This post is more a personal reflection of Diane Ravitch’s recent speaking engagement in my town and my own personal analysis. For a more comprehensive look at that event, look here. I’ll be adding more posts at http://sacteachers.org/ over the next few days. These views are my own opinion, not the union’s, etc.
Diane Ravitch was everything you’d want her to be, but for my money, Linda Darling-Hammond has come to be much more than I expected. What do I mean by this? If you’ve been following the ed “reform” discussion online for a while, as I have, you know a lot of what Diane Ravitch is going to say because we all pass around her bon mots and tweets. She has a great delivery, and I am pleased and proud to have seen her in person, but Darling-Hammond was and has become a more surprising advocate for real education reform. While Ravitch has been hitting the book tour/lecture circuit following writing Death and Life, Hammond has continued her work on education research and policy. Her appearances have largely been at professional conferences where she has discussed her work. I’ve seen her a couple times over the last few years. Most of her work has been on what does work in education, in places like Singapore and Finland (which she has visited), and programs that work or have worked in California and the U.S. (but were often abandoned) I’ll give you a hint, it’s not what’s coming out of US DoEd these days.
The first time I saw her was at CABE in March of 2010. I didn’t blog about that for a number of reasons (I received a pink slip from my job that day, and my school was identified for “turn-around” the following week), but she had a well researched, but quietly delivered presentation on performance gaps and teacher preparation (that’s the part that I caught). What stood out for me was a quote she had from Martin Luther King, Jr.
“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question,
‘Is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’
And Vanity comes along and asks the question,
‘Is it popular?’
But Conscience asks the question ‘Is it right?’
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,
But he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
At that time, Dr. Darling-Hammond was doing a lot of work and speaking on issues around school improvement that clearly pointed in the opposite direction than where Arne Duncan was going, but she was not a Diane Ravitch. At this point, I used to point to Darling-Hammond’s work when folks would say, “That’s nice what Diane Ravitch is saying, but what’s she offering as an alternative?” I love that–were abolitionists supposed to offer an “alternative” to slave labor for the South? I think the quote from MLK reflected the tone that Darling-Hammond was taking of quiet but firm, resistance.
Then, last March, I went to ASCD where she received the Dewey Award, and there was another quote that set the tone, “You can’t fire your way to Finland.” She also clearly and strongly stated that those who say poverty does not matter are wrong. It was clear that she was confronting her opposition more directly and strongly.
I’ve noticed in that speech and last night’s that her arguments are even more meticulous and relentless than Ravitch, and that’s saying something.
Here are some tweets from Friday night…
- In the 1970s we were equalizing incomes, desegregating schools, and the achievement gap would have disappeared if we hadn’t changed course. – LDH
- NCLB identifies the highest need schools with the poorest students. This makes them less desirable to teach in, and to attend. – LDH
- We come into these schools, fire the teachers, close it down, and call that accountability. – LDH
- What reformers don’t talk about is that schools with less than 10% poverty score as well as the top performing countries. Those countries do well because they do not allow children to live in poverty.
- We need to keep the American dream alive. We have cut spending in California in a state that has some of the lowest pupil spending.
But it was perhaps this one at the beginning that was the most surprising:
Linda Darling-Hammond (LDH) If this many people can turn out to see Diane Ravitch imagine how much we could change with marching, etc.?
A call to direct action is really kicking it to the next level.
Little wonder that Diane Ravitch started out her comments with the statement about how she had been urging Linda Darling-Hammond to “come out…(she) came out tonight” I for one, am glad she did because the more voices we have in this fight, the better. That morning, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced that he is forming an Educator Excellence Task Force, which Darling-Hammond will co-chair, so she now has a position to work from, and even if it’s not in DC, I’m glad she’s in California at least.