Are We Running the Wrong Way?


Former opponents Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier now write a blog together, both opposing No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the whole mess of business-driven educational “reforms” currently being inflicted upon our children and their teachers. In her latest post, Meier asks Ravitch questions about some “fact-lets” about education, and those contrasting educational reform in highly successful Finland with those in floundering America struck me as worth sharing.

Meier writes:

That Finland has consciously engaged in systematic reform now for less than 10 years, with amazing results. That suggests you can make rapid “revolutionary” change given … what? A smaller geographic and more homogeneous population? For another—as you noted the other day—if a nation has a 2 percent child-poverty rate compared with the more than 20 percent we face. And I think that latter figure, Diane, is low.

The changes the Finns made, however, are exactly the opposite as those we are engaged in. Bizarrely so. Still I doubt if the presentation by Pasi Sahlberg of Finland’s Ministry of Education at the Education Week conference this week converted many of the audience. Why not? What do you think?

The Finns start formal schooling later (at age 7) while we keep starting younger. They have no standardized tests; we keep adding more. They rely on teachers and local schools to design curriculum and assessment. They depend on getting teachers out of education schools and manage to recruit highly qualified teachers that way. They are 100 percent unionized. They have both a shorter instructional day and fewer school days a year. For students, that is. Teachers have lots of time, therefore, when they are “at work” for planning learning, preparing, reviewing, and meeting together and with families.

The blog, Bridging Differences, is here.