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Linda Darling-Hammond Launches Think Tank, With Washington, D.C. Office

By Sarah D. Sparks — September 03, 2015 3 min read
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Crossposted from Inside School Research.

Stanford education heavy-hitter Linda Darling-Hammond has launched a new think tank intended to bring evidence into education policy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based Learning Policy Institute launched this week with 30 researchers and a board including some big education names, such Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the director of Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, and Kris Gutiérrez, a language, literacy and culture professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Learning Policy Institute will be based in Palo Alto, Calif. but will also have a Washington office. And it’s coming on the scene at a time of major transition in areas like accountability and assessment. Congress is about to pass a bill reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act that’s almost certain to give states a lot more running room when it comes to gauging school and student performance. Darling-Hammond has already outlined her vision for the future of K-12 accountability in this report, and is advising states, including New Hampshire, on putting it into practice.

Darling-Hammond, who advised President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, said she wants the Learning Policy Institute to dig into education issues bubbling up in California and the rest of the nation on education finance and school design and organization, as well as teacher professional development.

“We want to answer the question of what works, when does it work, how and why does it work,” she told me.

In that, the institute sounds an awful lot like most other education policy think tanks. So why create yet another one?

Though K-12 educators and policymakers often note a shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy, she said, they have not yet figured out what school structures and policies are needed to actually prepare students for that kind of future.

“There’s been a knowledge explosion, and we know children have to learn differently—higher-order-thinking skills, deeper learning,” she said. “That’s a very big agenda that is right in front of us, coming at a rapid pace. How do we help teachers—who may never have been taught in these ways themselves—to learn how to teach ... everything Google is looking for when they hire young people?”

For example, among the first issues Darling-Hammond said the institute plans to investigate is early childhood education, in which state policies and programs vary considerably and “only some of [the state policies] have had really strong outcomes for children. For the states that are working, what’s their design, their implementation strategy, how are they doing it?” she said.

Darling-Hammond said her background and team will help the group build a high-quality research reputation.

“One of the problems with research is researchers often chose topic that interests them, but it doesn’t always come at a time and format that interests policymakers,” she said. “We have to get out of the idea that dissemination is writing and article and put in a journal--though that needs to be done and its good to do it--and ... become part of a collaborative conversation with practice and policy.”

The institute has some $5 million in initial funding and support from The Atlantic Philanthropies, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Sandler Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and also the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which also provides support for Education Week coverage of deeper learning issues.

Photo: Linda Darling-Hammond, emeritus education professor at Stanford University, will be president and chief executive officer of the newly launched Learning Policy Institute. Source: Education Week


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