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The Fake Revolution

If you spent any time in front of the TV last week, you may believe a revolution is underway in America’s classrooms. NBC dedicated a week of its programming to seed in-depth conversations about how to improve our schools. A new documentary about public education opened across the country to sold-out audiences. And a young billionaire – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – pledged $100 million of his own money (on Oprah no less!) to help the city of Newark transform its public schools.

I wish I could participate fully in the optimism, yet I keep thinking of the old adage that says there are three types of reform efforts:  traditional, transitional, or transformational. And despite the high-powered pomp and circumstance of last week, two moments in particular convinced me that our current path is likely, at best, to yield cosmetic changes to a system in dire need of an extreme makeover.

Continue reading . . .

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Education Nation & Finland

I’m playing catch up with all the programming NBC is producing this week as part of its Education Nation series, but I want to highly recommend one of those videos, an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Finland’s Minister of Education, Pasi Sahlberg.

See for yourself on the video below, but here are a few highlights worth underscoring:

  • Finland’s focus has always been on “building a system which is attractive to young people, and morally purposeful.”
  • In Finland, teachers “enjoy a certain prestige.”
  • In Finland, “poor performance is not punished,” and teachers are entrusted with the authority — and provided with the training and support — to administer all assessments locally.

In short, Finland recognized a generation ago that if it wanted to create a world-class education system, it needed to invest deeply in the long-term creation of a highly competitive and well-trained teaching profession, not the short-term acceptance of a highly-volatile and rapidly-trained teaching force. As Linda Darling-Hammond writes in her newest book, The Flat World & Education, “Finland shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around very lean national standards. The logic of the system is that investments in the capacity of local teachers and schools to meet the needs of all students, coupled with thoughtful guidance about goals, can unleash the benefits of local creativity in the cause of common, equitable outcomes.”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself . . .

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