In her book, Linda Darling-Hammond outlines her foundation for educational change. She focuses on five key categories:
- Meaningful learning goals
- Intelligent, reciprocal accountability systems
- Equitable and adequate resources
- Strong professional standards and supports
- Schools organized for student and teacher learning
Philosopher John Dewey is quoted as saying: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must we want for all children in the community. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.” He believes that educational reform is a moral and ethical imperative, and should be available to all, regardless of status.
Although Darling-Hammond has good intentions and is very idealistic, the reforms she supports must be adopted by the federal government and the states, and it is our leaders who make such decisions. Thus it would be beneficial if they could be convinced of the importance of establishing an equitable educational system for our country’s students. I want these ideals for my own students, and work very hard to provide for them the best that I can with the materials at my disposal. But the changes must be codified by our leaders and elected officials, and should be introduced by their constituents and the teacher’s union.
One area Darling-Hammond neglects is the issue of parents and student discipline. In the lower socio-economic regions there is a lack of parent involvement, so parents would need to be included in any reform initiatives. There has also been more migration of students to different schools, as parents seek out better work opportunities. Any accountability system would need to account for factors such as absenteeism and a greater population of ELL students before punishing schools with undue funding cuts. Darling-Hammond also does not address the increased discipline problems or gang-related issues that plague some of our lower socio-economic areas, and doesn’t lay out a clear plan for those schools and teachers.
Darling-Hammond emphasizes teacher support and training, but some schools receive a greater share of resources than others, and many teachers are not being adequately trained. If the reforms she is working toward actually take place, the area of resources must be stressed as a critical aspect of their success.
Most schools are organized for student learning. Having taught in many districts and schools, however, I have found that each one seems to have their own way of providing content for its students. Should schools have the opportunity to create a culture of learning based on their knowledge of their own communities? Should there be only one method of instruction? Or should schools have more communication with other districts, and share their best ideas and successes with each other?
Overall, Darling-Hammond presents a strong argument, and I agree with her ideals. I am confident that change will occur, but it will take time to convince everyone of the objectives she espouses, and to fully put them into place. Sometimes change is better implemented slowly, on a trial-and-error basis, because this approach can allow for more collaboration and exchange of ideas between educators over time.