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Linda Darling-Hammond on the common core standards

October 24, 2013
Diane Ravitch's blog
Linda Darling-Hammond responds to the Common Core Standards and what can be done to improve curriculum and assessment in U.S. schools.
Diane Ravitch

Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University is a highly respected figure in American education. She was Barack Obama’s spokesperson during the 2008 campaign, and many educators expected and hoped that she would be selected as Secretary of Education. How different the scene would be if that had happened!

I have been trying to persuade Linda to learn how to tweet (I say, there is nothing to it, if I can do it, anyone can do it), but she doesn’t have time. I want her to blog, but she is engaged in major multi-year studies. When I think of the people with the knowledge, the presence, and the stature to lead the battle against the bad policies that are now stifling our nation’s children, her name comes to mind.

She did write a blog and gave me permission to post. It was in response to a question about her views on the Common Core. Linda has played a role in developing the Smarter Balanced assessment, which is supposed to be more attuned to student thinking and performance than the other one (PARCC).

This was her answer:

My view about what we should be doing re: curriculum and assessments can be found in the last chapter of my book, The Flat World and Education, where I describe how many other countries create thoughtful curriculum guidance as part of an integrated teaching and learning system. In short, what I would prefer and what other more deliberative countries do is a careful process by which educators are regularly convened over several years to revise the national or state curriculum expectations (typically national in smaller countries like Finland and Singapore, and state or provincial in large ones like Canada and China). Then there is an equally careful process of developing curriculum materials and assessments (managed by the Ministry or Department of Education with the participation of educators) and organizing intensive professional development. The development process takes at least 3 years and the initial implementation process takes about the same amount of time and deeply involves educators all along the way. Unfortunately, this was not the process that was used to develop and roll out the CCSS.

But the CCSS is what we have now, so what do we do about it? I think there are some elements of the CCSS documents that are potentially useful in setting our sights on higher order thinking and performance skills, and those are important. However, I am fearful that they will be badly implemented in many states. What we should do is take time – at least the next 3 years – to develop curriculum resources that teachers can select, adapt, try out, and refine together in collegial professional development settings within and across their schools. We should use the standards as guideposts and not straitjackets. And we should develop robust performance-based assessments of the kind I describe in my book that provide exciting opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning and for teachers to be engaged in development and scoring – used for information and improvement, not for sanctions and punishments.

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