-- When it comes to the nuts and bolts of education policy, a topic that ranks high among the concerns of female and Latino voters, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are remarkably similar: both think standardized tests are important, that teachers need to be evaluated rigorously, and that charter schools are an important component of America's educational landscape. --
Which makes both of them contributors to the continued degradation of the American educational system. I repeat, any educator who supports the use of standardized tests for evaluation should be stripped of their credentials for gross malpractice. And we must stop Washington and state governments from "reforming" the system. The more these incompetent amateurs meddle, the worse our educational system becomes. Only they should be surprised at this result.
Tapio Kosunen, State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Finland (whew, long title!) was recently interviewed on This Is America. His nation has been at the top of the international ratings for quality of education and student performance for the past 40 years. Finland is universally regarded as having the best and the most successful educational system in the world. Now you probably think they must have banned teachers' unions, rely heavily on standardized tests, punish poorly performing teachers and schools, established a fiercely competitive system of for profit charter schools, and retain any student who underachieves.
In fact, they have done exactly none of these things.
They have completely banned standardized tests (which I have insisted upon for decades), with the single exception of one, that is 1, standardized test, which is taken at the end of high school.
Tests, rankings, and competition are not a part of the system. I say again, are NOT a part of the system.
Instead of isolating special needs and low performing students, they are mainstreamed. That is, they are simply part of regular classrooms.
Lessons run for 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute break before the next lesson begins.
Students enter school at age 7.
Music, the arts, and other topics which are being weakened or dropped as distractions in America are an essential part of the curriculum in Finland.
Teachers in America are often attacked as lazy or incompetent. In Finland, they are one of the top five most admired professionals, along with doctors and lawyers.
Every teacher must have a master's degree before entering the classroom.
Teachers' unions in Finland are heavily involved in major policy decisions.
Finland has virtually no charter schools in the entire country.
Retaining a Finnish student is so rare, it is considered to be a shocking action taken only in the most extreme circumstances.
So why are we doing the opposite? More importantly, why do we think doing the opposite of the most successful school system in the world will make our system better? The complete answer is complex, but the basic answer is very accurate...ideology.
If our national driving instructors were being reformed by the same people who are reforming our schools, they would be required to teach students to put their cars in reverse, hold down the brakes, and never change gears. When the cars failed to move, our leaders would tell us that is was all the fault of the instructors.
Thus we advance the self destructive practices begun under the leadership of St. Ronald of Reagan and continued by every President and Congress since. This is the same determined effort to do the wrong thing at every opportunity which both Obama and Romney promise to continue.