Linda Darling-Hammond’s Visit to Bing
By Todd Erickson, Teacher
U.S. education policymakers would benefit from a visit to Bing, said Linda Darling-Hammond, PhD, Stanford’s Charles E. Ducommun Professor in the School of Education. She also serves as an education policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama. Darling-Hammond, who spoke to Bing teachers at a staff development day held in April, was noted by Education Week as one of the 10 most influential people in the field of education over the last decade. A visit to Bing, acknowledged Darling-Hammond, would either introduce or reintroduce policymakers to the concept of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP)—and, more importantly, its value. Unlike most K-8 classrooms, preschools tend to emphasize DAP, which shapes classroom experiences to each child’s stage of development. According to Darling-Hammond, DAP allows children to grow along trajectories in multiple modalities, including emotional, physical, social and moral. And a child’s development, especially in the social and emotional modalities, influences academic performance, the gold standard in our current educational climate.
Education based on DAP faces three challenges, according to Darling-Hammond: lack of effective professional training and advocacy, America’s obsession with immediate results, which fuels the urge for earlier and earlier academics, and lack of understanding on the part of policymakers. Darling-Hammond challenged Bing teachers to educate their student teachers about early childhood development and to become even more outspoken about developmentally appropriate practice. Early childhood educators, Darling-Hammond observed, should “share upward” with K-8 educators, who are often not trained in DAP. The concern for immediate results stems in large part from anxious parents. Darling-Hammond again pointed to parental education and grassroots organization as the keys to helping parents better understand America’s educational playing field, which is rife with inequality and features a generation of active children—especially boys—who are being misunderstood, labeled with deficiencies such as ADD and medicated. As a first-rate laboratory school, Bing is in a unique position, Darling-Hammond noted, to make a vocal case for play-based learning and DAP through grassroots parental organization, political and professional influence and available cutting-edge research.
Educational policy took center stage during our dialogue. Bing can shape the educational debate, Darling-Hammond reminded us, by inviting local and federal lawmakers to visit the school, where they can see the power of DAP through the school’s potent mix of research and practice. Educators can also reach out to the policymakers through phone calls, letters and other forums, both public and private. If teachers assert themselves as experts, policymakers might later turn to them for guidance when they fine-tune educational policy. To elevate the occupation’s status, work must be done to raise the salaries of early childhood educators, Darling-Hammond said. She reported that Senator Obama has promised that if elected, he will budget $10 billion for early childhood education and an additional $8 billion for teacher development and other K-12 school reforms.
Linda Darling-Hammond’s visit to Bing reminded us once again of the importance of our work as teachers and our responsibility to advocate for children by sharing our research and experience with students, parents and policymakers alike.