Photo: Janet Weeks/SBE
Linda Darling-Hammond is sworn in by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond as president of the State Board of Education in Sacramento on March 14, 2019
Updated on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.

Ending considerable speculation in media and education circles, Linda Darling-Hammond, the president of the California State Board of Education, says she is committed to staying in California, and is not interested in becoming the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

Darling-Hammond is currently heading up the education transition team for President-elect Joe Biden.  She had been viewed as a top prospect to become education secretary in a Biden cabinet. But, she said, “I want to get that speculation out of the way.”

“I am not interested in that role,” she said. “My commitment to Gov. Newsom and the California agenda that we are pursuing through the State Board of Education are paramount to me.” She said she had told Gov. Gavin Newsom of her intention to stay in California.

“She is a vital leader in my administration, and is instrumental in advancing our shared objectives to expand equity, set the course to universal pre-K, and prepare all students for success in college, careers, and civic engagement—especially as we manage the impacts of COVID-19,” Newsom said in response to this development. “I am thrilled that Linda will continue to architect and drive our vision for education in California, in addition to advising President-Elect Biden and his transition team as they chart a better course for our students nationwide.”

California’s public school system serves 6.2 million children, or 1 in 8 public schoolchildren in the U.S., and more than the total public school enrollment in many countries. It also has the highest proportion of poor children of any state.

Darling-Hammond also headed up the education transition team for President-elect Barack Obama in 2008, and there was similar speculation that she might be his secretary of education. Obama ended selecting Chicago schools superintendent Arne Duncan for the position.

Darling-Hammond is one of the nation’s foremost education researchers and policy analysts. She is a professor of education emeritus at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, where she was on the faculty for several decades. She left Stanford in 2015 to establish the Learning Policy Institute, a research and policy organization based in Palo Alto, where she is currently president.  She said that continuing the work at the Learning Policy Institute was also a major factor in her desire to stay in California.

Darling-Hammond had been an education advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, where she championed state funding for teacher residencies and other programs to expand the teacher workforce, among other priorities. Shortly after being elected, Gov. Newsom named her to head the 11-member State Board of Education in February 2019. She assumed the unpaid position at what she described at the times as “a critical moment in California education.”

California had introduced a series of landmark education reforms beginning in 2013. Those included the Local Control Funding Formula, which targets additional funds to low-income students and English learners, and a new accountability system based on multiple measures, not just test scores. The state also put in place a support system designed to help rather than punish struggling schools.

When Newsom appointed her to the board, Darling-Hammond said she was interested in “continuing that very strong reform trajectory,” while “taking it to the next level.” She emphasized that making reforms work can take many years. “Any state or nation that has improved education outcomes has had a 15- to 20-year trajectory and stayed the course” with reform initiatives, she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the implementation of some reforms. The state board and all education institutions in the state are grappling with the more immediate challenge of educating children via distance learning with a minimum of learning loss, and, increasingly, how to get students and staff back to school safely for face-to-face instruction.

Darling-Hammond said were she to become secretary, “it would undermine our ability to reach the goals we are committed to achieving in California. I am determined to follow through on that commitment.”

Carl Cohn, the former school superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego who also served on the State Board of Education, said that if Darling-Hammond were to head the State Board for eight years, as did her predecessor Michael Kirst during Gov. Brown’s last eight years in office, that would assure 16 years of policy continuity in California.

“That is something that would be unprecedented in most states,” said Cohn, who was the founding director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. “It is very important that there be continuity of leadership. If that is in fact what is unfolding, I applaud Linda’s commitment to our state and to seeing through 16 years of important returns of reforms based on local control and equity.”

Update: This report was updated on Nov. 10 to reflect confirmation of Darling-Hammond's role in the transition and remarks from Gov. Newsom.

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  1. Julia Hoigaard 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I love it!!! Thank you Linda for your long range vision.

  2. Bill Younglove 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    I applaud Darling-Hammond’s decision to “sit out any DC offer.” Carl Cohn is 100% correct in stating that, as Linda has noted, only long-term commitment, particularly stability of leadership is key to (re)steering the ship itself toward needed educational reforms.

  3. Casandra Tompkins 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    California owes Ms. Darling-Hammond a debt of gratitude for her longterm commitment to public education in the state of California. We will need her more than ever as we move forward with COVID-19 and returning the kids to normalcy and getting those who are behind caught up.

  4. Dr. Bill Conrad 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Forgive me if I am not blinded by the light. It is truly a blessing for the nation that Linda Darling-Hammond has elected not to seek the position of Secretary of Education for the nation. However, it is bad news for us Californians as we will have to resign ourselves to her lackluster leadership for a long time into the future. The children and families of California continue to wait - possibly 15 to 20 years more … Read More

    Forgive me if I am not blinded by the light.

    It is truly a blessing for the nation that Linda Darling-Hammond has elected not to seek the position of Secretary of Education for the nation. However, it is bad news for us Californians as we will have to resign ourselves to her lackluster leadership for a long time into the future.

    The children and families of California continue to wait – possibly 15 to 20 years more according to Hammond.

    It only took us only 10 years to accomplish the monumental challenge of landing a man on the moon. Certainly, we can achieve the far less ambitious goal of making sure that all of our students are successful in the academic areas of reading, math, and science in less than 5 years.

    What is it that the children and families of California want?

    They want their teachers to treat them nicely and with respect, and give them some voice in the classroom. They also want their teachers to know their content well and teach it well.

    The current Hammond-led theory of action of distributing the educational decision-making process to local school districts through a bureaucratic and non-accountable Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for over 5 years is not the answer.

    How do we know the LCAP is not working?

    Half of the third graders in California still cannot read. Only 14% of 11th grade Black students are proficient in mathematics in 2019. And that was before the pandemic.

    The second theory of action promoted by the State Board and by Hammond seeks to move away from a focus on academic achievement to a focus on the “whole” child. Since we are unable to move the needle on academic achievement, we will now seek to blame the victim and promote improvements in the social and emotional well-being of our children.

    If the children just behave as we want, maybe they will learn better.

    Hammond and her team will need a hundred years before these failed theories of action bear fruit if any.

    The correct theory of action would be to systematically improve and align the professional practices of teachers and administrators to improve student academic achievement. You know. Turn teaching into a profession rather than a raconteur craft.

    This effort must begin with a rebuilding of the woeful colleges of education and the creation of a powerful career ladder for teachers.

    The teacher truly is the key.

    Until we can systematically improve and align our professional practices, we will be left with a fog of education where the white kids succeed and the students of color are left to fend for themselves.

    The children are generally OK. It is the adults who are screwed up.

    It is not really a hard lesson. But it is one that Linda Darling-Hammond and the State Board of Education have failed to learn.

    It is time for the children to rise up and demand more from the adults who should be educating them.

  5. Devon L Isherwood 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I have such admiration for Linda Darling-Hammond. She is one of my heroes. While I was so hoping for her to be the next Secretary of Education, it isn’t surprising she would hold to her course to improve education in CA.

  6. Dr. Hollis Pierce-Jenkins 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    I have the utmost respect for Linda Darling-Hammond. I used her work in my dissertation. She is a true advocate for reform. While she has been recommended for the position of Secretary of Education, her commitment to California is a gift that we should not take for granted. When I began teaching in Chicago, Arne Duncan was the Superintendent and his vision was on the same level as Linda Darling-Hammond. I … Read More

    I have the utmost respect for Linda Darling-Hammond. I used her work in my dissertation. She is a true advocate for reform. While she has been recommended for the position of Secretary of Education, her commitment to California is a gift that we should not take for granted. When I began teaching in Chicago, Arne Duncan was the Superintendent and his vision was on the same level as Linda Darling-Hammond. I trust that in her advising to President Elect Biden, she will be instrumental in recommending a credible educator to provide a referendum on what has occurred over the past four years under the current Secretary of Education.

  7. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Good for Linda Darling-Hammond for sticking with California. Our many students of all colors and impoverished socio-economic backgrounds need a heavy-hitter advocate who will push for genuine improvement. Even with its myriad resources, California ranks about 47th among 51 states in K-12 spending and academic achievement. 47th! That is a practical decision, not Fate. It is past time to do better. EdSource disingenuously cites the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula as a significant reform. LCFF … Read More

    Good for Linda Darling-Hammond for sticking with California. Our many students of all colors and impoverished socio-economic backgrounds need a heavy-hitter advocate who will push for genuine improvement. Even with its myriad resources, California ranks about 47th among 51 states in K-12 spending and academic achievement. 47th! That is a practical decision, not Fate. It is past time to do better.
    EdSource disingenuously cites the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula as a significant reform. LCFF money, meant to improve the sorry achievement of poor children and English learners in local school districts, was diverted for seven years in large jurisdictions like San Diego to salary raises for personnel, not used for direct service to kids. Only in the last year did the State Legislature act to remedy accounting for that sleight-of-hand.

  8. Emily Ann Filloy 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    DarlingHammond headed the transition team for Obama and we got Arne Duncan, who was a disaster! I hope she doesn’t recommend another pro-privatization, pro-charter secretary of ed. We need someone who is truly committed to public education–controlled and governed by the public, not just paid for by public funds.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

      Emily, just a reminder: President Obama chose Arne Duncan instead of Linda Darling-Hammond, not based on her recommendation.

  9. Christopher A Ross 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Get these kids back to school!!! The education in this state is headed for a setback. This distance learning hurts kids and families. Teachers are essential.