Posts tagged ‘Finland’

December 22, 2013

All we want for Christmas in our schools

By: | Published by The Toronto Star


There are always new methodologies — year after year, century after century- especially now, when private businesses and consultants have learned to siphon off public money in the public system by promising techniques to fix those worrisome test results. The latest is “flipping the classroom.” A basic lesson is fed to students online at home the night before. Next day in school, the “teacher” shuffles around adjusting misunderstandings kid by kid, like a tech. There’s no reason it couldn’t be done online too, or by a robot. Notice what’s missing: the connection or relationship that motivates learning.

What’s deceptive is that experts and consultants in education are adroit at denying exactly what they’re doing: undermining and devaluing teachers. “We aren’t undermining teachers,” they say. “We’re helping them.” It’s like when you hear: This isn’t about money, or: This isn’t about sex. That’s when it is. There were a raft of these self-promoters on TVO’s The Agenda recently, peddling their miracle cures while devoutly affirming their respect for teachers.

The only way to respect teachers — or anyone — is to let them do what they know and find their way. There’s no easy road to curriculum or method; it’s a mutual classroom process of figuring out what you’re teaching regardless of the course title, a gradual discovery of what you’re there to explore and the best route to it. Content and method are inseparable. If that sounds obscure, I’d bet teachers understand it. Nor is there one right approach. That’s the hard fact the consultants and method hustlers try frantically to conceal. Either you respect teachers in this way or you don’t. In Finland they do and they get the highest scores on international tests though they do no general testing themselves.

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November 18, 2013

First Grade Math Tests in Finnish and American Classrooms

By Tim Walker | Published Nov 16, 2013 by Taught by Finland blog

In October, Carol Burris, a principal in New York, was approached by a colleague who was shaken-up by her child’s first grade math test. She documented her experience here. 

With the parent’s permission, she linked the controversial math test here. Take a look..

Burris was bothered by many aspects of the test. The percentage grade. The multiple-choice questions. The complexity of the math exercises.

Earlier this week, I sat down with a Finnish first grade teacher at my school and we studied this math test together. My colleague’s reactions to the test were illuminating.

The Demands of Reading

The Finnish first grade teacher was immediately shocked by the sheer amount of text on the test, wondering how her young students would fare. In the fall, first graders all across Finland are just getting their feet wet as readers.

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March 9, 2013

Teachers Make Handy Scapegoats, But Spiraling Inequality Is Really What Ails Our Education System

Stanford University scholar Linda Darling-Hammond explains the connection.

By Joshua Holland, Linda Darling-Hammond | Published March 7, 2013 by Alternet

No shortage of ink had been put to paper pondering what it is that ails America’s education system. We know that, on average, our kids’ educational outcomes lag behind those of other wealthy countries, but why is that? But one of the core problems, if not the core problem, is only rarely discussed: the staggering, and increasing inequality that marks the American economy today.

That’s the conclusion Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, has drawn from her research. AlterNet recently spoke with Darling-Hammond — below is a lightly edited transcript of the discussion.

Joshua Holland: You’ve done research on the connection between poverty and educational outcomes. We hear a lot about how poorly American students do compared to those in other wealthy countries, in terms of math or reading scores, but you found that American kids in wealthier schools do quite well. Tell us a little bit about that.

Linda Darling-Hammond: Well, there are a couple of things to know before we talk about the scores. First of all, the United States has more children living in poverty, by a long shot, than any other industrialized nation. Right now about one in four children are living in poverty. In most other industrialized nations we’re talking about well under 10 percent, because there’s so many more supports for housing, healthcare, employment, and so on.

With that very high poverty rate, our average scores on international tests look a little above the average in reading, about at the average in science and somewhat below the average in math, and a lot has been made out of that in the United States. But in fact, students in American schools where fewer than 10 percent of the students live in poverty actually are number one in the world in reading. Students in schools with up to 25 percent of kids living in poverty would rank number three in the world in reading, and even schools with as many as 50 percent of kids in poverty scored well above the averages in the OECD nations – which is mostly the European and some Asian nations. Our teachers are doing something very right in terms of educating kids to high levels in much more challenging circumstances than children face in other countries.

The place where we really see the negative affects are in the growing number of schools with concentrated poverty, where more than 75 percent of children are poor. And there — the children in those schools score at levels that are near those of developing countries, with all the challenges that they face.

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February 19, 2013

Standardized Testing – An Idea Whose Time Has Come … and Gone?

By | Published February 18 2013 by Northern Plains Drifter
The Saskatchewan government recently announced that “by the end of 2016, every Saskatchewan student between grades 4 and 12 will take part in yearly provincial standardized assessments.”
Anybody concerned with our children’s schooling would be wise to ask, “Why?”
As the thoughtful editorial in Friday’s StarPhoenix suggested, the provincial government has to make a better case for why they want every student in grades 4 to 12 to undergo this type of anxiety-creating assessment every year.
For one thing, it seems like the standardized testing craze that arrived so late in Saskatchewan might soon be sent packing elsewhere. B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix, widely expected to soon become premier, has stated that he will change B.C.’s FSA tests for all students in grades 4, 7 and 10 to a random sample test. Even Alberta’s Premier Allison Redford has considered a similar random sampling approach.
Educational leaders across the United States are also expressing doubts about the usefulness of these tests. Over 600 schools in Texas passed resolutions in 2012 demanding a reduction in high-stakes testing because they were ineffective. Indeed, the Republican-dominated House of the Texas Legislature put forth a budget for 2014-15 that entirely eliminated all funding for standardized testing. Resistance among educational stakeholders is gaining traction in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio, Virginia and California.

Dr. Pasi Sahlberg is a leading educator in Finland and author of the popular book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? When Sahlberg was recently asked by Tom Shields of the University of Richmond (Virginia) what was the most important educational reform the U.S. could do to improve its school system, he quickly answered, “Eliminate high-stakes standardized testing.”

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October 20, 2012

CHRY ‘News Now’ Interview with Robert Green on the Problems with Quebec’s 4-Tiered Education System

CHRY is the York University campus/community radio station. To listen to the ‘News Now’ feature interview with Robert Green on the problem’s with Quebec’s 4 tiered education system  click here. (To download as mp3 right-click and select ‘save link as’)

September 8, 2012

The Finnish model: A beacon for education reform?

What can Canada learn from Finland’s commitment to education?

By Vivian McCaffrey | Posted September 7, 2012 by

For the last decade, Finland’s success on international tests has caught the attention of education policymakers around the world. What is it about this small Nordic nation that has led to its students’ high performance in science, math and reading assessments? Are there lessons for other countries, such as Canada? Pasi Sahlberg, a former teacher and education expert, endeavours to answer these questions in Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

What is most perplexing for international experts is that Finland has produced top-performing students while eschewing market-based education reforms premised on competition and standardized tests. “Finland is an example of a nation that lacks school inspection, standardized curriculum, high-stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality with regard to educational change,” Sahlberg explains.

In Finland, the emphasis is on teacher-based assessment; teachers have the authority to design their own assessments and use them when they deem appropriate. External testing is limited. About 10 per cent of students participate in random-sample tests to assess aspects of the education program. The only universal test is the matriculation exams that high school students must pass to be eligible for post-secondary education.

The centrepiece of Finnish education is the nation’s teaching force. Teacher education reform dates back to 1979 when a new law on teacher education was introduced, along with a focus on professional development. Teachers are required to have a master’s degree and competition for spots in faculties of education is fierce. Only about 10 per cent of applicants are accepted.

The term “accountability” is not part of educational policy discourse. Finns place high trust in their teachers and provide them considerable professional autonomy. “The basic assumption in Finnish schools is that teachers, by default, are well-educated professionals and are doing their best in schools. In real professional learning communities, teachers trust each other, communicate frequently about teaching and learning, and rely on their principal’s guidance and leadership,” writes Sahlberg.

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August 23, 2012

Education and the 2012 Quebec Election: Part Six – Where do the Parties Stand on Public Subsidies for Private Schools?

By Robert Green

Thus far this series has looked at where Quebec’s political parties stand on education funding, curriculum reform, school autonomy ,the abolition of school boards and reducing the dropout rate. This article will examine where the parties stand on the public subsidies given to Quebec’s private schools.

The issue involving the structure of Quebec’s education system that has been getting the most attention from the political parties this election has been the abolition or restructuring of school boards. However, there is a far more important structural issue that, while negatively affecting the learning and achievement of all students, reserves its worst consequences for the most vulnerable and needy. This is the policy of denying the 163,000 special needs students in Quebec access to a large portion of province’s education system.

To understand this issue it is important to consider the structure of Quebec’s public education system. Quebec has a four-tiered education system: the fully private schools that receive no government subsidies and are not bound to follow provincial curriculum; the semi-private schools that do receive government subsidies and are bound to follow the Quebec curriculum; the “special status” public schools that have entrance exams; and the public schools that are open to all regardless of income or ability.  Entrance exams in the first three tiers ensure that it is only this final tier that is accessible to the majority of students with special needs, regardless of their ability to pay for private schools. The result is an over-representation of students with special needs within a portion of a public system whose resources are already stretched thin.

This situation would not be such a problem were it not for the public subsidies that make private schools more affordable and effectively allow so many families to opt-out of the public system. Compared to other provinces, Quebec has by far the highest percentage of students enrolled in private schools and the numbers are on the rise. From 2004 to 2010 the number of secondary students enrolled in private schools rose from 17 to 19 percent. On the Island of Montreal it has been estimated to be as high as 30 percent. This compares to a Canadian average of 5.6 percent. The only way to reduce private school enrollment and build a more equitable education system is to end the subsidies that allow so many to opt out of the public system. It is time for Quebecers to demand that their education system be structured based on principles of integration not segregation; equity not elitism.

For a more complete discussion of the issue of private school subsidies, see my previous post, “To Improve the Education System, Stop Subsidizing Private Schools”.

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May 17, 2012

Studies Suggest Economic Inequity Is Built Into, and Worsened by, School Systems

By Paul Thomas, Truthout. Posted Tuesday, 15 May 2012

“‘These studies demonstrate a simple, essential reality which corporate reformers ignore: that socioeconomics don’t somehow magically stop at classroom door,’ explained educator and scholar Adam Bessie. He added, “School reform and social reform are inseparable projects and that schools in economically and racially segregated communities are not crippled by ‘bad teachers’ nor ‘evil unions,’ but rather, by that very segregation itself.”

Bessie also suggested that these studies help challenge the call for “miracle” reform that presents schools as the singular institution to create social change, even though the dynamics of those schools tends to perpetuate the same inequity found in society. Social reform addressing over 20 percent of children living in poverty must accompany reforming school inequity, he maintained.”

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March 20, 2012

In Defense of Facing Educational Reality

by Diane Ravitch

Published on Monday, March 19, 2012 by Huffington Post

“In my reviews, I contrasted the five-year preparation of teachers in Finland with the American hodge-podge approach to the recruitment and training of teachers. In the U.S., states offer many ways to become a teacher, and our non-system has produced low standards for entry and a revolving door, with 40-50 percent leaving in their first five years of teaching. Finnish teachers are highly respected and seldom leave their profession.

Kopp dismisses Finland as a model because less than 4 percent of its children are poor. But that’s part of the story of their success and should not be waved aside as unimportant. Teacher professionalism is also part of Finnish success. In this country, our public school teachers are constantly criticized and disrespected, and few are recognized for their dedication and hard work despite budget cuts, growing class sizes, and a hostile media. So long as the attacks on teachers continue, so long as the politicians continue defunding the schools, and so long as our society continues to tolerate high levels of child poverty and intense racial segregation, we will continue to have low-performing students and “failing” schools.”

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January 2, 2012

Equity over Excellence: Why Finland’s Education System is So Successful

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

Published Dec 29 2011 in The Atlantic

“Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

That this point is almost always ignored or brushed aside in the U.S. seems especially poignant at the moment, after the financial crisis and Occupy Wall Street movement have brought the problems of inequality in America into such sharp focus. The chasm between those who can afford $35,000 in tuition per child per year — or even just the price of a house in a good public school district — and the other “99 percent” is painfully plain to see.”

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December 12, 2011

Dianne Ravitch on Whose Children Have Been ‘Left Behind’ by US Education Reforms

A Nation’s Education Left Behind

“We now know that none of the current carrot-and-stick policies will shrink the [achievement] gap. We know it because they have been tried for 10 years and they haven’t worked. Structural changes like charters and vouchers overall will not make a difference. Merit pay makes no difference. Judging teachers by test scores demoralizes teachers and will lead to narrowing of the curriculum—so that the districts where children have the lowest scores will have more time for test preparation and less time for the arts, less time for history or civics, less time for science, less time for physical education. The children who need a great education the most will get the least.

And many more children will be left behind.”

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October 31, 2011

Great Article About the Joy of Learning in Finland

Joy in Education

“And what is up in Finland’s schools? ‘These schools are joyful places,’ says Hancock. “In America, we tend to think you have to suffer to be the best, but the Finns think, no, if the kids are suffering, you’re doing something wrong.”

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