It's official: Linda Darling-Hammond heading Obama policy team

Just yesterday she was being cagey about her role in the Obama transition, but today Linda Darling-Hammond, the lightning-rod Stanford professor, was officially named head of Obama’s education policy working group.

The position is likely to be scrutinized by those who were looking for a sign of precisely where Obama will land in the Democratic Party’s raging debate over how to improve America’s public schools.

The thousands of people who have attached their names to an online petition supporting Darling-Hammond as a prospective Secretary of Education will likely embrace the news. They argue that she is “a key ingredient” to creating a “truly progressive public education system.”

But the news could also disappoint some in the education world who deeply oppose Darling-Hammond. Her opponents include the unnamed “reformers” that today some GothamSchools readers have commented should be called “idealocrats” — people like Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and New Leaders for New Schools founder and CEO Jon Schnur who support high-stakes testing, alternative teacher certification programs, and other efforts to shake up schools.

The policy working group is just one component of the education transition team. Its goal is to figure out how to translate Obama’s campaign promises into action. Judith Winston, a former general counsel to the U.S. Department of Education, is leading a review of the department’s management structure. And as Alexander Russo reported, an entirely separate team of people altogether will make staffing decisions for the Education Department. There’s been no official word yet on who is heading that team.