovative initiatives. Two examples are the teachers unions erecting seniority-based pay scales that implicitly rule out rewarding innovative teachers with higher pay. Another is CA high-tech companies adopting global hiring practices that sever the local and state education-to-industry pipeline. Did you know that the big CA tech firms (Google, Facebook) hire 90% of their entry-level CS talent from out-of-state? Ouch!

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

      Pierre: One problem is one person's "innovation" is another person's fly-by-night idea. Teachers are quite used to, and wary of, the administrator and/or board member who goes to some workshop on "innovative ideas" and comes back to the districts insisting that all teachers adopt what they see as the silver bullet du jour that will "revolutionize education as we know it." There is also a solid body of evidence that teacher collaboration, that is the sharing of … Read More

      Pierre:

      One problem is one person’s “innovation” is another person’s fly-by-night idea. Teachers are quite used to, and wary of, the administrator and/or board member who goes to some workshop on “innovative ideas” and comes back to the districts insisting that all teachers adopt what they see as the silver bullet du jour that will “revolutionize education as we know it.”

      There is also a solid body of evidence that teacher collaboration, that is the sharing of new ideas to be classroom tested with those results also shared, is one of the true pathways to real reform. Lone-wolf “innovators” do not fit that model. Teaching is not a competitive endeavor, it is a collaborative one.

      There is also another solid body of evidence that, like in any other profession, experience counts. That is one of the key supports for the seniority based pay schedule (aka, uniform salary schedule). It also guarantees a degree of fairness so that administrators cannot reward their awkward nephew they hired (and administration and the board totally control hiring) more than other teachers for being, in some obscurely defined way, as an “innovator.”

  6. Parent 12 months ago12 months ago

    The Teachers Union echo chamber. I will guess that their conclusions are: need more teacher protections and more money.

    Replies

    • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

      Parent:

      I sure hope those are the conclusions drawn. There is, in fact, good research already available that shows keeping teachers’ professional protections in place and increasing salaries would be a real boon to schools and the kids who attend them.

      Thanks for bringing that up.

      • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

        You've repeatedly argued that "in-school" factors, things like employment terms and salaries among others, account for a minority of achievement gains. Dating all the way back to the Coleman Report, in-school factors are weakly correlated with student achievement - about 20%, with less than 10% directly attributable to teaching quality. So why are you now arguing that increasing salaries and doing what we already do with employment protections would be a boon … Read More

        You’ve repeatedly argued that “in-school” factors, things like employment terms and salaries among others, account for a minority of achievement gains. Dating all the way back to the Coleman Report, in-school factors are weakly correlated with student achievement – about 20%, with less than 10% directly attributable to teaching quality. So why are you now arguing that increasing salaries and doing what we already do with employment protections would be a boon to schools and kids? Your reference to “schools and kids” stands out. Is there a difference?

        • Parent 12 months ago12 months ago

          Another echo…echo…echo…

  7. Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

    Wow! Education policy informed by research. Who’da thunk it?

    About time, with just the right person to lead the endeavor.

    Replies

    • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

      She already has too much influence. Get some fresh faces. She advised the SFUSD Board about their choice school assignment system intended to increase diversity. How’d that go? It’s been getting worse every year.

  8. ann 12 months ago12 months ago

    Non partisan? I think not.

    Replies

    • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

      Darling-Hammond has consistently held progressive views on education which has colored her research. To claim now that the new institute will be nonpartisan requires a leaf of faith, except for her believers. She couldn’t make a success of her own Palo Alto charter so why should she be trusted to make recommendations to scale up to the state level?

      • CarolineSF 12 months ago12 months ago

        I think someone who has tried to run a charter serving low-income students has a perspective that can't be duplicated. I heard Jerry Brown speak about charter schools at an event years ago, before he started the two Oakland charter schools he launched, Oakland School for the Arts and Oakland Military Institute. His attitude at that time was, I have to say, belligerent -- we'll show those stupid public schools how to do it right. … Read More

        I think someone who has tried to run a charter serving low-income students has a perspective that can’t be duplicated. I heard Jerry Brown speak about charter schools at an event years ago, before he started the two Oakland charter schools he launched, Oakland School for the Arts and Oakland Military Institute. His attitude at that time was, I have to say, belligerent — we’ll show those stupid public schools how to do it right. We know from many reports how badly those schools struggled and that they wouldn’t have survived without the vast torrents of extra funding that Brown secured for them and without their ability to pick and choose students (overtly in OSA’s case because it’s an audition school; semi-covertly in OMI’s case). Brown’s attitude appears to have been transformed by the experience.

        So my guess is that Darling-Hammond has a valuable perspective based on that experience.

        (Don, don’t you think people’s views might be affected by their experience, as opposed to the other way around? I once thought charter schools sounded great, myself.)

        • Don 12 months ago12 months ago

          LDH has had ample time to genuflect on the experience of her failed charter school. If she has something to say about it, I haven’t heard anything. Have you?

      • TheMorrigan 12 months ago12 months ago

        Everyone always claims that their special organization or their new institute is nonpartisan. EdVoice, StudentsFirst, Students Matter, and a thousand other educational organizations engage in the same lie. They are all about some social or educational reform in some way so we can easily label them all as some form of progressive, as well. They all supposedly make recommendations to the state. The real questions are why should the state listen to any of them … Read More

        Everyone always claims that their special organization or their new institute is nonpartisan. EdVoice, StudentsFirst, Students Matter, and a thousand other educational organizations engage in the same lie. They are all about some social or educational reform in some way so we can easily label them all as some form of progressive, as well. They all supposedly make recommendations to the state. The real questions are why should the state listen to any of them and why should any of them be trusted?

        • Vladimir G. Ivanovic 12 months ago12 months ago

          Dan Willingham has answered your (education) question in his book "When Can You Trust the Experts?" Willingham's advice (phrased in a cutesy way that I think detracts from the message) is to: 1. Strip it and Flip it. Strip the claim down to its essentials and promises: "If I do X, then there is a Y percent chance that Z will happen." [The flip is because most claims are actually affirming the … Read More

          Dan Willingham has answered your (education) question in his book “When Can You Trust the Experts?” Willingham’s advice (phrased in a cutesy way that I think detracts from the message) is to:

          1. Strip it and Flip it. Strip the claim down to its essentials and promises: “If I do X, then there is a Y percent chance that Z will happen.” [The flip is because most claims are actually affirming the consequent, so flip “Y, therefore X” into “If X then Y”.]
          2. Trace it. Should you take statements by “authorities” at face value? [What’s the history of the advice.]
          3. Analyze it. What evidence is offered? Is there any scientific evidence (from reliable studies) that support or refute the claims?
          4. Should you do it? And how will you measure results, or when do you call it quits?

        • Gary Ravani 12 months ago12 months ago

          Morrigan: If the state was going to make significant medical policy decisions, would they defer to people with a medical background? I think so. Look at how the recent legislation on vaccinations turned out. The anti-vaxxers with their specious web sites, rumor mills, and hysteria vs. the evidence gathered by real medical people and medical experience. The key problem is, looking at the drift of education policy over the course of a decade plus, the whole standards … Read More

          Morrigan:

          If the state was going to make significant medical policy decisions, would they defer to people with a medical background? I think so. Look at how the recent legislation on vaccinations turned out. The anti-vaxxers with their specious web sites, rumor mills, and hysteria vs. the evidence gathered by real medical people and medical experience.

          The key problem is, looking at the drift of education policy over the course of a decade plus, the whole standards and test based accountability pseudo-reform policy framework never had any educational research or experience to substantiate it. None. After a decade-plus of application it turned out , not unexpectedly, to be a total failure. Doesn’t stop the education dead-enders from clinging to the market based mythology of the pseudo-reforms or the right-wing propaganda mills from trying to rewrite history to substantiate it. Just like the anti-vaxxers, creationists, and climate-change deniers go on and on. It’s all about faith-based vs. science based and for many, since science like other facts have a “liberal bias,” faith always wins–except in the real world.

          Darling-Hammond is a legitimate and genuine educational expert and researcher. It is time to move the education ball forward. We have started with CCSS and SBAC, which also have little research to back them up. They do, however, represent a chance to do the least harm to the least number because they come with a milieu opening up opportunities for professional development, reductions in prescriptive curriculum, and a real opportunity for teachers to teach and student learn and not just pound out worksheets. Within this new framework you have a new freedom to make a research and policy synthesis that can translate to instructional synergy.

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