New York

The future of school policy, if Darling-Hammond has her way

The panel where Linda Darling-Hammond spoke yesterday. Linda Darling-Hammond may be feared and loathed by the younger reform set, but among the people who sat with me last night on the Upper East Side to watch her talk, she is such a star! Before the start of the panel, put on by Bank Street College of Education, all I could hear was the simultaneous sound of my Blackberry buzzing with eager e-mails about her and audience members asking their neighbors, "Has Linda arrived yet?" She finally did, apparently via the very last available train to New York from Washington, D.C., where she had been for Barack Obama's inauguration. At the panel, she quickly made it clear how dramatically accountability regimes would change if she is given a major role in the Obama administration. (Of course, that's a big if: Though Darling-Hammond chaired the education policy team for Obama's transition, it's looking like those who have the ear of new Education Secretary Arne Duncan come from a different set. She didn't comment on this yesterday.) Darling-Hammond laid out a dramatic picture of how she hopes Obama will change American schools, one that (for the most part) differed substantially from the vision currently in vogue, the "idealocrat" program Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has pushed. Darling-Hammond's big idea is to move America away from a factory model of education, where teachers are seen as trade workers, and toward a model that treats teachers as just as important as doctors or lawyers. The change, as she sees it, requires that teachers are given better and more extensive training, and that the federal government change the way it evaluates their work, moving from No Child Left Behind's standardized test-based system into one based on sensitive open-ended assessments that schools might create themselves. She hinted that the last part might be the biggest challenge — to "get the measuring right."