here and here are a very informative articles on educational reform policies

But you won’t hear much about the Finnish reform movement. It is so un-American in both concept and execution. Moreover, even the author of Finnish Lessons, who himself played a prominent role in the revamping, realizes that educational reform of the Finnish kind cannot occur in a vacuum. He quotes from an external audit conducted by the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development:

…it is hard to imagine how Finland’s educational success could be achieved or maintained without reference to the nation’s broader and commonly accepted system of distinctive social values that more individualistic and inequitable societies may find difficult to accept.*

The United States, as these pages have documented on numerous occasions, is an intensely “individualistic and inequitable” society. We have given new meaning to unfairness and inequality. So, it does not surprise me in the least that we cannot comprehend, let alone even acknowledge, that there is a different and far better way to reform our public schools.

In America, we do things insanely backwards, always focusing on after-the-fact approaches while expecting different outcomes with each wave of educational reform. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are two egregious examples, both of which attempt to change an entrenched system via “accountability.” It works in broad outlines like this:

Mary wants to be a teacher. She attends college, with an emphasis on education, of course. She graduates, receiving her teaching certificate. A school district hires her. Go forth and teach, she’s told, probably ill-equipped to do so without months if not years of constant struggle with disturbing child behavior and frustrating institutional pressures. Many of her colleagues will give up the grueling process. And no matter how well Mary believes she’s doing in the classroom, increasingly she will be judged by how well her students perform on standardized tests.

All teachers in America are under threat by those who presume to know best how to improve academic learning, though they may be furthest removed from the educational enterprise, what I call the crucial interface between teacher and pupil. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg offers us the latest initiative, one designed to weed out under-performing teachers. (…)

The accompanying article begins:

Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probations were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s goal to end “tenure as we know it.”

To many of us, such measures, however draconian, seem reasonable. After all, very few of us are guaranteed employment security. We may think ourselves fortunate to land a job and even more so if we retain it over time. Why should teachers enjoy the same privilege as Supreme Court judges?

Yet, this is certainly not the Finnish way. Nor will Bloomberg’s harsh strategy improve academic performance. And the reason is as simple as it may appear impossible: successful reform is all about preparing teachers before they enter the classroom and not afterwards. But that’s not all.

What is the purpose of education? That should be first and foremost in any effort to change the system. Here is Sahlberg’s suggested answer:

Create a community of learners that provides the conditions that allow all young people to discover their talent.

Huh? No accountability? No high stakes testing? No rewards and punishment? No consequences for underperformance? Nope. Finland has none of the above.

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