District Administration August 2016 - 12

OnTopic Linda Darling-Hammond By Tim Goral Letting solutions-not ideology-drive policy New organization aims to enhance education practice by helping policy-makers access research Apart from the sciences, there are few areas as heavily steeped in research as education. But, says Linda Darling-Hammond, "too often, important education research is left on the shelf and not used to inform policy decisions." A professor emeritus at Stanford University's School of Education, Darling-Hammond leads the national Learning Policy Institute (http:// DAmag.me/lpi) in conducting and disseminating independent, highquality research to improve education practice. Key to its mission is making that research easily understandable so legislators and other leaders can build policy on evidence rather than ideology. Once considered a candidate for secretary of education under President Obama, Darling-Hammond has seen how federal and state government policies impact schools on the local level, particularly when it comes to teaching, learning and assessment. "It's become clear to many that fighting old, divisive battles over last century's education models won't prepare our children for the new world they face," she says. DAmag.me/policy 12 August 2016 Give me a bit of background about the origins of the Learning Policy Institute. The idea of it is that the nature of society and learning expectations and knowledge expansion is rapidly changing. The kind of education we need our young people to have is going to be increasingly built around their ability to learn, to be able to access and weigh information, put it together with other information, make sense out of it, and collaborate with others to solve problems. It can't be a transmission curriculum, as in, "Here are the facts you need to know for life. We're going to tell them to you. You are going to remember them and spit them back on a test." So, one key idea in the Learning Policy Institute is that we need policy that is supportive of the changes that will be needed to instantiate this kind of learning. That's a tall order in the current political environment. Recently we've had a very hostile policy environment because we need to transform the way we think about curriculum and assessment and instruction. But it means changing the policy system, which otherwise will just reinforce a factory model image that we've had guiding our policies since the early 1900s. To achieve change we need to help educators learn new strategies and pedagogies. It means designing schools so they can support that new kind of learning and teaching. It means redesigning systems so that they can enable that kind of schooling which will go beyond the school walls. As you might imagine, I was stimu- lated to think about doing this when the idea was proposed to me in part because we had so much to do to rethink and redesign our policy environment and our practical work on the heels of No Child Left Behind-which really left America behind for a good 15 years while other countries were stepping up around the 21st century demands. As you create this new research, are you also surveying older research? Yes, because policy isn't made based on a single study. No one says, "Oh, I did my one study and I've discovered the cures for everything." We have a body of evidence that the profession is built on, and you have to weigh and balance and make sure that you are representing the best evidence. And policy typically has no institutional memory. Policy-makers come and go. So yes, our goal is to assemble and synthesize prior research, as well as invest in new research. We conduct and commission and collate and assemble the research and evidence that can inform policy. Then we carry it directly into the policy arena and work with policy-makers to enable them to conceptualize and develop policies that are evidence-based and likely to have the effects that people hope they will have. How will you make your research more accessible to policy-makers? It's partly a function of organizing it in such a way that people can understand it. I'll give you an example: We had been working on issues of early childhood education. A number of organizations that were trying to understand how to District Administration http://www.DAmag.me/lpi http://www.DAmag.me/policy

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration August 2016

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