Education Funding

Darling-Hammond Testifies in Colo. Funding Trial

By Todd Engdahl, Education News Colorado — August 22, 2011 4 min read

The 862-student district is 78.3 percent free and reduced lunch, 71.1 percent minority and is rated by the state as accredited with priority improvement plan. Read the district’s three-year performance report and its improvement plan.

Stanford teaching expert Linda Darling-Hammond used a Denver courtroom Friday afternoon to give a seminar on teaching best practices and implementation of standards-based reforms but offered only broad comments about Colorado and its reforms.

Darling-Hammond is perhaps the best known of the national expert witnesses for the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State school funding case, which ended its third week.

The author of numerous books and articles, Darling-Hammond is former president of the American Education Research Association, advised the 2008 Obama campaign and is known for her critiques of using value-added measures—test scores—in teacher evaluations.

The central claim of the lawsuit is that Colorado’s school finance system doesn’t meet the “thorough and uniform” education requirements of the state constitution.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers Kathleen Gebhardt and David Hinojosa repeatedly questioned Darling-Hammond about the need for more resources to implement standards-based education, close achievement gaps and address other educational challenges. Among her answers were:

“I think we have a lot of data that resources can and do make a difference,” especially “well and strategically” spent resources.

“New Jersey become one of the highest achieving states in the country” after a lawsuit forced a change in the funding system.

“It would be hard to believe” Colorado can successfully implement new content standards “without investments.”

Here’s a sampling of her testimony on other education issues:

Test scores and teacher evaluation: “There’s a lot of concern right now in the research community about the validity of these measures,” which she said have “large error and bias.”

Charter schools: “Charters in general are twice as likely to underperform regular public schools serving similar students.”

Educator collaboration: “The strongest achievement gains come from a team of teachers working together.” (On the use of paraprofessionals, she said there’s “no evidence that [use of] paraprofessionals is the best way boost achievement.”)

Differentiated instruction: Teachers “can’t teach to the middle of the class,” and “differentiated instruction is a set of strategies teachers need to acquire.”

Implementing reforms: “It all comes back to what teachers are able to do.”

Professional development: States can do good professional development “much more efficiently than a lot of little tiny school districts. … The state does have a role in professional development even in local control states.”

Standards: “Standards don’t teach themselves,” and successful implementation of new standards requires retooling of curriculum, lots of staff training and maybe even reorganization of schools.

Unions: She defended the need for master contracts but said that “doesn’t mean you can’t have innovation in compensation.”

Darling-Hammond spent a lot of time talking about international comparisons, saying most other developed nations provide much more professional development funding, equal funding for schools and better induction programs. She also noted that comparisons putting the U.S. high in education spending as a percentage of gross domestic product are misleading because they include the heavy costs of teacher fringe benefits, such as health insurance, which schools don’t pay in other nations.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Carey Markel’s cross-examination of Darling-Hammond was brief. The lawyer asked about the fee paid by Mapleton school district for work by the School Redesign Network ($35,000), with which Darling-Hammond is affiliated; Darling-Hammond’s fees as an expert witness ($300 an hour); whether she interviewed any Colorado district officials for her report (no), and how long she worked as a high school English teacher (one year).

“I have no further questions,” Markel said.

Next Friday, the defense is expected to call its key national witness, another Stanford-affiliated scholar. Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution is an economist who takes a different view than Darling-Hammond about education spending.

Families tell their stories

Morning testimony included two parents from Rocky Ford, testifying about the problems and limitations faced by their children. Armandina Ortega and Roberto Pizano, both testifying through translators, said they don’t feel their children will receive adequate academic preparation.

From EdNews Colorado

The 862-student district is 78.3 percent free and reduced lunch, 71.1 percent minority and is rated by the state as accredited with priority improvement plan. Read the district’s three-year performance report and its improvement plan.

Republished with permission from Education News Colorado. Copyright © 2010 Public Education & Business Coalition. For more information, visit


Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding To Get Billions in COVID-19 Aid, States Pledge Focus on Mental Health, Learning Recovery
Twenty-eight states had submitted plans to the Education Department as of mid-June to access $41 billion from the American Rescue Plan.
4 min read
Illustration of money floating in a life preserver.
Education Funding Some in Congress Fear State Budget Decisions May Undercut COVID-19 Education Relief
A dispute in Wisconsin over coronavirus relief underscores how technical issues and politics are affecting education spending decisions.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding There Are Big Funding Gaps Affecting High-Poverty Schools. Can Biden Close Them?
Hurdles lie ahead for a $20 billion bid to create "Title I equity grants" to address long-standing funding inequities.
9 min read
President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden made boosting Title I for disadvantaged students a key part of his education platform on the campaign trail.
Susan Walsh/AP
Education Funding Education Department Issues Directive on Shielding Students in Poverty From Funding Cuts
The agency released the "maintenance of equity" guidance on COVID-19 relief as part of a public-relations blitz on equity amid the pandemic.
5 min read
Image of a $100 dollar bill that is cut into blocks for distribution.