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NASBE Names Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond as Policy Leader of the Year

Darling-Hammond, an esteemed educator, researcher, and president of the California State Board of Education, is a leading voice for improving educational outcomes for all students and an innovator in education policy.

Alexandria, Va.—The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is pleased to honor Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education, as its 2023 Policy Leader of the Year. The award is given annually to an individual who has had a broad, substantial impact on education policy and the education system.

Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus, Stanford University, and founding president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), which provides high-quality research and elevates evidence-based policies that support empowering, equitable learning for every child. At Stanford, she founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program, which she helped to redesign.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Darling-Hammond as president of the California State Board of Education in 2019 and reappointed her in 2023. Under her leadership, the state board has engaged in transformative work to improve public education for 5.8 million California students and their families:

  • Through the California Community School Partnership Program, more than 1,000 California schools are implementing an integrated approach to improving student outcomes through high-quality academics, health and social services, and family and community engagement. The state board supported the design of the $4.1 billion initiative and approved more than $1.4 billion thus far in planning and implementation grants.
  • The board is strengthening the state accountability and continuous improvement systems to focus on the needs of the whole child, to identify and meet the needs of students who have been historically underserved, and to incorporate indicators of career readiness and civic engagement into measures of school outcomes.
  • The board adopted the California Comprehensive State Literacy Plan, which aligns and integrates state literacy initiatives, content standards, and state guidance to support teachers of students from birth through grade 12.
  • The board adopted the 2023 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, which provides instructional guidance aligned to the state’s rigorous standards. The framework illustrates how math can be taught in equitable ways that deepen understanding, connect to real-world problems, and enable more students to excel in advanced math.

Under Darling-Hammond’s leadership, the board also provided guidance on schools’ use of digital learning tools to address key areas of instructional focus, offered a model curriculum for ethnic studies, and approved instructional materials for world languages and visual performing arts aligned to state curriculum frameworks.

Darling-Hammond co-chaired the state’s master plan for universal prekindergarten. The plan has guided enactment and implementation of transitional kindergarten for all four-year-olds—a new grade to be fully implemented by 2025–26—and expansion of preschool for three-year-olds.

A leading voice for high-quality, student-centered education for all students, Darling-Hammond played a leading role in establishing the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. At LPI, she oversees seminal and cutting edge research addressing educator preparation, recruitment, and retention; early childhood education; the science of learning and development; school funding; assessment; and other work that fosters student-centered, equity-focused school transformation.

She is past chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, past president of the American Educational Research Association, and recipient of AERA awards for Distinguished Contributions to Research, Lifetime Achievement, and Research-to-Policy. From 1994 to 2001, she led the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, whose 1996 report What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future was named one of the most influential reports affecting U.S. education in that decade. She led the Obama education policy transition team in 2008 and the Biden education transition team in 2020. In 2022, she received the Yidan Prize for Education Research.

Darling-Hammond began her career as a public school teacher and co-founded both a preschool and a public high school. She was director of the RAND Corporation’s education program and an endowed professor at Columbia University, Teachers College.

“I am honored to be the recipient of this year’s Policy Leader award,” said Darling-Hammond. “I share this recognition with all our dedicated state board members, with Governor Newsom, who cares passionately about education and children’s well-being, with our hard-working State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and the Department of Education team, and with our leaders in the state legislature. I am proud of California’s work to set in motion a true whole-child transformation of public schools. I look forward to continuing to improve the quality of public education for the students and families we serve.”

“The Policy Leader of the Year award is the highest honor that state board of education members can bestow,” said NASBE President and CEO Paolo DeMaria. “We are honored to recognize Dr. Darling-Hammond for her policy leadership in California and nationally. She is a powerful voice for creating equitable, effective education systems that meet the needs of all students.”

The 2023 Policy Leader of the Year award will be presented to Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond during NASBE’s Annual Conference in San Diego, California, October 25-28.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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