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By now, most people interested in education and international comparisons among countries is aware both that Finland performs very well on such comparisons while the US does not - although a large part of the difference is because we have far more economic inequity.

Pasi Sahlberg is internationally known for his work on education, both in Finland, where among other things he was a former Director General of CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) in Helsinki.  He is currently a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, MA, USA (where he has been kind enough to invite me to be a guest lecturer in the middle of April). He is author of Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?

Sahlberg often presents at conferences around the United States.  Yesterday he spoke at a conference in Denver about opting out of tests.  As part of that presentation he had a power point presentation, one that was very similar if not identical to what he offered two weeks ago when he presented at Teaching & Learning 2014, the annual conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards  (I will be writing about this conference shortly).

I thought I would share the powerpoint from yesterday.  So take a look at this powerpoint and perhaps offer some reactions?


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (22+ / 0-)

    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 05:54:22 AM PDT

  •  Scandinavia appears to do everything better than (5+ / 0-)

    we do these days. It's kind of discouraging really.

    On another note, hello. I've been out of the kos pocket for awhile. Hoping to return to my old love of blogging.

    •  Ken thanks for diary. :-) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You ran into a hardcore progressive whos just another working stiff with an MBA degree & vociferous labor union supporter

      by Democrats Ramshield on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 08:19:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  well, ya know... (3+ / 0-)

      it's kinda expensive being the world's bully eavesdropper police state superpower.

      I'm sure we'd spend lots of money on public education, universal health care, and the common good if we could afford it. /snark

      Oh, wait, no...we'd give it all to those struggling billionaires whose fee-fees are hurting these days.

      Well, at least it would be going to the blessed "job creators" -- who, strangely, don't create jobs no matter how much money we give them. After all, there are only so many grape-peeler openings around.

      "I think in America, the opposite of poverty is justice." Bryan Stevenson

      by gfre on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 10:52:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great School For Each and Every Child (5+ / 0-)

    I loved that slide. It highlights a leadership problem we in the US have at the national, state, and local levels. Personally, I don't want my children to attend the best school--I want them to attend a school that is good for them. I worry that our schools are losing sight of that.

    "H.R.W.A.T.P.T.R.T.C.I.T.G -- He really was a terrible president that ran the country into the ground."

    by Reino on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 08:02:09 AM PDT

  •  This PowerPoint is too clear-headed (6+ / 0-)

    and sensible to make much headway in the US.  I taught in  public schools for many years, and now teach at a (public) community college; what I take away from the experience (other than the joy of teaching so many wonderful and challenging students) is that we, as a nation, don't like kids much.  We treat them as an inconvenience and don't support their parents.  Parenting here is "you're on your own, lotsa luck" and if your kid doesn't fit the standard (whatever that happens to be at that moment), it's too bad.  The real miracle is that some people are raising outstanding human beings, despite the circumstances.

    People love their own children, mostly, but other peoples' children just don't matter.  Until we can get past this particular kind of blindness, it's going to be very hard to create meaningful change on a national scale.

    Sorry this sounds so cynical -- I love teaching, but sometimes I wish I had a magic wand to wave over the whole system...

  •  numbers matter vs. human beings (kids) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, barleystraw

    we have become dumb through numbers

    reality must have a number associated with it

    on a trip I met a woman who had spent 30 years teaching first grade. She noted that in the last few years no one was interested in what she had to say. The latest and greatest, the tests, the new "understanding" (or new fad) was all that mattered

    and when there is so much "innovation" of course those with experience and connection to a community get in the way of "progress"

    Findland does what the US used to do but forgot.

    Can we be humble enough to learn what we threw out?

  •  the difference between #17 and #1 (4+ / 0-)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 10:55:10 AM PDT

  •  Chicken and egg? (0+ / 0-)

    I've always been of the opinion that education creates equality.  That has been my motive for standardization and I'm also more pro-testing than I suspect many here are.  I want to make sure everyone has the same basic skills and knowledge in a variety of subjects regardless of zip code or socio-economic circumstance.

    •  And how does testing accomplish that goal? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries, Chi

      In my experience students learn through being taught, not through being tested.

      And my experience (unlike, I suspect, yours) has been gained through actually being in schools with real students on a daily basis. What is the basis for your opinion that tests help students learn?

      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 02:37:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tests don't help students learn. (0+ / 0-)

        They make sure they are learning.  Yes, I'm in the classroom daily.  Unfortunately I do see a lot of teaching to the test that should be unnecessary.  If we say we want every student to know basic things testing is how we know whether they are in fact learning those things.  When I see a teenager who can't make change I want to know who said they could pass math class, just as an example.  So yes, of course they need to be taught, but that also has to be measured.

        •  going to strongly disagree (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          historys mysteries, bleuet, musiclady, Chi

          it does not have to be "measured" it has to be assessed, and assessment can be by performance not by numbers or percentages.

          I have a total of 118 students right now.  I do not need a test to tell you what each can do.  I assess them constantly, formally on their writing, informally on how they work with others, how they participate in class.  By now I can tell you what motivates them, what concerns them, what their passions are, what turns them off.  I do not need standardized tests for any of that.

          I used to teach for Princeton Review  We used to tell our students that what the SAT measured was

          -  to some degree your vocabulary
          -  to some degree how well you could follow directions
          -  to some degree how quickly you could work

          but largely two other things
          - what your background was (economic and family education)
          - how well you did on that test that day

          it was less indicative of how you would do in college than were your high school records,and bore little or no predictive value beyond freshman year.

          My tests - and I do use tests I design - enable both myself and the students to get immediate feedback of what they understand and what they don't.  They are not intended to be punitive.

          Were it up to me there would be only two marks
          - meets requirements
          - has yet to meet requirements.

          "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

          by teacherken on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 03:55:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have no doubt you do your job well. (0+ / 0-)

            But if I'm a state policy maker how do I know how your kids do compared to kids across the state, in other states, or even other countries, unless there is a standard test they all take?  This isn't about reporting to the teachers.  Teachers make their own tests for that as you do.  It's fine to divide between meets requirements and yet to meet requirements, but said requirements need to be the same across the board.

            •  how about actually looking at their work (0+ / 0-)

              there is no reason we cannot create electronic portfolios of student work and have those available to be examined

              shows far more than does a multiple choice test

              Oh, and for a long time Nebraska actually refused to have ANY high stakes statewide tests except a writing test graded in the school.

               It sure doesn't hurt Finland not having tests, does it?

              "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

              by teacherken on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 02:30:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But will those portfolios.. (0+ / 0-)

                ...all of the same assignments?  There needs to be an apples to apples comparison.  Besides the kind of skills and knowledge I am most interested in everybody having as a baseline can I think easily be gauged by multiple choice.

                •   bullshit (0+ / 0-)

                  students are different.  There is no reason it has to be apples to apples.  We run science fairs with different projects and no one has trouble with that.  That includes the most prestigious international fairs.

                  The projects can be evaluated on their own merit.

                  "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

                  by teacherken on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 05:19:50 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  sent this diary to member Natn. School Boards Ass (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries

    a friend just joined the National School Boards Association.

    I sent him this link


  •  Breaking it down: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, historys mysteries, barleystraw

    Collaboration is better than competition.

    Creativity, diversity, is better than standardization (everyone be a clone of everyone else).

    Trusting and handing over responsibility for outcomes is better than flat-lined test-based accountability.

    Equality is better than so-called "choice".

  •  The "Successful State" slide was an eye-opener. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, chimene

    Were there sources noted for that one? (I know I can look 'em up myself - just wondered.) There are several areas I want to explore such as:

    Political Empowerment of Women Finland #2 vs. USA #55 (wow!)

    Global Gender Gap Index Finland #2 vs USA #22 (double wow!)

    Economic Competitiveness Finland #3 vs USA #7 (so why the push for austerity etc. here and what is preventing effective pushback?)

    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." -- JC, Matthew 6:24

    by Chi on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 01:27:06 PM PDT

  •  Haha! G.E.R.M. - like it :) nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." -- JC, Matthew 6:24

    by Chi on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 01:29:15 PM PDT

  •  Pertinent entry in Diane Ravitch's blog. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You can find it here:

    The take-away is that Finland is doing nothing much different than what American educational research has been recommending for decades, and from what American educational practice used to do.

    The authors of the article actually felt encouraged from their visit to Finland because there really wasn't anything in the classroom practice that wasn't already a part of American educational culture.

    None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

    by Toddlerbob on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 01:25:26 AM PDT

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