Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Balanced Optimism: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Balanced Optimism: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond

Article excerpt

The three driving concerns of Darling-Hammond's career were put in place by her early work and personal experiences: the serious and thoughtful training of highly professional teachers; the elimination of inequities in school funding; and the increased personalization of schools that are too large and have too many children per teacher.

FOR HER entire career, Linda Darling-Hammond, the Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Teaching and Teacher Education at Stanford University, has been a drumbeater for better training for teachers, increased equity in schools, and more personal schools. Darling-Hammond grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she and her learning-disabled brother collectively experienced several of that system's schools and many tracks in the 1960s. Young Linda could not help but notice the difference between her rigorous education in the upper echelons of the 13-track junior high school they attended and the much inferior education of her brother. Her parents moved several times "to find better schools in the community for their children. There was always the sense that education was the most important thing and that I would go to college, although no one in my immediate family had yet had that opportunity."

Darling-Hammond graduated magna cum laude from Yale in 1973 and then got her teacher certification at Temple University in Philadelphia. She student taught in Camden, New Jersey, and began her first full-time job at Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania. There she experienced some of the difficulties of schooling, particularly for poor children of color, from the perspective of a first-year English teacher. Linda "had some of the usual beginning teacher experiences: no classroom (I was a floater), the most preparations, many of the kids who had failed English the year before, very little mentoring, and the almost immediate realization that I was underprepared by my education program for the real needs of the classroom. The tracking system compounded the inequities. I had 170 kids each day, many of them poor learners, and it was impossible to get to know all of them and be available to them or to protect them outside my class. All of this radicalized me."

While Darling-Hammond's emphases as a teacher, researcher, and college professor over the next 25 years would shift somewhat from job to job, the three driving concerns of her career were set in place as a result of her early work and personal experiences: the serious and thoughtful training of highly professional teachers; the elimination of inequities in school funding, resources, and access to the best teachers; and the increased personalization of schools that are too large and have too many children for each teacher. Her frustration over not being able to help a student who had been pushed through the system for 12 years but could not read and her anger about another student who was "a fabulous writer and a brilliant young man" but who was expelled without her even being informed motivated Linda Darling-Hammond to deepen her own education and to contribute to changes in the system that had created these problems.

In 1978 Darling-Hammond received her Ed.D. with highest distinction from Temple University. She had already worked as a reading and study skills teacher at Temple, as a researcher at the Education Law Center in Philadelphia, and as a senior research associate with the School Finance Reform Project at the National Urban Coalition in Washington, D.C. In 1979 she accepted a position as a social scientist at the RAND Corporation in Washington and remained there for 10 years.

RAND was an important opportunity for a young, well-educated, and committed researcher. "The work was multidisciplinary, the culture was very collegial, and the standards were extremely high. You got lots of critique and feedback on your work." Darling-Hammond's initial interest was school finance and equity, but "at some point it became clear that, while school improvement clearly required more resources, the problems could not be solved by those resources alone. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.