Texts from the many speeches that were given last weekend at the Save Our Schools March have begun to trickle in. Valerie Strauss posted the remarks of Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammonds last night.
The Stanford professor helped candidate Barack Obama draft an education plan, then served as an advisor on his transition team. The president clearly never considered much of what she said as she has spent the last two years vigorously opposing the administration’s test-based policies. Darling-Hammond mocks today’s school reformers – with a tip of the hat to Marie-Antoinette – by characterizing the message they’ve been sending the nation’s children as, “let them eat tests.”
Our leaders seek to solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepening levels of poverty an ‘excuse,’ rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without health care and without food. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don’t look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for their schools, or investments in professional learning. Don’t worry about the fact that the next schools are – as researchers have documented – likely to do no better. If the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers. [And whatever you do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.]
The test-based school reform movement has been making hay with themes (innovation), mantras (hold teachers accountable) and rhetorical questions (are you for the status quo?). This clever propaganda has rolled along largely unchallenged; until this past weekend that is. Now that their propaganda and plans are being outlined by voices of experience and integrity like Linda Darling-Hammond’s, the national dialogue on the future of education isn’t going to be so one-sided anymore.