An incredibly important piece on teaching and education

Sometimes one encounters something that needs no commentary from me – it is complete in itself. I want to share something like that about teaching and education.

People who follow the blog Valerie Strauss runs at the Washington Post, the Answer Sheet, experienced that. Valerie often cross-posts things written elsewhere. Occasionally she posts something written directly for her. This morning she posted a piece by Linda Darling-Hammond, who is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University and was Founding Director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. Linda — who is a friend — now directs the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

When I read it I asked for – and received – Linda’s permission to crosspost it here and at some other sites to give it more visibility. Let me offer just a few words of introduction, then let Linda’s words speak without further commentary from me.

Linda Darling-Hammond is one of the most important figures researching and writing about education. I have written about her work before, most notably this review of her book The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future

Linda Darling-Hammond was a close adviser on education to then-Senator Obama during his presidential campaign. Many of my compatriots had hoped she would be named Secretary of Education. But she had published some research which made people associated with Teach for America unhappy, and there was organized pushback against her. I suspect that some from my perspective on educational issues would be far happier to have seen her at the Department rather than Arne Duncan.

So be it. Darling-Hammond remains an important voice on issue of education. The piece you are about to read should speak for itself.

Please read it carefully.

And I thank you in advance for doing so, and ask that you also make sure it gets widely distributed.


The first ever International Summit on Teaching, convened last week in New York City, showed perhaps more clearly than ever that the United States has been pursuing an approach to teaching almost diametrically opposed to that pursued by the highest-achieving nations.

In a statement rarely heard these days in the United States, the Finnish Minister of Education launched the first session of last week’s with the words: “We are very proud of our teachers.” Her statement was so appreciative of teachers’ knowledge, skills, and commitment that one of the U.S. participants later confessed that he thought she was the teacher union president, who, it turned out, was sitting beside her agreeing with her account of their jointly-constructed profession.

There were many “firsts” in this remarkable Summit. It was the first time the United States invited other nations to our shores to learn from them about how to improve schools, taking a first step beyond the parochialism that has held us back while others have surged ahead educationally.

It was the first time that government officials and union leaders from 16 nations met together in candid conversations that found substantial consensus about how to create a well-prepared and accountable teaching profession.

And it was, perhaps, the first time that the growing de-professionalization of teaching in America was recognized as out of step with the strategies pursued by the world’s educational leaders.

Evidence presented at the Summit showed that, with dwindling supports, most teachers in the U.S must go into debt in order to prepare for an occupation that pays them, on average, 60% of the salaries earned by other college graduates. Those who work in poor districts will not only earn less than their colleagues in wealthy schools, but they will pay for many of their students’ books and supplies themselve

And with states’ willingness to lower standards rather than raise salaries for the teachers of the poor, a growing number of recruits enter with little prior training, trying to learn on-the-job with the uneven mentoring provided by cash-strapped districts. It is no wonder that a third of U.S. beginners leave within the first five years, and those with the least training leave at more than twice the rate of those who are well-prepared.

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