Is the secret to Finnish schools Finns or is there something for America to learn?

I am on my way to the General Assembly for the morning rally for school choice and the late afternoon hearing on HOPE.

Going to the Legislature is always a bit depressing because so many legislators focus on a single “fix” for schools. Of late, the fix of the day at the Legislature has been school choice, mostly through expanding charter school options but also through providing vouchers.

What always surprises me about the education reform debate in the General Assembly is that it never looks outward at what is succeeding elsewhere. It fixates on a few magic bullets rather than on a cohesive and comprehensive reform approach.

When shown successful school reform models elsewhere in the world, politicians and educators alike often scoff that there are no lessons for America.

So, in mentioning the remarkable ascent of Finnish schools from historic mediocrity to world dominance, I expect to be told that Finland’s schools are full of focused Finns, and the U.S. can never hope to duplicate the successful data of a Finland or a Canada or a Singapore.

“My experience is that American educators have a list as long as my arm of reasons why this data is irrelevant, totally irrelevant,” said Marc S. Tucker, author of “Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems,” at a recent Education Week panel.

“These other countries educate just a few and we educate everyone. The sampling procedures are clearly wrong. They are totally homogeneous country. We are very diverse,” he said, ticking off the common excuses.

“There is no truth to most of these points, but there is enough conviction among American educators that they are true that they pay no attention at all.  We have to get beyond that,” said Tucker,  CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy.

“These folks are eating our lunch in a matter that will have greater bearing on the success of this country in the next 20 to 30 years than any other,” he said.

“Canada, which is even more decentralized country than us, more diverse and spends less money on education, is beating the pants off of us every time an assessment is done,” said Gary Phillips, a senior researcher at the American Institutes for Research. “They are just right up the street.”

The problem, say the experts, is that too many states don’t look up the street or across the world to see what is working.
Nor do our lawmakers, many of whom prefer to champion slogans rather than come up solutions. More school choice!  Offer vouchers!  End teacher unions!

Finland has a strong teachers union, a national curriculum no private schools, yet it is leading the world in student performance.

Finland — and other successful countries — understand that a single policy or a hodgepodge of policies won’t work. You need a coherent system of policies aimed at the same goal. Finland began with a commitment to providing all children the same educational opportunities, and  realized that raising teacher quality was the key.

“We are having a president’s race in Finland now and education is one of those things that everyone agrees must not be touched. Funding should not be touched, nor should education be privatized,” said Pasi Sahlberg, author of “Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?”

“We never used excellence as a driver of education reform; we wanted equity and equality as the most important drivers. Funding flows to those who have special needs,” said Sahlberg. “We don’t measure schools so we don’t say this is a bad school or this is a good school in terms of funding. All funding is based on need.”

Finnish schools provide three daily meals. Each has a nurse or doctor so children receive annual checkups. Recess is sacrosanct. In fact, Finnish children spend less time in class and have less homework than American students, and there is no high-stakes testing before the 12th grade.

But the real reform that changed Finnish schools, once in the lower ranks of performance with great gaps in achievement among its students, was the professionalization of teachers in the 1970s and 1980s.

All teachers now have master’s degrees and are trained as researchers “so they understand what they are doing, how they should improve and change their own work,” said Sahlberg. “In Finland, we believe it takes 10,000 hours before you are at the peak of your profession.” In America, he said, many teachers quit before that point.

Finland upgraded standards and admissions for teaching programs and moved them from third-tier institutions to research universities. Along with enhancing status, Finland raised teacher salaries. It’s now more difficult to get into a teaching program than into law or medicine.

While U.S. colleges could impose tougher admissions standards and attract higher-caliber teaching applicants, they could not influence states to commensurately raise salaries.

“What Finland has done about teacher quality is one part of larger framework and all the pieces fit together,” said Tucker. “We keep making minor changes to an education system that is 100 years out of date. It is not that the United States has a bad system. We have no system.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

97 comments Add your comment

KIM

January 25th, 2012
10:42 am

This is very enlightening and ignites my curiosity to do more reading about Finland’s education policies and implementation of them. Thanks

APS parent of 2

January 25th, 2012
11:02 am

Quality teaching is the key to great schools. If we continue to overwork and underpay our teachers, the best of them will leave for better opportunities. You get what you pay for.

thomas

January 25th, 2012
11:04 am

The Finnish model won’t work in the US not because of children or teachers. It won’t work because of our leaders who influence education practices. I would like to blame the conservatives or the repuke’s but the dem’s aren’t that much better, either. None of them will be able to stick with a plan for 20 years. Look at what happened with the math standards. We didn’t even get through a whole cycle of HS class.

What are you talking about?

January 25th, 2012
11:07 am

How about better parenting?

Tiago do Brasil

January 25th, 2012
11:07 am

It is Finns.

Beverly Fraud

January 25th, 2012
11:08 am

Why don’t we just get the best and the brightest to make education their career in the United States system?

Because the best and the brightest aren’t STUPID!

Tiago do Brasil

January 25th, 2012
11:09 am

The Finnish children are not allowed to tell their teachers: “Shut the f*ck up, B*tch.”

APS Parent

January 25th, 2012
11:09 am

Great post, Maureen, and food for thought about the value of a professionalized and public educational system that is geared toward providing equal opportunities for all. It is unfortunate that most of our leaders in the General Assembly seem to be interested only in the latest anti-public school “reform” (particularly if it involves even further reductions in education funding) and in blaming the usual straw men (teachers organizations, local school boards, the federal government) for our state’s shortcomings. Heaven forbid that we would ever let ourselves learn anything from “socialist Europeans” like the Finns.

billy T

January 25th, 2012
11:10 am

If you want to compare Finland to a similar population of American school children, compare them to the students in Minnesota. Also, compare the characteristics and respect the profession of teaching is given in society. Check out Ed Weeks recent article on education across the globe and you’ll find that Finnish colleges of education recruit from the top quartile of high school graduates, and even then only accept 1 out of 10 applicants into their highly professional and esteemed programs. By contrast, our nation’s teachers historically come from the middle or lower high school ranks and have very little competition; additionally, very little respect and prestige are associated with the profession. Don’t know what you do with that information, but it certainly doesn’t lend itself to simple generalizations.

k teacher

January 25th, 2012
11:11 am

“Recess is sacrosanct.” … this is one of the biggest problems I see in our schools … no time for release and free play time. Where I teach, we can’t go out to the playground unless it is above 50 or below 90. My son, in second grade at my school, needs that time to yell and scream and get the wiggles out to be able to focus. I know most of my kindergarten students need the same. Too bad the higher ups do not see (or care to understand) this. They want us to use research-based practices but this one they throw out the window (or under the thermometer.

Dr. Monica Henson

January 25th, 2012
11:14 am

Lesson #1: “All teachers…are trained as researchers ’so they understand what they are doing, how they should improve and change their own work’”–in other words, the equivalent of National Board Certification is required to be a teacher in Finland.

Lesson #2: “Finnish children spend less time in class and have less homework than American students”–although I am of the school of thought that it is far easier to educate a homogeneous population that all speak the same native language, I also am a strong proponent of the notion that accomplished teachers work SMARTER, not harder.

Lesson #3: Higher salaries for teachers must be justified by more stringent requirements to become a teacher.

Lesson #4: Countries with some form of universal health care improve educational outcomes by tending to students’ medical needs through the school if needed.

Michael Moore

January 25th, 2012
11:28 am

Want to compare apples to apples…compare Finland to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Roughly the same size and homogeneity of culture. Guess who comes out looking bad? Not Finland.

Jill Black

January 25th, 2012
11:33 am

If the schools are so good, then the most talented, brightest, professionals should be coming out of Finland. Who can name one “game-changer” who has come out of Finland in the last 20 years? I guess you get a very good education in Finland and you just stay there.

SPARKY

January 25th, 2012
11:36 am

What a surprise that a country that universal healthcare is more successful at education. And who would have thought a national curriculum is superior to a mish-mash of curricula!

But, no, we will solve our problems with charter schools!

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
11:44 am

@Jill, One thing that Finland can cite: It is a strong open market economy committed to innovation and research. It has the highest labor force proportion working in the fields of research and innovation of all the countries in the world.
Speaking of research: An interesting comment from Jean Gallagher of the Ontario Ministry of Education on the role of research in the stunning progress of schools there:
“We pay attention. Some of the best things we do come from American research. We don’t look for a program in the box that is the magic solution. I have 120,000 classrooms. My job is to improve teaching and learning. You can mandate, talk down and regulate adequacy. You have to inspire excellence.”
Maureen

Pluto

January 25th, 2012
11:52 am

Trying to compare the US to Europe on education is not going to go well for us. The europeans have a long history of excellence in educational pursuits while we tend to “swing for the fence”. As Americans we want to hit the lottery or maybe invent DonkeyKong or some such rot. Few of us are patient or commited enough to pursue long term goals. We have no discipline for math and science; we hate reading, especially the classics and we establish low achievement levels in school. Minimal competency tests are not going to cut it. Let’s shoot for retail positions and move on.

Jill Black

January 25th, 2012
12:01 pm

Please name a few successful Finnish researchers, scientist, business people, entrepreneurs, etc. Where are they using all this superior education to benefit mankind? Or just name a few technologies that have been developed in Finland.

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
12:03 pm

@Pluto, Is Canada a fairer comparison? Their immigrant population is booming, especially in Toronto and Vancouver, both becoming “majority-minority” cities. Yet, their schools are improving.
Maureen

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
12:06 pm

@Jill, I can’t name any individual Finns, but nor can I name any individual Chinese or Indians. But please note, Finland is known for research. Here is a link to a top 10 list of technology-oriented countries.
And guess which is No. 1
http://top-10-list.org/2010/10/01/top-10-technology-oriented-countries/
Maureen.

Ron F.

January 25th, 2012
12:06 pm

Pluto- long term goals aren’t politically expedient, so we end up with someone with a microphone and some cash using the schools as his bully pulpit for another campaign while he shouts about who’s to blame how his silver bullet solution will fix everything. Most couldn’t care less what really happens as long as they win their elections and get donor dollars. We have parents who are interested in change, teachers who would LOVE to see it, but politicians who want to use it for media sound bites.

mountain man

January 25th, 2012
12:14 pm

So how many poor black children go to school in Finnish schools and don’t show up for class 10- 20 days per year?

V for Vendetta

January 25th, 2012
12:16 pm

I won’t deny for a second that there are some pretty interesting aspects to the Finnish school model; however, I think the more obvious (and somewhat snarkier) response is simple:

Yes, it is the Finns.

Finns are famous for their quiet, composed, and meticulous demeanor. They’re like Germans, but minus the fun drinking fests. There is a strong sense of repsect and accountability that runs through their culture, and they are expected to work hard for things such as drivers’ licenses. You know, the kinds of things we take for granted or expect to be given to us for knowing how to breathe.

All of the innovation and excellence is irrelevant until you admit that success starts in the home. Everything else is secondary.

NONPC

January 25th, 2012
12:21 pm

Whatever America might learn from Finnish or Canadian schools, it will not be implemented. Or, better put, it cannot be implemented!

Nobody will commit more to teacher salaries until they PROVE they are worth it.
Those with high academic skills will not commit to a teaching position until the profession pays appropriately.
Teachers will not allow themselves to be judged. PERIOD.
Colleges will not raise teacher/teaching standards.
Parents will not get adequately involved in schools.
Schools will not stop coddling lowest performers at the expense of higher performers.

The reason for the charter school push, which you (MD) have maligned, is that it attempts to bring together more committed teachers/parents/students. That is a valid first step towards achieving bigger goals. It is not a magic bullet, but it is the closest thing we have within our current educational system to defeat the forces of mediocrity and political correctness that are dragging our schools down. It is clear that the current public schools that work the best are those with a community of parents that cares. Perhaps THAT is the single biggest thing that the Finns, Chinese or Canadians have on American schools: parents who demand excellence from their children. I demand excellence from mine, but I can tell you that I am an exception. Other parents just hope their children “pass”.

From the time my kids were in first grade, they were told ” We are . We get A’s. We don’t get C’s, or even very many B’s. We are smarter than that”. And you know something? My kids made A’s. I demand A’s while my neighbors demand “Pass”. We live in a country where Our parents and their parents could make a living with “Pass” and a high school diploma. It hasn’t dawned on a great many parents that the world that was no longer exists. The future will take “EXCEPTIONAL” skill, not “Passing” skill, in order to succeed. So while the world is increasingly demanding exceptional skills, the U.S. is mired in mediocrity at every turn. Mediocre teachers and parents are geared towards producing “Passing” results rather than demanding excellence.

Pluto

January 25th, 2012
12:22 pm

If I was in a comparative frame of mind, I would be interested in emulating the asians and indians. In my limited experiences, asians have the discipline and know-how to lead. We are trying to play catch up while we whittle the education system down in pursuit of a european type social utopia. It seems to me that we have been duped out of pursuit of educational excellence by some elevated desire for cultural diversity. I guess those pushing the diversity thing think it will achieve some desired equal outcome.

nelson

January 25th, 2012
12:47 pm

I am rather Finnish myself. I go xcountry skiing most every day. The fresh, clear, cool air makes my brain active and I am in a learning mode. I am perfectly in tuned with nature. I am ready to learn. After skiing, I go for the finish sauna, it opens up all the pores and once again I am receptive to learning. The secret is being receptive to learning. A little known fact, Hollisters Store is in Helsinki and they are where the latest styles originate.
I have a young relative going over there to learn and model clothes. He has been in the SUNY system and he needs the more structured educational environment of Finland.

carlosgvv

January 25th, 2012
1:00 pm

American teachers, like all other ones worldwide, must work with what they are given. If many of their pupils are at below average intelligence, don’t expect them to ever match Finland or many other countries with a smarter set of students

HS Public Teacher

January 25th, 2012
1:17 pm

@NONPC –

Oh please! Do you really think that charter schools have no warts? What fool’s paradise do you live in?

As the number of charter schools grow and as the number of students attending them increase, there will be AS MANY horror stories coming out of them as other schools – ESPECIALLY if this ’school choice’ thing were to happen.

The only reason that currently there are not is because it is the concerned and involved parents that are pushing for charter school and choice and/or going to private schools. If the “dam” is broken and ALL kids can go ANYWHERE – then where is the safe haven? The trouble makers, the kids from bad parents, and so on, will disperse to ALL schools with their vouchers in hand!

Again, look to Florida as the example. They TRIED this already. It has FAILED there. The only “safe haven” in Florida is the ultra-expensive private schools where the parents have to pay TONS more money to keep out the ‘riff-raff’. And, in Florida this is the professional athletes and a few select others. Do you REALLY want Georgia to follow their example?

Nat Turner

January 25th, 2012
1:22 pm

If one more person mentions political correctness in schools, I am going to scream. The people demanding that are parents. They do not want to hear the truth about their children. They demand that their children receive rewards for just participating. They demand that their children go on field trips when they do not deserve to go for behavior reasons. They demand that their children be allowed to make up assignments, and improve their grades.

And Carlos, are you talking about the Bell Curve? I have gotten the impression from your many posts that you feel that certain races are inferior intellectually.

Nat Turner

January 25th, 2012
1:25 pm

HS Public Teacher, amen! And I love the misconception that these are the poor children. I have met many kids that come from wealthy parents that are trouble makers. They do it out of boredom, from never having any “real world” problems, to see if they can get away with it, and from having parents that will move heaven and Earth with their influence and their money to keep their kid from facing consequences for their actions.

cris

January 25th, 2012
1:26 pm

I think of education in the US as the latest diet fad (be it pill, eating plan, etc.). The latest fad comes onto the market – it has had a few success stories (regardless of how dangerous it may be), but it won’t work for the vast majority for many different reasons. But the general public buys and tries the latest fad hoping they will be in the extremely small group that it actually works for. Turns out to be a waste of time and money. Then we start all over again…..and those marketing the fad get richer and richer….it seems to me sometimes we’re victims of our own capitalist success….

White Elephant

January 25th, 2012
1:29 pm

Parents are the key to everything. And if someone is more interested in their own career, or whether or not they’ll make the ATLA league, then their children are forced to raise themselves. Then it all goes downhill from there. WAKE UP, AMERICA: YOUR CHILDREN WANT THEIR PARENTS, not a daycare center to raise them. And maybe once you’re truly connected to your children, you will only advocate for the very best of everything for them. Including their education.

Jill Black

January 25th, 2012
1:30 pm

@ Maureen, the Chinese and Indian individuals are in Silican Valley making peoples’ lives better. The Finnish research is very impressive but most will take years, if not decades to benefit mankind. The Finnish research topics “feel good” to many educators. I do not think for one minute America has a good education system, but to compare it to Finland’s is a bit much.

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
1:32 pm

@Jill, I think many people share your attitude but folks who study world economies and the role of education warn that we will be making a terrible miscalculation if we ignore what we can learn from Finland, Canada and Singapore under the rationale that we are too different.
Marc Tucker’s book addresses that very issue.
Maureen

Halftrack

January 25th, 2012
1:35 pm

The main emphasis here is upon celebrities and sport idols, as they are the highest paid people. Finn’s don’t have to compete with that. Also China sends their brightest and best students to higher education. Their best and brightest are 200 million strong. This is almost the population of the U.S. We are outnumbered already in achievement potential. We need another “Sputnik” surge in education and it’s importance for us to survive. Who will take Steve Jobs place; if we don’t provide incentives for new discoveries or inventions?

tony

January 25th, 2012
1:36 pm

what would happen if schools where segregated again ? would the test scores go up ? would private school enrollmemnt drop? this is just a question for the readers

Mary Elizabeth

January 25th, 2012
1:37 pm

Poverty is, also, directly related to educational results (See data below). Intelligence (mentioned earlier) and poverty are only two variables in American schools which keep students from greater achievement. Another is imprecise instruction. I have several times mentioned a need for a Mastery Learning Instructional Model. There are, also, many personal factors which effect students’ learning, such as learning disabilities, emotional and behavior disorders, physical and medical problems, etc.

=================================================

Two of the three major international tests—the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study—break down student scores according to the poverty rate in each school. The tests are given every five years.

The most recent results (2006) showed the following: students in U.S. schools where the poverty rate was less than 10 percent ranked first in reading, first in science, and third in math. When the poverty rate was 10 percent to 25 percent, U.S. students still ranked first in reading and science. But as the poverty rate rose still higher, students ranked lower and lower. Twenty percent of all U.S. schools have poverty rates over 75 percent. The average ranking of American students reflects this.
————————————————————————

Note: Those Americans in poverty increased from 31 million to 46 million within the decade from 2000 to 2010.

==================================

Attentive Parent

January 25th, 2012
1:40 pm

maureen-only about 20% of the PISA international assessment that is being used to generate these high performing lists can be considered content knowledge of any kind.

Mostly PISA is measuring values, attitudes, and beliefs. So the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the Scandinavian country that was only nominally free during the ColdWar apparently dovetails with what the Paris based OECD would like to see in all citizens all over the world.

PISA is a scam. Changing ed systems chasing after it guarantees a nonacademic focus.

What precisely is your definition of a strong open market economy?

The Finns themselves consider it to be market socialism.

Gracious I am tired of misinformation in education.

Silly Bloggers

January 25th, 2012
1:44 pm

I just wanted to comment on this as I lived in Finland for a while and dated a Finnish girl for years. I was absolutely stunned at the quality of education and the communication between parents and their children.

First off, the country is very secular. While religion is present, it is a private affair for those who follow it and it never invades any aspect of the political agenda regarding education. In fact, it is severely frowned upon in those rare cases it is breached.

Outside of “booksmart” education, they educate their children on teenage sex, abortion, drug-abuse, etc…taboo subjects in the United States, but a form of full disclosure at an early age to their children. To no surprise, they experience one of the highest standards of living in the world and have extraordinarily low percentages for teenage sex, STD’s, hate crimes, and crime overall.

Lastly, to add to the level of expertise. Not only do they demand a very good education to become a teacher, they usually only take the top third of graduates to actually become graduates. That means taking the very best to teach our children. In the United States, the majority of teachers come from the bottom 25% of graduates. That is not to insult any college grad…graduation is something to be proud of for any college, but simply to take the best of the best to teach our children.

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
1:48 pm

@Attentive, Those were Pasi Sahlberg’s exact words. (He is a Finnish researcher.) I would disagree with you on your description of modern-day Finland’s economy.
Odd that Finland would win out on what you call the values metrics of PISA and so does Singapore.
Maureen

Pluto

January 25th, 2012
2:05 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth … I lived and worked below the American “poverty” level during my college experience. I received none of the goodies one receives now when they qualify. The term poverty in this country has been “dumbed down” to another meaningless code word. Most in poverty today have a/c, cable tv, xbox and various amenities not usually considered when one mentions the word. Maybe there are too many distractions?

jj

January 25th, 2012
2:13 pm

The Canadian immigration story is vastly different from the US. Most are Asian and speak the language, in the US most are Mexican and do not speak the language.
The nuclear family is alive and well in Canada, in the US 70% of African Americans are from single parent families. As someone pointed out earlier US students feel free to tell their teachers to “F” off, and as a punishment the child’s parent comes in and chews out the admin and the teacher for not controlling their little darling. In Canada they are tossed out of school.
Until this country respects education and stands up for teachers and admin, instead of worrying about how everybody “feels”, we will continue to lose on the world stage.

Attentive Parent

January 25th, 2012
2:15 pm

Then Sahlberg is a propagandist trying to mislead the American public on the nature of the Finnish economy. One of the reasons Stalin left Finland unabsorbed was so he could use it to experiment with manipulative economic and social practices that then could be advocated for in the West.

Singapore is an authoritarian society. Remember the caning punishment? And no chewing gum?

Societies with a strongly collective focus that do not respect individualism do well on PISA.

Probably why Shanghai does well too.

I have studied Finland and minored in economics. The Finns can have whatever kind of economic system they wish. What they do not get to do is obscure its nature in order to obscure what PISA measures.

I have all the PISA documents too. That’s their characterization, not mine. It just started in 1998 and its function is to measure values, attitudes, and beliefs primarily. If the Scandinavian countries had gotten their way, there would be no content knowledge at all.

And yes I am aware with how HB 186 dovetails with PISA. The question is is the General Assembly and do they appreciate what model they are really trying to emulate in Georgia going forward.

It really caught my interest when Tucker (Americas Choice for you in Dekalb is his product), Linda Darling-Hammond, Michael Fullan, Michael Barber (who hired Kathy Cox), and Tony Wagner were all joining together saying emulate Finland. Emulate Finland. I call them the bad idea international brigade and for good reason.

Maybe we could get Martha Reichrath to push. She apparently thinks American schoolchildren should be bound by the EU’s Maastricht treaty. Our state deputy super thinks that Georgia schoolchildren need to be taught that individualism leads to oppression and exploitation.

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
2:19 pm

@Attentive: From US State Department:

Finland has a highly industrialized, free-market economy with a per capita output equal to that of other western economies such as France, Germany, Sweden, or the U.K. The largest sector of the economy is services (64.9%), followed by manufacturing and refining (32.4%). Primary production is at 2.7%.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3238.htm#econ

Beverly Fraud

January 25th, 2012
2:23 pm

Why don’t we take 100 Finnish teachers and drop them in America, and take 100 America teachers and drop them in Finland?

Something tells me, it’s not JUST the teacher. Although I COULD see the following exchange between a Finnish teacher here, and her colleague back home:

Finn here: I can’t believe the lack of grammar skills
Finn there: The students?
Finn here: No, the educators!

But then again, why let a pesky little thing like grammar get in the way of an administrator leading the way with “rigorously applied rigorousness in rigor”?

Based on “the research” of course.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

January 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

Say the sharks come a crusin…

Old timer

January 25th, 2012
2:59 pm

I think itnhasntomdomamlotmwith culture….

Attentive Parent

January 25th, 2012
3:35 pm

Well Maureen I don’t know what the state dept’s def of free market is but the World Bank disagrees.

http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTRANETSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/Resources/finland.pdf

It characterizes its economy as State interventionist and corporatist on page 14 and dirigiste on page 18.

Page 21 talks about the “pragmatic interventionism and co-operation between the State and the private sector” and how “Finnish economic decisionmaking reflected” the relationships between the State and business elite.

Page 22 talks about the political demand in Finland for social corporatism and then the partnership between business, trade unions, and the State.

Also explains incomes policy.

Curious concept of free markets. Private property ownership does not mean free markets.

Paper nicely outlines Finns economic and political history over the 20th and is recent.

Ron F.

January 25th, 2012
4:19 pm

@silly- “In the United States, the majority of teachers come from the bottom 25% of graduates.”

Your data on that one, please. I can’t speak for the whole country, but in the schools I have worked in here in GA, the bottom 25% couldn’t get a job. I finished in the top 10% in undergrad and top 1% in my master’s program.

Beverly Fraud

January 25th, 2012
4:20 pm

Don’t mess with Attentive Parent!

Mikey D

January 25th, 2012
4:53 pm

It is really disingenuous of our political leaders to consistently hold out Finland as a model for schools, and then turn right around and prohibit teachers in America from doing what makes the Finnish teachers successful — namely having the autonomy to do what’s best for their students without the heavy-handed, top-down mandates that we have here in America. It starts at NCLB and RTTT and trickles all the way down to the power-hungry idiots who occupy our local central offices.

Maureen Downey

January 25th, 2012
4:55 pm

@Attentive: The US State Department uses the same definition as most people, including Forbes, which ranks Finland 13th in its 2011 Best Countries for Business list. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2011/6/best-countries-11_Finland_CHI002.html

Finland has a highly industrialized, largely free-market economy with per capita output roughly that of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Trade is important with exports accounting for over one third of GDP in recent years. Finland is strongly competitive in manufacturing – principally the wood, metals, engineering, telecommunications, and electronics industries.

Ron Burgundy

January 25th, 2012
5:05 pm

I think we have had this debate before. Finland has about 10 million people, they live in the dark half the year in crappy weather. They are mentally disturbed. IKEA is the creation of a mentally disturbed person catering to other mentally disturbed people or cheap arses.

I highly doubt that the finnish parenting population is made up parents who think of the school as a babysitter or that their kids (probably named Ethan or Carter) already know it all cause they were sent from God themselves.

Attentive Parent

January 25th, 2012
5:32 pm

Maureen-For you to continue to make such false statements simply shows how much of the global ed scam has been staked on misleading over PISA.

You have a very bizarre image of free markets. But then that’s not something that is much admired at Columbia. Quite the opposite.

Is too. Is too. is not an appropriate comeback.

You normally ignore me but Ed Week ran a duplicitous story last week linking The Common Core standards to PISA. I thought that was ridiculously stupid given the true nature of PISA. It showed there is some consternation out there on how Common Core will actually be gutting the transmission of knowledge.

The truth is the corporatist/highly interventionist economy is what this ed model hopes to achieve in the US. If the true story on Common Core was not supposed to come out, they shouldn’t have used Georgia and its performance standards as practice for Common Core. There was always the danger someone would get to the bottom of the story. I have.

Thanks for turning a klieg light on how much the duplicity over PISA and the nature of the political and economic structure in the high achieving countries. And it’s too late to clean up. I figured out PISA and grabbed more validation than I need about 8 months ago.

Long time educator

January 25th, 2012
5:40 pm

Why do we need to go to Finland to find successful school? There are very successful schools right here in Georgia. Great schools in Georgia and poor schools in Georgia are attempting to teach the same curriculum and the cultural influences would be more similar than comparing Finland and poor performing schools in Georgia. It would be easier to do the research and easier to implement the findings. Why do we go on these wild goose chases when we already know what works? It is the definition of insanity. I could get a grant and do the research, but I can tell you what the results will be. The higher performing schools will have more students who come from stable families with more economic resources. The parents of successful students will support the school and teachers in high expectations and discipline. They will see education as a high priority and communicate that to their children. Good teachers will be attracted to teach at these better performing schools and will stay and develop their skills over time. They will form a collegial workplace and help one another do an even better job. We already know what works; it is the implementation that is the challenge.

Finns like making money

January 25th, 2012
5:52 pm

@Attentive Parent:I am not an expert on education but I know something about Finland’s economy. There may be a vestige of socialism still clinging to their Billabongs but they are robustly free market. I travel there three to four times a year for business. No question the country has changed in the last 20 years.

Derek Eiler

January 25th, 2012
9:39 pm

Maybe we are spending too much time worrying about the tactical aspects of education, rather than the core strategy? The Montessori Method of teaching has existed for more than 100 years. It is a proven method of instilling a love of learning in children and allowing them to find their own pathway. There are public and private schools practicing Montessori-based education in Georgia and in Atlanta. Could the founders of two of the world’s leading companies – Google and Amazon – have benefitted immensely from their Montessori educations? You bet they did….and so have hundreds of thousands of other graduates leading innovation in music, medicine, technology, science, and everyday life. And if you want to see the similarities between Montessori and the Finnish system, check this out….http://montessorimuddle.org/2011/05/10/finnish-schools-and-montessori-education/

Lee

January 25th, 2012
9:42 pm

Do you think the Finns put the genious and the retard in the same classroom for eight years and expect them to achieve the same results?

No, I didn’t think so either. So why does America do it?

(Sarcastic question. We all know the politically correct answer.)

To Aps parent of 2 from Good Mother

January 25th, 2012
10:34 pm

I think you’ve misunderstood the gist of the piece. You wrote ”
If we continue to overwork and underpay our teachers, the best of them will leave for better opportunities.”

That’s not how it works. We shouldn’t pay the current teachers more money. That’s not what this piece advocates. What the writer is advocating is hiring a better quality of teacher and paying them accordingly from the get-go.

The writes does not advocate giving the current teachers raises. The current teaching staff is mediocre. What the writer advocates is to get rid of the current teachers and raise the pay scale to attract a better quality teacher.

To Lee from Good Mother

January 25th, 2012
10:35 pm

Lee says “Do you think the Finns put the genious and the retard in the same classroom for eight years and expect them to achieve the same results?”

Lee, I think the only “retard” in the room is you.

Ed Johnson

January 25th, 2012
10:47 pm

“Is the secret to Finnish schools Finns or is there something for American to learn?”

@Maureen, yes, and yes.

First “yes” because Finns are Finns, and we are us. We and they are different systems, for any number of reasons. While we ought to learn from the Finns, we mustn’t try to copy them as a quick-fix for us.

Second “yes” is ideal but problematic. Pasi Sahlberg, in his book, Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?, offers some insight as to why it’s problematic for us to learn from the Finns:

“Although Finland has persistently outperformed other nations, its achievements have been downplayed in numerous accounts of recommended policy. In a recent report by McKinsey and Company (Mourshed, Chihioke & Barber, 2010), for example, Finland is not even listed as a ‘sustained improver’ in terms of education.”

Now, Barber is Sir Michael Barber, architect and former head of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “Deliverology Unit.” The U.S. has since imported Sir Michael via New Orleans, post-Katrina. Currently, Sir Michael is reported to be drawing mega-bucks (mega-pounds) as a consultant to McKinsey to spread “Deliverology.”

Here is John Seddon addressing the California Faculty Association on Sir Michael and “Deliverology”…

http://vimeo.com/11896519

Anonmom

January 25th, 2012
10:50 pm

We have relatively few Americans really living in poverty (for true poverty see “Slum Dog, Millionaire” or watch news stories on Darfur). We have examples of Great schools in Massachussetes and Iowa, we just refuse to mimic what’s really working in parts of our own country. I really think that there is isomething to the books that have been written that there is an overriding “Mission” from the “get go” by the “powers that be” that “public” or “government” education in America was really meant (and designed) to be “just enough” to keep the children in line to grow up to be “controllable” by government — not too smart and able to be good farm workers and good factory workers. I think that “big government” and “big business” wanted the “ilttle guy” kept “in line” and that we have a system that wasn’t ever designed to put out the “best of the best” that could challenge the “big guys” be they in America or across the globe. I think this is coming home to haunt us because the “litttle guy” is now pretty illiterate and the “global competition” is really weakening America at large. So it’s now backfiring.

Truth in Moderation

January 25th, 2012
11:09 pm

“Finland has no private schools, a strong teachers union and a national curriculum, yet it is leading the world in student performance.”

Now I know why Maureen continues to beat this dead horse. It’s the old bait and switch. Finland is a predominantly white Christian culture with a small cohesive population. Their collaborative style of teaching can work in such a culture. Also, they had recently been experiencing economic success from native companies like Nokia. As the money dries up, however, their current education practices might become too expensive. In comparison, the former Soviet Union (Communism) also had no private schools, a strong Communist Party teachers’s union, and a centrally controlled curriculum. Well, we know how that experiment turned out! THIS, I FEAR, IS WHAT THE 501C3 FOUNDATIONS ARE TRYING TO FOIST ON AMERICAN SCHOOLS…Soviet style, centrally controlled schools. Just read THE DELIBERATE DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICA, for FREE. It contains primary source documents to support this claim.
http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com/MomsPDFs/DDDoA.sml.pdf

Lee

January 26th, 2012
5:38 am

“Lee says “Do you think the Finns put the genious and the retard in the same classroom for eight years and expect them to achieve the same results?”

Lee, I think the only “retard” in the room is you.”

Snarky retorts aside Good Mother, you still didn’t answer the question…

mountain man

January 26th, 2012
6:33 am

Here is a challenge – bring the best of the Finnish teachers to Atlanta and give them a normal ninth grade class in APS in a low-SES area. They are told that they will be graded on how many pass the CRCT at the end of the year. They must comply with every requirement that the US teachers have to do. They ae not given any special dispensations to discipline – in other words, their teaching environment is the same as the regular teachers.

Do you think you are going to see a jump in test scores? Only if the Finns learn to cheat.

We know the problems with schools, it is just that no one has the cojones to implement solutions. Absenteeism, discipline, social promotion – fix these and you go a long way towards fixing the system.

lyncoln

January 26th, 2012
8:08 am

Ok Attentive Parent, I’ll bite. How do you support your statement that “only about 20% of the PISA international assessment that is being used to generate these high performing lists can be considered content knowledge of any kind.”

I can find no such support or even suggestion that this is a realistic statement.

I can find one study that finds that the Pisa mathematics test has 85% distribution of test items that was found on the 8th grade NAEP frameworks. And 0% of the items that weren’t found on any of the NAEP frameworks. It’s located at: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/pdf/Comparing_TIMSS_NAEP_%20PISA.pdf

So please, explain to me how you came to your conclusion that the majority of a PISA assessment counts as “content knowledge”. Or are you using a recent thing from Fordham (which doesn’t have any precentages listed) that concluded that there isn’t much content knowledge on the math test?

To respond to that I have a different assessment of the PISA that gives a very in-depth analysis of the topics covered in both the PISA math and science: https://edsurveys.rti.org/PISA/documents/SmithsonNCES_PISA_Conference_Paper_FINAL.pdf

In this study, they found that there is little requirement for rote memorization of facts and formulas, but requires the student to actually solve problems (rather than regurgitate math facts). Personally, I’d prefer students be able to solve math problems than spit out math facts and have no clue how to apply those concepts. If I need a particular math fact, I can look it up in a textbook.

So, please, where do you get your suport that PISA only has 20% content and the rest of the test isn’t about what a student knows?

lyncoln

January 26th, 2012
8:13 am

Whoops, one missed negative in the middle of that post. Completely changed the meaning of an entire sentence. Should have been ‘doesn’t cout as “content knowledge”‘. Apparently I should type slower and think faster.

V for Vendetta

January 26th, 2012
8:23 am

Lee,

No, they don’t. They also know how to spell genius.

Truth,

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

Finland is one of the most atheist countries on Earth. White? Yes. Christian? Not hardly. Do just a tad of research before making your asinine claims in the name of your silly faith.

Maureen Downey

January 26th, 2012
8:53 am

@Mountain man, A fairer challenge would be to bring those very best teachers — Finnish or otherwise — to a low SES kindergarten class and continue to give the class the very best teachers through high school.
Do I believe every student would have a different outcome? No. Do I believe many would? Yes. Whenever my kids have a fantastic teacher, I notice that these pros seem to get an inordinate number of challenging students added to their classes, sometimes transferred to the class midyear. When I have asked teachers about this, they essentially explain — in modest ways — that they are a bit like the Navy SEALS who rescued the aid workers this week; they are brought in for the very toughest of cases.
Maureen

V for Vendetta

January 26th, 2012
9:04 am

Maureen,

Comparing battle-tested teachers to elite Navy SEALS just brightened my day. :-)

Because those guys are the final word in BADA$$ES. In teaching, those types of teachers are the equivalent.

Ron Burgundy

January 26th, 2012
10:47 am

Is there something to learn fromt he finns? Sure. How to create a sterile looking living room for instance.

Ron Burgundy

January 26th, 2012
10:48 am

Obviously strong teacher unions are needed. I mean we as tax payers need to pay teachers….who then pay union diues…who then use those union dues for political action commitess to democrats. GREAT IDEA!

Beverly Fraud

January 26th, 2012
2:41 pm

that they are a bit like the Navy SEALS who rescued the aid workers this week; they are brought in for the very toughest of cases.
Maureen

Which begs the question. Do we expect ALL 1,450,000 plus members of the United State military to perform at the level of Navy SEALS? Or do we just expect them, on their own merits, to do a good job?

Do we CONSTANTLY BLAME the 1,450,000 members of the military who aren’t Navy SEALS for failings of the military? Or do we look at SYSTEMIC failures on the part of leaders in Washington?

If so, then why do we CONSTANTLY BLAME the teacher (aka “the foot soldier”) for not rising up to the level of Navy SEAL all the while ignoring the SYSTEMIC failure of our education policy makers?

Attentive Parent

January 26th, 2012
4:05 pm

lyncoln-I am not going to release all my documentation on PISA yet except I will reiterate it came from OECD which developed and administered PISA. I am using it in what I am working on and the life expectancy of previous links when I post on Maureen’s blog is less than an hour. That slows me down if I want to show someone even though I keep hard copies.

But that 20% figure is somewhere else. It is in one of the Civic Mission of Schools reports. The National Civics Standards were too controversial in the 1990s for states or the feds to adopt so both NAEP and PISA added section covering. Now there’s a move to teach civics in the manner being assessed because it is being assessed. Problem is it’s not civics as in the US Constitution and our system of government knowledge sense. Anyway that document laid out how little of PISA is knowledge.

The line about Scandinavia is from OECD though. Office of Economic and Cooperative Development.

You can be sure I will cover everything related to PISA in what I am doing.

Ed Johnson-Michael Barber is also Pearson’s Learning Advisor now so am sure he is making the big bucks.

He also wrote a book with Vicki Phillips who heads up the Gates Foundation’s education initiatives now.

http://books.google.com/books/about/Lessons_for_the_Future_of_System_Wide_Sc.html?id=fWzgAAAACAAJ

The idea that Barber and Phillips were determined as public figures at the time to create irreversible change always made me ill. I suspect that desire is still in place.

Oh and Barber teaches at the University of Moscow which always struck me as odd.

mem

January 26th, 2012
5:52 pm

It seems that the first responses are typical..”it can’t be implemented in the U.S.” That is so defetist. You cannot change the habits of the older childen, so, you start the change in the early years so the little ones develop new habits. It’s really sad the lack of drive in the country.

Captain Obvious

January 26th, 2012
6:31 pm

Maureen, how about info on how our European-American and Asian-American students compare to theirs? You will find that Asians are first, a 10 point SAT average over whites, then a 110 gap to everyone else. America’s edu system is broken.

Fins are diverse, they have 1.5 children per house like Sweden.
Fins are about to be bred out by Eastern European immigrants…they can’t even send ambulances into some neighborhoods….don’t you all watch the news?
Finns are allowed to drink beer in German beer gardens without losing their jobs, which is clearly the panacea here.

Truth in Moderation

January 27th, 2012
12:12 am

@Vendetta, feast your eyes on this! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

“The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is celebrating 2005 as the 850th year of Christianity in Finland. The counting starts from 1155 AD, when St. Henry, the patron saint of Finland, first came to the country.
For centuries Finland was a Roman Catholic country. During the 16th century, like many other European countries, it underwent a reformation. Nowadays the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the established state church; an overwhelming majority of the population belongs to it.

The influence of the church is everywhere. No matter how secularised Finland nowadays may seem, the Christian faith is the undisputed key to modern Finnish society. It affects the legislation, the way people think and even the way they speak. In fact, Western culture was brought to Finland by the church. The schooling for which Finland is so well known abroad, and so proud of, also has its roots in the church.

But what actually happened in the 1150’s? How was it possible for a new religion to completely take over an entire culture? This paper will illuminate what happened all those years ago.”
http://www.uta.fi/FAST/FIN/REL/aj-first.html

As a Finn

January 27th, 2012
12:48 am

It’s kind of funny read what people think and is knowin’ about finnish economy. How we are Soviet-Unions test ground, how our moneys going run out and education going to stop etc. :-D Some one were also asking any known people or finnish corporations :-D Also mixin’ Finns and Swedes with each other :-D First of Ikea is swedish and its in Sweden where theres slums where ambulances wont go :-)

Well some maybe know finnish corporations are; Nokia, Kone, Wärtsilä, Kemira, F-Secure, Valmet, Suunto and Amer Sport there should be least one what you have heard of also we are known of our ship building industry and we just build bigest cruse chips in the world, Oasis of the Seas may have heard:-D And well honesty hard to think people who americans might know, but I try couple what I remember; Jorma Ollila, Linus Torvalds (Linux), Michael Widenius (MySQL), Tatu Ylönen (SSH), Teuvo Kohonen and many others also I belive NASA just named one of the satelites by Verner E. Suomi.

Don’t know who they are or never heard of companies just check them out :-)

Sorry my bad english grammar, but in the end I’m Finn :-)

As a Finn

January 27th, 2012
1:03 am

@Truth in Moderation, To be honest religion has forget all countrys during the ages, but in modern society theres litte room for religion in finland much more room with elderly people, but youth dont care much about religion least we usualy wont speak much of it cause its every ones own business. But know how this country is formed and to become to be you might meed mire info than just copy paste text from internet, cause reason many people belongs church are that they have been babtimased (terrible word, but hope you understand) and just they never left also you cant get married in church if you dont belong in it. Also some other reason what I have no itrsest to start listing.

“To know country, you first need to know people” or something like that translated :-)

As a Finn

January 27th, 2012
1:27 am

To be frank V.E. Suomi was finnish descent not actualy finn even his parents, both were :-)

V for Vendetta

January 27th, 2012
8:01 am

Truth,

THAT’S your source? Some grad school paper written by a Finnish Christian with an agenda? According to Wikipedia, which I know is not the most accurate source but is quite a lot better than your stupid grad paper, only 41% of Finns believe in “a god.” Of course, one can’t assume that “a god” refers to the Christian version. You know, the unpleasant character who kills anyone who disagrees with them and condemns them to an eternity of fiery torment. Another 41% of Finns believe in a “spririt” or “life force.” Hardly what I would call Christian. The remaining percentage of Finns are flat out atheists–much like the majority of neighboring Sweden. No one disputes religion’s role in spreading education and literacy–that much is clear throughout history–but the negative effects of religion overshadow much of its historical good.

To say nothing of the fact that it is completely irrelevant today. You’ll also notice if you do a little digging that some of the LEAST religious countries on Earth are the most peaceful and have the lowest degrees of crime and teen pregnancy.

lyncoln

January 27th, 2012
8:06 am

Attentive Parent — so in other words, the Math and Science PISA exams are perfectly fine (where the US is outscored by Finland, China, Canada and others) and the problem with lacking content knowledge is the stuff in the civics portion of the exam.

It seems that the argument that we can’t use the PISA for international comparison is a flawed argument. It would be perfectly reasonable to compare the math or science sections because they do contain plenty of content knowledge and the social background of the students from one country to the next would have little bearing on whether or not they can do math and science.

If people want to argue that we can’t compare two countries because of differences in racial make-up or percentages, why do we compare different states within the U.S.? Iowa only has 3% African American population whereas Georgia is 30%. Heck, Georgia has almost as many African Americans as Iowa has people (according to the 2010 census). If we can’t compare Finland to the US because of differences in racial makeup, then comparing Georgia and Iowa on the NAEP is equally unfair and unrealistic.

I would agree that civics gets the short end of the stick in U.S. schools. It was a single one semester class in high school for me, and it didn’t really cover anything that I hadn’t already learned from elementary school social studies.

Dose of moderation

January 27th, 2012
6:48 pm

I have enjoyed reading the interesting opinions on this blog. Is there any possibility that student expectations are higher in Finnish schools? I understand that at select population magnet schools in GA, such as Davidson Fine Arts in Augusta, students have grade and behavior expectations that must be met and maintained; students failing to meet the expectations risk probation and expulsion. DFA consistently ranks among the finest in the state and nation according to test scores; according to my principal, DFA doesn’t invest heavily in so-called “research-based practices” in education and instead use very traditional instructional methodologies such as direct instruction. Any thoughts? The school where I work is exceptional and attracts both good families and teachers; it isn’t a magnet, but the high cost of property in the school zone does restrict the number of students coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Huck Finn

January 27th, 2012
9:48 pm

“After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn’t care no more about him, because I don’t take no stock in dead people. (1.4)”

Truth in Moderation

January 27th, 2012
11:16 pm

It is obvious that “as a Finn” is a FAKE! No self-respecting Finn would blog with such atrocious English. I think it was Google translated from English to Finnish and from Finnish to English. Also, it is beyond the realm of science fiction that a Finn would actually read an education blog from the 49th ranked state in the U.S. The posts do make for comic relief. And, yes, Ikea is Swedish. Even I knew that.

Truth in Moderation

January 27th, 2012
11:54 pm

Forget the Finns.
It’s the Danish TOYS we need to worry about!
A LEGO immigrant in Canada successfully made it into space and returned safely to earth two weeks ago. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/26/canadian-teenagers-lego-man-space

LEGO immigrant protestors in Russia successfully hold police “protest control” at bay.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/26/doll-protesters-problem-russian-police

As a Finn

January 28th, 2012
5:38 pm

@Truth. Well I apologize my bad english, but when you haven’t slept whole night and try to write with your cell phone at 8am. you happen to make alot errors. And yes I happened to find this blog while surfin’ all around internet call it miracle or what ever. Kind of low to mock me cause of bad english, also google translate doesent translate finnish very well and program wouldnt do same kind of errors what I did. I blame my GS2 for some of the mistakes cause writing with this thing sucks compared to my old Nokia. But I’m actually finnish, I speak and read english better than I write it cause its alot different language to write than mine, but I read and write after all like most english like most young finns. So if finnish person comes to forum and writes in bad english is it right reason to mock him? Compared to that I write, read and speak english what even all americans cant do. I have learned all 3 languages in mandatory in finnish school. We started to study english at 3th. grade if my memrory serves right and swedish language at 7th. grade. My swedish sucks cause never was interested study languages so I dont speak or much understand it. I’m iterested how many language you speak or undesrtand “truth”?

What I think most intersting in my situation is that I have dyslexia, and I havent had much problems in schools or studying. So I can be consired as that special help needing child in class room who had to be explained everythin twice at least cause it was hard to understand what I read. Now days I dont have much problems with that cause when they found out my problem normal class teachers knew how to help me read, write and understand better what I read :-) still cave problems to put commas and dots to right place and some times I miss words or letters while writing. But my point is that I never was worst student cause of that. I was never behind anyone and teased cause of that

Garrett Goebel

January 28th, 2012
6:41 pm

Jill Black: Linus Torvalds

Garrett Goebel

January 28th, 2012
6:47 pm

Sorry folks, should have provided context. Jill asked for someone to provide an example of one Finn who’d become a game changer. Linus Torvalds, the creator and lead developer of the Linux operating system is a product of the Finnish education system. Linux is an operating system which runs behind and beneath many of the most innovative technologies today.

As a Finn

January 28th, 2012
7:42 pm

@Jill Black and to every one who have ever sent text message with cell phone should think finnish guy named Matti Makkonen who is invertor of SMS :-)

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Biologist

January 29th, 2012
3:41 pm

According to some person in the main article, Finland is just like the US….right.
Try this on for size:
Child poverty rates; Finland 4.3 percent of children in poverty, USA 22.4 percent.
Point: children raised in poverty generally begin school further behind necessitating more expensive programs/ extra teachers, require more federal and state money be spent on them (lunch and breakfast for example). Poverty does matter and anyone who says otherwise is either clueless or disingenuous.

Homogeneous society:According to the CIA World Factbook, the population of Finland is 93.4% Finnish. The big minority group at 5.7% is … Swedes. USA has recently experienced a huge wave of immigration.
Point: Again, immigrant students need more and more expensive expensive help than middle class students of English speaking parents. ESOL classes and teachers, intensive english classes etc. It takes 5 to seven years for a non english speaker to develop academic language.
Where are these poor and or immigrant children…in the public schools. Taking all those mandated, high stakes tests.

And finally, Finland is socialist. Even your speeding ticket fines are tied to your income! Everyone has health care, etc. In the US calling someone a socialist is just about the biggest insult one can throw.

Please note I NEVER said these children cannot learn, achieve, etc. I just said it is slow, expensive and challenging to accommodate them.

Can we please stop the silly comparisons to Finland?

Biologist

January 29th, 2012
3:55 pm

Marc S. Tucker (quoted in the article) is behind America’s Choice (scripted learning most of you would NOT want your kid subjected to. The program was recently bought by Pearson Publishing.

So, this guy has a real vested interest in making public schools look bad. Great way to drum up business and sell you (crappy) product.
Always follow the money.

Biologist

January 29th, 2012
4:02 pm

PS: He is dead wrong about Finland.
Child Poverty: Finland around 4%, USA around 22%
Ethnicity: According to the CIA World Factbook, the population of Finland is 93.4% Finnish. The big minority group at 5.7% is … Swedes. I think we all know about the extreme wave of immigration the US has had recently.
Health care: Finland: universal coverage. USA…not so much.
And where are these poor, non English speaking students? In the public schools taking the mandated high stakes tests.
Anyone who says poor and or immigrant children do not require more money, time, support and resources to educate is either very naive or being disingenuous.

Ian K. Shaw

January 30th, 2012
10:13 am

Finland like many European counties value education and the contribution of educators to the community and the economy. This is not just in terms of higher salaries but also means teachers are treated as professionals like doctors and attorneys.Parents and educators in Europe see education as a preparation for life and a meaningful career and not just a stepping stone to a college degree often unconnected to future employment. Again in countries like Finland teaching effectiveness and accountability is helped by having a standard national curriculum and demanding very high standards from the teachers both in terms of academic achievement and job performance.All this does not automatically mean more cost and I would never advocate a “hands off” approach to school funding.A balance between a stream lined curriculum, well compensated but accountable educators and a focus on long term life skills would seem to be a desirable model building on the strengths of both systems.

Ian Shaw

Ivan Cohen

January 30th, 2012
12:36 pm

America and the Americans….they beat everything. They know it all. No one can’t show them anything. Nobody can’t tell them anything. There is just something about a superiority complex. The state of education is going to remain in its present condition. Some states will do innovative things to enhance their children’s education, others are going to be on cruise control. These results will show up when they apply for college or try to enlist in the military. Perhaps the standards are such in Finland where children don’t pick up terms like “shut the f*ck up b*tch” because grownups and children don’t co-mingle socially. Maybe grownups over there hold themselves in check and watch what they say around their children.

Edward Watkins

January 30th, 2012
1:49 pm

The Finnish educational system has much to recommend it. The two things I got our of the article were the professionalization of teaching and the seeming isolation of each American school system from every other system and, regretably the isolation of schools within each system from each other. I will fall back on what some consider cliches: Finland is a small,homogenious country with a population seemingly in agreement on the hows and whats of education. It is not America. We have a variety of ideas and interests in the hows and whats of education. And we are a diverse argumentative nation. While some practices of the Finnish system are tranferable, much is not. The Finnish people seem to accept such things as feeding their children three meals-a-day, a practice that many Americans would find unacceptble and an intrusion into individual responsibility. With respect to teacher training and education: As long as teacher’s unions, departments of education (government) and schools of education have a monopoly on the process, it will remain largely as it is. The educational establishment in America hates competition and does everything it can to maintain its monopoly. It seems, however, that some Americans are waking up. Perhaps, in time, we can take a rational approach to educatng the young. Unfortunately, many will be lost in the meantime.

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