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Supporting teachers is the way to improve schools (op-ed by Linda Darling-Hammond)

September 9, 2014
SF Gate
Chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and Stanford Professor, Linda Darling-Hammond, notes the past challenges for students and teachers in Calif, but cites reasons to hope that the state has turned the corner and is once again on the rise.
Linda Darling-Hammond

All students in California deserve great teaching. The recent Vergara lawsuit suggested that eliminating teachers' due process rights is the best way to achieve this. But if it were that simple, the highest achievement would be in the states where teachers lack these rights, mostly in the South. In fact, the reverse is true. The highest-achieving states in the country - and the highest-achieving countries in the world - have the strongest protections for teachers.

These states and countries realize what parents know: The path to great teaching and good schools lies in recruiting top talent, preparing teachers extremely well, ensuring that they meet high standards for entry, and then providing them with resources, learning opportunities and ongoing feedback that enables them to continuously improve. Ultimately, we cannot fire our way to Finland (one of the world's highest-achieving nations academically). We have to teach our way there.

California ranked 50th

In California, the most important job right now is rebuilding the profession and the public schools after years of debilitating cuts, which is the job Gov. Jerry Brown and California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson have undertaken over the past 3 1/2 years, with extraordinary results.

When this team took office, California schools were in free fall - cutting budgets and laying off teachers by the tens of thousands. Among all states, California was 50th in the numbers of teachers, administrators, librarians and counselors per student.

The turnaround since then has been dramatic. Brown and Torlakson mobilized parents, educators and businesspeople across the state to pass Proposition 30, which stopped the free fall and brought new resources into schools.

They then enacted one of the nation's most progressive school funding systems, which allocates resources according to student needs and puts decisions about education back in the hands of local communities.

Read the full story in SFGate.

Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles E. Ducommun Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

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