Photo: Janet Weeks/SBE
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond administers oath to Linda Darling-Hammond on March 14, 2019 at State Board of Education chambers in Sacramento.

Linda Darling-Hammond became president of the California State Board of Education on March 14, 2019. EdSource is closely tracking the changes in education policymaking in California since the election last November of Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. The following is a lightly edited transcript of Darling-Hammond’s opening remarks as State Board president at her first meeting on March 14.  For a video of the proceedings, go here

I’m honored and I’m privileged to join State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and this State Board in an ongoing and renewed effort to build a world class and equitable education system in California.

This board and the California Department of Education, and the previous governor and Legislature, have already accomplished a tremendous amount. I think it’s really important to take stock of that, and in the years ahead to build on what’s been accomplished.

Every state or nation that I’ve ever studied that has really made a strong upward trajectory in education has had a 15 or 20 year window in which to do that work.  We have that opportunity now to continue the work and then refine what’s been going on.

I probably don’t need to remind most of you that a decade ago John Merrow did a film called From First to Worst, describing what had happened in California over several decades of cuts in funding, of testing without investing, and of really narrowing the curriculum.

By 2010, we were 48th in funding, 50th in teachers, administrators, counselors, librarians, and on and on.   We now have a new funding system which is much more equitable and is one of the most progressive funding systems in the country. We have more resources in education, although we would all agree that there’s not quite yet enough. We have new standards that are focused on higher order thinking and critical problem solving, and new assessments that are really groundbreaking. We have a new accountability system with multiple measures that informed what happened on the federal level, because California did it first. Other states began to say, “Let’s look at the whole child, the whole education system, and build that kind of a system.”  We’ve created social-emotional development and academic guidelines and initiatives. We’ve improved outcomes in significant ways.

I hope you’ll take a moment and just take some credit for all of that good work that has gone on. About 10 years ago we were 48th in 8th grade reading. This past year, California had some of the largest gains of any state in the nation and our 8th graders are reading almost at the national average. Just in that few years, we’ve closed the gap in math with the national average by half, although we have a lot more work to do on that.  The graduation rates have gone up by 10 percentage points. Suspension rates have gone down, and California schools are significantly safer than they were a decade ago as we focused on helping kids have a community. So I think it’s really an exciting moment and I’m happy to be part of this moment with all of you.  It’s a key moment for a state like California, which is a science and technology leader in the world.

There are a couple of professors at UC Berkeley who have been plotting the growth of knowledge in the world. They found out that between 1999 and 2003 there was more new knowledge created in the world than in the entire history of the world before that. So we’re in an exponential growth of knowledge. It’s exploding. Technology knowledge is doubling every 11 months.  So when we think about what our kids have to be prepared for, they have to be prepared to work with knowledge that hasn’t been discovered yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented yet, solving big problems that we have not yet managed to solve.  That’s the challenge that we have in front of us, to build on the gains that have been made and to carry ourselves into that kind of a future.

This new governor’s commitment to equity and to a rich empowering form of education that nurtures the whole child is one that I really believe in and endorse. Gavin Newsom is going to help continue this trajectory and take us to that next level.

We have a lot of work to do. We have to figure out how to support continuous improvement in all the ways that we’d like to. We’ve got to figure out how to build a system of support for schools and for professional learning. We’ve got to figure out how to continue our focus on more equitable learning opportunities, both in terms of the funding that’s made available to kids, but also the kind of education that prepares them for this future. We can’t have a two-tier system where some kids are getting rote learning and other kids are getting the kind of thinking curriculum that they need. We’ve got to figure out how to redesign schools that fit into this 21st Century. There’s a lot of curriculum work to continue to do as we think about how we know people really learn. One of the things we know about how people learn is that people actually develop more neural connections and get smarter when they speak multiple languages, when they have access to art and to music, when they’re engaged in inquiry-based projects and investigations.

All of those things are part of the curriculum that California needs to have front and center, not as frills, not on the sidelines, as we move forward.  We have the opportunity now to take those efforts where they can go.

I hope in these next few years we will be on the path to turn California from worst to first. So, with that, let’s get busy.

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  1. Joe 5 months ago5 months ago

    Darling-Hammond has a lot of good will earned through her research. I’m just not sure how well it will translate in a political structure where systemic reform has been elusive for many reasons beyond the research.

  2. isaac abdul haqq 5 months ago5 months ago

    Excellent choice. Darling-Hammond brings an erudition to the ‘choice’ debate never before seen on the SBE. I’m optimistic about her leadership, and the future of K-12 in California.

  3. Janis Falco 5 months ago5 months ago

    So change the tax structure to deny billionaire tax benefits of Prop 13 and change the basis for funding from ADA to enrollment to level the playing field for Title I schools! When we know better, we should do better!

  4. Bill Conrad 5 months ago5 months ago

    As the new president of the California State Board of Education, one would expect that Linda Darling-Hammond would be able to provide us a little more specificity than "We will have to figure out..." Actually, we need a leader who comes to us with a detailed vision and plan for how to address the academic achievement crisis in our midst. It really not so complicated as figuring out the neural connections to … Read More

    As the new president of the California State Board of Education, one would expect that Linda Darling-Hammond would be able to provide us a little more specificity than “We will have to figure out…” Actually, we need a leader who comes to us with a detailed vision and plan for how to address the academic achievement crisis in our midst.

    It really not so complicated as figuring out the neural connections to learning as this is just more educationa pablum for which the glitterati of CA Education are so fond of expousing! Maybe just a way to figure out how to massively improve our woeful Colleges of Education so that they can graduate teachers who know how to teach fractions and decimals so that children can ultimately understand ratio and proportion, and then do well in Algebra and ultimately Calculus.

    Now I know that is way too conventional for our high-minded luminaries in CA Ed. However, when fewer than 50% of 3rd graders overall and only 1 out of 5 eleventh Grade Hispanic students meet or exceed Math Standards in 2018, you are in a crisis that requires some really basic emergency interventions and not the hackneyed and high-minded jibbersish of creating 21st century schools!

    Actually your first challenge as State Board President would be to make sure that we have set challenging and measurable academic goals for our students. You should demand that schools start buidling LCAPs that recognize the difference between student goals and means. They should then identify a few strong professional practices to implement system-wide along with aligned instructional strategies, and professional development and collaboration. In addition, School Districts should implement strong monitoring systems for implementation of practices as well as student outcomes. A little dose of evaluation and accountability might be in order here as well.

    When an emergency room doctor encounters a patient who has a knife in his back, he does not sit back and ask himself, we have to figure out how to save this patient and them begin to explore improved bedside manners. She actually knows what to do because she is trained and she takes the appropriate actions to save the patient. We need to follow a similar course of action in CA instead of meandering about in the fog looking for “21st century” solutions that mean nothing. Enough is Enough. Recognize the crisis in CA education and develop real pratical solutions that our school districts can implement to address the crisis. As State Board President, Linda should know better!

    Replies

    • isaac abdul haqq 5 months ago5 months ago

      Sir, it's not fair to ignore Daring-Hammond's voluminous contributions and then chastise her for not having 'specifics' for this piece. We're lucky that she wants to do this job. Trust me, she did not jump at this position - it will be hard work. Read More

      Sir, it’s not fair to ignore Daring-Hammond’s voluminous contributions and then chastise her for not having ‘specifics’ for this piece. We’re lucky that she wants to do this job. Trust me, she did not jump at this position – it will be hard work.

      • Dr. Bill Conrad 5 months ago5 months ago

        We have spent way too much time hoping and praying for a messiah leader who will aleve us of our educational miseries! This is a self-similar pathology that occurs at the clasroom, school, and district levels as well as school boards hire milquetoast and compliant leaders who can mouth the meaningless educational jargon but cannot improve professional practices that get student results! I saw this when I worked in OUSD as the Chief Executive Officer … Read More

        We have spent way too much time hoping and praying for a messiah leader who will aleve us of our educational miseries! This is a self-similar pathology that occurs at the clasroom, school, and district levels as well as school boards hire milquetoast and compliant leaders who can mouth the meaningless educational jargon but cannot improve professional practices that get student results!

        I saw this when I worked in OUSD as the Chief Executive Officer for Accountability where I produced an evaluation of the Small Schools Movement that did not demonstrate system-wide gains in student performance at the small schools when compared with non-small schools. Rather than face the brutal facts, the Board hired hired Linda Darling-Hammond and Stanford’s School Redesign Network” to perform a very slick miracle evaluation that falsely sung the praises of the Small Schools as the Board had wanted.

        Unfortunately, we have a sycophant to the status quo in Darling-Hammond, who is an apologist for the woeful Colleges of Education and will try and slow walk technical changes in an educational system that requires transformational changes.

        • Ann 5 months ago5 months ago

          ...and how much time and money went into the 'small school' failure? Quite a bit was Bill Gate's money but as always once they 'produce' their research the state starts kicking in. It is this poor research that is driving multiple unsuccessful initiative and covering up failures, so-called 'dual immersion', which is really teaching in Spanish no less in Pre-School is just one example. Read More

          …and how much time and money went into the ‘small school’ failure? Quite a bit was Bill Gate’s money but as always once they ‘produce’ their research the state starts kicking in. It is this poor research that is driving multiple unsuccessful initiative and covering up failures, so-called ‘dual immersion’, which is really teaching in Spanish no less in Pre-School is just one example.