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Thread: Why Finlandís schools are great (by doing what we donít)

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    Default Why Finlandís schools are great (by doing what we donít)

    From an article by Dianne Ravitch:

    "Admission to teacher education programs at the end of high school is highly competitive; only one in 10 ó or even fewer ó qualify for teacher preparation programs. All Finnish teachers spend five years in a rigorous program of study, research, and practice, and all of them finish with a mastersí degree. Teachers are prepared for all eventualities, including students with disabilities, students with language difficulties, and students with other kinds of learning issues."

    "Teachers and principals repeatedly told me that the secret of Finnish success is trust. Parents trust teachers because they are professionals. Teachers trust one another and collaborate to solve mutual problems because they are professionals. Teachers and principals trust one another because all the principals have been teachers and have deep experience. When I asked about teacher attrition, I was told that teachers seldom leave teaching; itís a great job, and they are highly respected."

    "Finland has one other significant advantage over the United States. The child-poverty rate in Finland is under 4 percent. Here it is 22 percent and rising. Itís a well-known fact that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic performance."

    "Finland rightly deserves attention today as a nation that treats its children as a precious resource and that honors the adults who make education their passion and their career."

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    I wonder if Ms. Ravitch has seen "The Finland Phenomenon," which I commented on here back in May. While our education system can't do much in the short term about the relative disadvantages that some students in the US bring with them to their first day of Kindergarten (and have to carry with them from that day on) and about the Finland's economy paying its teachers a salary comparable to other professions such as law, it could do a better job of pre-service and in-service teacher training.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    While our education system can't do much in the short term about the relative disadvantages that some students in the US bring with them to their first day of Kindergarten (and have to carry with them from that day on) and about the Finland's economy paying its teachers a salary comparable to other professions such as law, it could do a better job of pre-service and in-service teacher training.
    It's not Finland's economy that pays teachers a salary comparable to other professions such as law. Finland's citizens value the contribution of high-caliber teachers, and elect a government that allocates the resources required to attract, train, and compensate them.

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    According to "The Finland Phenomenon's" Tony Wagner, teachers in Finland are paid only a bit more than teachers in the US (adjusting for differences in our respective economies, I think). However, in Finland, professions such as law don't pay appreciably more than teaching (again, according to Dr. Wagner).

    I don't know the mechanism by which those salaries occur or are set, but the paying is done by their economy in the sense of this World English Dictionary definition: "4. a. the complex of human activities concerned with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; b. a particular type or branch of such production, distribution, and consumption: a socialist economy ; an agricultural economy"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    According to "The Finland Phenomenon's" Tony Wagner, teachers in Finland are paid only a bit more than teachers in the US (adjusting for differences in our respective economies, I think). However, in Finland, professions such as law don't pay appreciably more than teaching (again, according to Dr. Wagner).

    I don't know the mechanism by which those salaries occur or are set, but the paying is done by their economy in the sense of this World English Dictionary definition: "4. a. the complex of human activities concerned with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; b. a particular type or branch of such production, distribution, and consumption: a socialist economy ; an agricultural economy"
    I drew the distinction between economy and government as the agent of compensation because we elect the latter, not the former, and thus have the opportunity to institute change. A round of verbal swordplay was not my objective.

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    Assuming that we don't wish to curtail the regulated market's ability to pay lawyers what it will, I don't see a path to paying teachers what we pay lawyers. As a result, I don't see a path to teaching being as selective a profession in the US as it is in Finland.

    As I see it, three of the biggest differences between education in Finland vs. the US are:
    1. Socioeconomic diversity
    2. Relative teacher pay
    3. Quality of teacher training

    For the foreseeable future, we really only have the ability to affect the third of these. Whether we have the will is a different question, and given the lack of will to do the right thing on so many fronts in this country, I'm not optimistic that we'll get even this one piece of the puzzle right. And even if we did (and we should), it remains to be seen how affecting this one piece would affect our relative educational ranking compared with Finland. I suspect that we could dramatically narrow but not completely close the gap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Assuming that we don't wish to curtail the regulated market's ability to pay lawyers what it will, I don't see a path to paying teachers what we pay lawyers. As a result, I don't see a path to teaching being as selective a profession in the US as it is in Finland.

    As I see it, three of the biggest differences between education in Finland vs. the US are:
    1. Socioeconomic diversity
    2. Relative teacher pay
    3. Quality of teacher training

    For the foreseeable future, we really only have the ability to affect the third of these. Whether we have the will is a different question, and given the lack of will to do the right thing on so many fronts in this country, I'm not optimistic that we'll get even this one piece of the puzzle right. And even if we did (and we should), it remains to be seen how affecting this one piece would affect our relative educational ranking compared with Finland. I suspect that we could dramatically narrow but not completely close the gap.
    There is little if anything on this planet more valuable than a well-trained mind. Think about how to monetize that...

    Dave

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    It's a Catch 22! [grin]

    It takes well-trained minds to create a system that creates well-trained minds ...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    It's a Catch 22! [grin]

    It takes well-trained minds to create a system that creates well-trained minds ...
    We have more than enough well-trained minds to bootstrap the process. Sal Khan's transformation from Quant to Educator illustrates the leverage that is possible.

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    Most educators and observers understand the importance of teacher quality. The National Council on Teacher Quality published a landmark study in 2006 showing how poor a job our nation's teaching colleges do in the area of reading. It does not take a heroic leap to think that this failure translates to other subject areas.

    Understanding the problem is a great start, but a great start isn't enough. Few if any have identified an implementable path to improving the way that our future teachers learn in college and graduate school. The best path that I can see starts with state departments of education. For instance, they might only certify teachers who truly understand their subject matter and how to transmit that subject matter. Such certification might in turn put pressure on teaching colleges to improve the preparation that they offer.

    The beauty of this approach is that it doesn't require more money--future teachers are already paying their teaching colleges tuition. And higher quality teachers on their first day on the job means that schools can spend their scarce professional development dollars in better ways.

    The problem is that the challenge of getting teaching colleges to change is translated to the problem of getting state departments of education to change. And while that's an easier political problem, it's not an easy one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Most educators and observers understand the importance of teacher quality. The National Council on Teacher Quality published a landmark study in 2006 showing how poor a job our nation's teaching colleges do in the area of reading. It does not take a heroic leap to think that this failure translates to other subject areas.

    Understanding the problem is a great start, but a great start isn't enough. Few if any have identified an implementable path to improving the way that our future teachers learn in college and graduate school. The best path that I can see starts with state departments of education. For instance, they might only certify teachers who truly understand their subject matter and how to transmit that subject matter. Such certification might in turn put pressure on teaching colleges to improve the preparation that they offer.

    The beauty of this approach is that it doesn't require more money--future teachers are already paying their teaching colleges tuition. And higher quality teachers on their first day on the job means that schools can spend their scarce professional development dollars in better ways.

    The problem is that the challenge of getting teaching colleges to change is translated to the problem of getting state departments of education to change. And while that's an easier political problem, it's not an easy one.
    It's the private sector that most benefits from the availability of well-trained minds. I suspect that the solution will require its direct involvement as a source of investment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    It's the private sector that most benefits from the availability of well-trained minds. I suspect that the solution will require its direct involvement as a source of investment.
    Interesting thought, I wonder how that corporate involvement might play out. Certainly, it puts the expense where the ultimate revenue is, as the people who have benefited the most from the last two decades of the US economy are corporations (thanks, Mitt!) and others in the top 1%.

    Q: Would corporations fund the entirety of the current publicly-funded K-12 system?
    Q: Or would they select only the best students?
    Q: Would they cover all 13 years of K-12 (plus pre-K)?
    Q: Or would they select only a portion of that time?
    Q: If they funded 13+ years, how would they convince their shareholders of the value of such a long-term investment?
    Q: Would a student educated by a corporation be required to work for that corporation (the US military service academy model)?

    Q: Or, would corporations add funding to something resembling the current public K-12 system?
    Q: Would they cover all students and/or all 13+ years?
    Q: Even in this more limited case, how would they convince their shareholders of the value?

    Gloucester MA made headlines recently with the announcement that New Balance will be paying $500k per year for naming rights to Newell Stadium, where Gloucester HS athletic teams pay. A question becomes--would Boston Scientific, for instance, pay naming rights for a chemistry lab?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Interesting thought, I wonder how that corporate involvement might play out. Certainly, it puts the expense where the ultimate revenue is, as the people who have benefited the most from the last two decades of the US economy are corporations (thanks, Mitt!) and others in the top 1%.
    Corporations and their shareholders.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Would corporations fund the entirety of the current publicly-funded K-12 system?
    I suggested a source, not the source.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Or would they select only the best students?
    At age 5? The best at what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Would they cover all 13 years of K-12 (plus pre-K)?
    Q: Or would they select only a portion of that time?
    Pre-K through 12th grade is the high-leverage opportunity; it's where our current system is weakest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: If they funded 13+ years, how would they convince their shareholders of the value of such a long-term investment?
    The argument is purely economic. For American corporations, staffing their current openings is already problematic; recall from previous threads that the unemployment rate for those with college degrees is less than 5%. With no improvement in our educational system, this situation will worsen as the rising standard of living in countries like India, China, Brazil, Ukraine, Vietnam, Argentina, Chile, and Russia makes it much more difficult to retain their students that attend our universities. To compete, our corporations need a reliable source of well-trained minds; if our corporations fail to compete, our quality of life will fall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Would a student educated by a corporation be required to work for that corporation (the US military service academy model)?
    No. Corporations would fund our educational system, not the training of individual students.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Or, would corporations add funding to something resembling the current public K-12 system?
    If corporations considered the current K-12 system worthy of investment, they would already be investing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Would they cover all students and/or all 13+ years?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q: Even in this more limited case, how would they convince their shareholders of the value?
    Asked and answered.

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    Partial corporate funding of education-for-all is intriguing, but I'm not convinced that corporations are motivated for such a long-term investment. By the logic above, corporations should already be investing in some form of K-12 education that would lead to an improved workforce. Is this happening in a manner about which I'm unaware?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Partial corporate funding of education-for-all is intriguing, but I'm not convinced that corporations are motivated for such a long-term investment. By the logic above, corporations should already be investing in some form of K-12 education that would lead to an improved workforce. Is this happening in a manner about which I'm unaware?
    Why would anyone invest in a system as badly broken as the one now in place? It's performance is miserable, and falling.
    Last edited by DHBernstein; 10-19-2011 at 03:06 AM.

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