Sunday, December 14, 2008

More on Obama and the Battle of the Education Reformers

The split in educational policy frameworks within the democratic party that was discussed last week by David Brooks is widening and getting nastier. According to a new article in the Times "there is mystery not only about the person he will choose, but also about the approach to overhauling the nation’s schools that his selection will reflect."

As characterized by Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, one camp, led by Linda Darling-Hammond, and supported by the teachers unions, advocates improving teacher training and teaching conditions. Darling-Hammond (a graduate of my department at Temple), is the Charles E. Ducommon Professor of Education at Stanford.

The other side, led by "efficiency" reformers such as New York school Chancellor Joel Klein, favors merit pay and limits to tenure. The efficiency reformers say that the Darling-Hammond camp, though clever at hiding it, is opposed to significant reform. The Darling-Hammond camp say that the efficiency reformers are tough love --- without the love.

So far, no hint from President-elect Obama about which camp will dominate educational policy in the new administration.

Both sides considerable negatives when viewed from the progressive point of view. The Darling-Hammond side may be too entrenched in status quo institutions and approaches. The Klein camp is much more experimental, but its experimentation is driven by considerations of narrow efficiency.

What do others think about this choice?

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