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on February 15, 2010
This is Linda Darling-Hammond's magnum opus, and it is a magnum opus--complex, thorough, well-written, complete, and thoughtful. Her thesis is that until we in the U.S. do the following, our country will produce hollowed-out children who cannot compete in the global economy: (1) Make a serious, long-term commitment to educational equity by funding all districts equally; (2) Use "thinking curricula" that require students to work together on projects of intellectual import, rather than on meaningless "seatwork"; (3) Professionalize the teaching profession by increasing its status, pay, training, professional development, and requirements for entry, especially in the sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, and so forth; (4) Use a 15- to 20-year timeline for improvement; (5) Stop the yo-yo curriculum innovations that swing U.S. curricula all over the block in unproductive "innovational" oscillations; (6) Stop punitive de-funding or punitive control of "failing schools" through Annual Yearly Progress reports, which have the unintended consequence of over-valuing the results of standardized testing.

Darling-Hammond gives both positive and negative examples of educational innovation. On the positive side in the globe: Singapore, South Korea, and Finland. In the U.S. Connecticut, North Carolina. These are extremely well-written case studies of how to improve education well. On the negative side: The U.S. as a whole, and California in particular, which gutted the #1 public school system in the world over the last 30 years.

In regard to educational equity, Darling-Hammond is particularly passionate, especially since the poor districts are also the immigrant districts are also the most-needy districts and the least well-funded districts. Such disparities in Massachsetts, for example (not mentioned in her book): Newton, MA, just built a $170 million high school; Chelsea, MA, twenty miles away, is bankrupt. Guess where the poor immigrant groups live.

I finished the book by wanting to ask Darling-Hammond questions. For instance, if we created a national action plan to improve education in the U.S., how long would she want it to run, and how much would it cost? What would she do about the multi-tiered political offices that control local education (federal, state, and local)? What would be her #1 curriculum priorities? Would she dispose of useless courses? How would she handle the problems of parent rage and disrespect of teachers? What would be the impact of her reforms on special education and bilingual education, which have poor track records for re-integration or fast integration of students into the overall curriculum?

On my part, I have suspicions about both special education and bilingual education that lasts for six or seven years. Also, Darling-Hammond does not mention that U.S. students study about 50% as much as students in well-functioning countries such as India and China. This lets our students off the hook of improving themselves (see the movie, 2 Million Minutes, which is the amount of time students in the U.S., China, and India spend in high school).

Nevertheless, her overarching conclusion is valid: until and unless we build an equitable, well-funded, comprehensive, across-the-board reformed educational system, U.S. children will never be able to compete in the world economy. That's the nice way of saying our children will come out dumb.

The measure of a good book: one wants to continue the dialogue. Nicely done, Dr. Darling- Hammond!
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on July 5, 2010
My review? In a word: disappointing. I had hoped that Dr. Darling-Hammond would have dispelled the fog surrounding the current national debate on education reform. Instead she only perpetuates many of the same old false assumptions and romantic beliefs dominating policy analysis today - only this time re-packaging them in progressive vestments rather than in the typical "free market" three-piece suit.

Here are a few observations. She spends the first part of the book trying to make the usual case about the dire state of student achievement in the United States. Like so many other recent reformers, she indicts public education relying largely on results from international assessments such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), but fails to provide the necessary interpretive cautions concerning the sampling and other methodological weaknesses of these assessments. The fact that many students in our country receive an outstanding public education is glossed over completely thus justifying the need for universal reform through a complete condemnation of the status quo.

LDH avoids any discussion of cognitive ability and its connection to student achievement, further promoting the romantic fiction that all students can achieve the same performance standards within the same time frame. This omission ignores a critical reality which must be fully explored in the education reform debate - but is never even broached.

The middle section of the book focuses on trying to learn lessons from other countries with reputedly higher student achievement. None of the relevant cautions about such comparisons are cited, while sweeping, unfounded generalizations carry the day. The approach reminds me of much educational research where authors freely discuss cause and effect based on even the slightest positive or negative correlations.

The last third of the book discusses what should be done to fix public education. While there are some worthy targets for improvement, too many familiar hobby horses show up to confuse the discussion. For instance, LDH promotes small (secondary) schools enthusiastically, citing Diane Ravitch as a source. Of course, DR in her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, effectively shreds the argument for small schools.

LDH's lengthy discussion of teacher quality has merit but takes many wrong turns and eventually ends up promoting a set of expensive ideas that will make little difference. And as long as I am mentioning resources, I might as well make sure that you understand that there is no discussion of how her admittedly expensive reform proposals might be funded. Even if her recommendations were spot on, the cost would be prohibitive, at least given the public taxation system in the United States as it is today.

Her best contribution is in the discussion of opportunity to learn and the need to ensure that all students get access to a good basic education - though we differ somewhat on what constitutes a basic education, the engine of opportunity. Yes, there are inequities that need attention. And yes, there are teacher quality issues that need attention. And yes, students need to be appropriately challenged academically. And yes, students need to spend more time in school. But unfortunately this book does not offer much to inform our understanding of these issues or advance a realistic course of action.

The fog still hangs heavy over the debate.
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on May 27, 2011
Linda Darling-Hammond's (LDH) book, The Flat World and Education is both a joy and a heartbreak. We learn in detail how the United States' education system has come to be in the state that it is, and we are overjoyed to see that she details a road map to improvement. But our hearts break when we realize that if we do not help those see this road - those who have the power to make real changes in our educational system, then her roadmap will likely not be followed.

I begin where Linda Darling-Hammond ends this book, with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I said to my children, 'I'm going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don't ever want you to forget that there are millions of God's Children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don't want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.'"

It is appropriate to begin with this because throughout her book, there is the consistent message that educators know what needs to be done to improve education and that we have the power to make positive changes.

The first third of the book outlines the history of our educational system and notes that the U.S. is falling behind other countries as they make significant investments in education reform, including removing rigid centralized structures and increasing investments in teacher education and development. These reforms are long-term in nature versus the US' quick-fix mentality evidenced by "Race to the Top." In addition, LHD focuses on "opportunity gap" by chronicling how inequities in resources and teacher quality impact low-socioeconomic schools. Also, serious attention is given to the inequitable access to rigorous course material for students of color.

Next, LDH states that the U.S. has lead to teachers rushing through the curriculum instead of focusing on quality teaching and students who can answer test questions, but cannot apply their knowledge and skills. In addition, these accountability reforms have lead to policies that punish low-performing students and schools instead of providing the supports they need.

The next third of the book focuses on inequitable funding and the relationship between funding and quality. Darling-Hammond provides evidence that builds a relationship between funding and equity and describes how investments in quality pre-school experiences and quality pedagogy have demonstrable impacts. LDH then uses three states' examples that demonstrate investment in improving teacher quality and early learning experiences. These examples are then compared to international countries where long-term (over 30 year), consistent, and coherent educational reforms have made huge strides in educational outcomes. The commonalties of these strides become the basis for Darling-Hammond's American educational vision:
- Equitable funding
- Eliminated tracking systems
- Focused learning standards/outcomes on higher order thinking skills
- Developed national teaching policies to develop stronger teacher education programs

No LHD publication would be complete without a strong focus on improving teacher preparation and quality by overhauling teacher preparation. This work leaves no doubt about her commitment to fixing teacher recruitment and retention, and creating opportunities to share teacher knowledge and skill to create widespread expertise that can improve schools.

In the final pages of the book the "joy" shines through. Her vision for what quality schools is crystal clear. Our school systems should move towards smaller schools that keep students and teachers together for multiple years. In addition, inquiry and project-based structures should be used to promote intellectually challenging, personalized and relevant instruction that is assessed through performance-based measures. Teachers and administrators should be collaborative learners as they focus on continual improvement. Her roadmap also includes creating meaningful learning goals to guide curriculum in schools. These learning goals should be complemented by appropriate state and local assessment systems that evaluate students' abilities to solve problems, and explain and defend their ideas. Policies must be enacted to equalize funding and improve teacher quality. In addition, increases in funding for recruitment and retention of quality teachers in high-need areas and mentoring programs are needed. Significant attention to reforming school cultures and structures to focus on collaborative learning is also needed.
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on November 21, 2012
To truly appreciate this book, you are going to need to set aside some time to digest each chapter. The whimsical illustration on the cover of the young child laying on a map of the world with a computer doesn't do just to the depth of research contained throughout this book. It is impossible to read this book without seeing just how far America has gone afoul in public education over the last 40 years. You will experience sobering moments as you read what we have done to the last generation of children in this country.

The hopeful news is that Linda lays out a pretty clear roadmap for moving forward and discusses several countries and states that have improved their outcomes through deliberate attention to equity. Since it is true that the grass gets greener where you water it, an equity focus over time will not only increase outcomes for the students who are the most behind, it will increase outcomes for all students. There is a lot of talk and confusion about equity in education circles today. This book focuses on the true definition of equity which is the ability to meet the needs of individual students and provide the support each child needs to be successful. You can design a public education system that does exactly that. Linda not only explains it, but shows examples of where it has been done successfully. Achievement gaps are not inherent. They can be addressed, and a focus on equity is how that happens.

Read it and weep. I did. I hope we can learn from this masterpiece here in Oregon.
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on June 15, 2014
When you read this you will get very angry... You may get angry because you are part of the problem, or you may get angry because you want to fix the problem. Either way its is a book worth reading, especially if care about the future of education and the rights for all of our students to have a great education.
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on May 3, 2014
I purchased this book for a class and I am so glad that I had the chance to read it. It is a captivating read that is absolutely eye-opening in its examination of the current American education system, the future of our nation's education system, and how we stack up against other nations. Darling-Hammond, a Standford professor and an education advocate is very aware of the realities of testing, funding inequality, and teacher preparation and how each influences our current system. The school to prison-pipeline, charter schools, and innovative teacher preparation programs are all taken into consideration as Darling-Hammond examines the current system. With strong data, dynamic cases, and eloquent voice, Darling-Hammond makes a clear case of what has gone wrong in education as it is currently employed, and makes compelling suggestions about what can be done to return America to its former glory as a strong educationally-minded nation.
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on November 6, 2011
Very good resource material with a lot of in depth analysis and quality research background information. The author does a good presentation with good references. This material will be good for future overall reference.
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on September 26, 2011
Do you think the people on television are crazy about what to do about education reform? Do you want to know that we can do education right and what it will take? Then you need to read this book. Everyone getting ready to vote needs to read this book. There are better options than privatization, charters, and failure. Darling-Hammond can guide you and challenge you.
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on June 26, 2016
With some really good books, you can look at the table of contents and see that the book is going to be good. That is the case with this book. The index does the same thing. The theme of the book has to do with social justice, equal opportunity and education and how intimately they are linked. The author covers all of the important subjects extremely well, Finland, Korea, Singapore, testing, etc.. "The experience of [high performing] school systems suggests that three things matter most: 1) getting the right people to become teachers; 2) developing them into effective instructors and; 3) ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child" --Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed (How the World's Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top) p. 194

Anyone interested in education should read this book. There are two good 5 star review here by Sandra Day and Stephen Armstrong. I suggest reading those. Professor Darling-Hammond renews my faith in academia. Other good books and information on education here: mwir-education.blogspot com. I create and maintain educational websites, Midwest Independent Research.
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on December 1, 2013
Great read, good overview of the problems in our educational system and some good ideas for solutions. I needed to have it for a class, but because of my interest in educational reform, its a great book to have.
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