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Thread: Finland DEFEATS USA!

  1. #1 Finland DEFEATS USA! 
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    Tiny Finland spends less to produce better results in schools- how is this done, how can it be applied more widely?


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    Here's some of the features of their education system.

    All Finish children must learn 3 languages, Finish, Swedish and an optional third.
    Only the top ten % of college graduates may apply for teaching; those that get approved get an Masters degree paid for by the state.
    Teachers have equal status with doctors and lawyers.
    There are almost no standardized test, just one to graduate high school.
    Teachers spend less time teaching which allows more time to build curriculum and lessons.
    There is a huge support for single moms and poor children money, medical care, counseling--few kids are coming to school hungry.
    District with large immigrant populations are given a lot of extra support.


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    And if teachers spend less time teaching, kids spend more time playing. Thanks, I hear the film "Waiting for Superman" is relevant to the topic:

    Watch Waiting for Superman Documentary Online Free


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    Did anyone consider the idea that the Finns are on average just smarter than americans? (Of course, the fact that I just happen to be of Finnish descent has nothing to do my suggesting this. )
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Angler View Post
    And if teachers spend less time teaching, kids spend more time playing
    As part of my teacher candidate program I'd spent about 80 hours so far observing and helping various science, math and special education classrooms. In almost every case the school is divided up into 6 periods and the teachers typically getting only one for preparation. More come to work a bit early say by an hour and perhaps stay another hour--for a total of perhaps 2.5 hours to do preparation and administrative tasks for what's going to be about 5 hours of teaching. To "state standards" each lesson plan takes a couple hours to put together--so guess what's actually happening in the schools? Many of the teachers are doing it by the seat of their pants, all to often just following the text book order nearly as blind as their students or scrambling to put together worksheets they pulled from online but didn't review themselves etc.

    Combine the lack of preparation time with the mus-priority of school districts towards their sports program, getting new computers most of their staff won't know how to use or other things--despite EVERY study showing the teacher is the most important element of student learning, and it's not hard to imagine why American schools are not doing that well.

    I've heard of the superman vid and will watch later. Thanks for the link.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Angler View Post
    And if teachers spend less time teaching, kids spend more time playing
    As part of my teacher candidate program I'd spent about 80 hours so far observing and helping various science, math and special education classrooms. In almost every case the school is divided up into 6 periods and the teachers typically getting only one for preparation. More come to work a bit early say by an hour and perhaps stay another hour--for a total of perhaps 2.5 hours to do preparation and administrative tasks for what's going to be about 5 hours of teaching. To "state standards" each lesson plan takes a couple hours to put together--so guess what's actually happening in the schools? Many of the teachers are doing it by the seat of their pants, all to often just following the text book order nearly as blind as their students or scrambling to put together worksheets they pulled from online but didn't review themselves etc.

    Combine the lack of preparation time with the mus-priority of school districts towards their sports program, getting new computers most of their staff won't know how to use or other things--despite EVERY study showing the teacher is the most important element of student learning, and it's not hard to imagine why American schools are not doing that well.

    I've heard of the superman vid and will watch later. Thanks for the link.
    While I totally agree with what you're saying.. Is it really that much of a problem? The curriculum stays almost exactly the same for years doesn't it? If you've been a teacher for four years, you haven't had just had an hour to prepare your course. You've had years of teaching the same course under your belt. By this point you really should have the entire course planned out, based off your experience of what works and what doesn't work. Don't teachers recycle things that worked very well from previous years of teaching that specific course? I mean, if you fashion a great assignment, or method for a particular thing you need to teach - you really only need to actually prepare it once don't you?
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    To some degree what you are saying it true. But that same lack of time also translates into lack of time to record what you've learned so you can apply it the following year. There's also considerable push to customize lesson to student's needs. What I've seen happening it they do that customization for the special ed students in their class because they are held accountable to document those accommodations, while many children who also need help, but arent' technically "special" (including the gifted) just become a number--the result is the same. The student doesn't' like the class, their parents don't care for the teacher because they have the impression that the teacher doesn't care. Much of that impression comes from share logistics of managing 150 different kids 5 classes a day with little time to plan, prepare or learn from their mistakes. I've more than few veteran teachers who are winging it without a plan and or giving the same lesson that didn't work as they designed years ago but never had the time to fix. There's other effects as well. For example assessments both informal (e.g. good listening, quizes) and formal (test) are suppose to measure deep knowledge of content, rather than superficial content--but guess which is fastest and easiest to put together? Superficial. Our standardized show this as well with students able to chug in and plug a memorized formula, but completely unable to handle the same problem when put into a paragraph with a couple extra pieces of information (like the real world!).

    Teaching attrition is among the highest of all professions, more than half leave within five years. (I should beat the odds because it's lower among former soldiers). The number one reason for leaving in several studies is lack of preparation time. (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Teacher Follow-up Survey (“Questionnaire for Current Teachers” and “Questionnaire for Former Teachers”)

    And here we have the best school system in the world (Finland) where teachers are of the highest quality coming in and get more time to teach, compared to another nation who's teachers come from the middling college performers (on average...I'm WAY ahead here too), and get little time to prepare.

    I'm not suggesting prep time is a panacea, but it would go far to fix things--almost certainty further than more standardized testing, a school remodeling, a new sports stadium or even smaller class size.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    To some degree what you are saying it true. But that same lack of time also translates into lack of time to record what you've learned so you can apply it the following year. There's also considerable push to customize lesson to student's needs. What I've seen happening it they do that customization for the special ed students in their class because they are held accountable to document those accommodations, while many children who also need help, but arent' technically "special" (including the gifted) just become a number--the result is the same. The student doesn't' like the class, their parents don't care for the teacher because they have the impression that the teacher doesn't care. Much of that impression comes from share logistics of managing 150 different kids 5 classes a day with little time to plan, prepare or learn from their mistakes. I've more than few veteran teachers who are winging it without a plan and or giving the same lesson that didn't work as they designed years ago but never had the time to fix. There's other effects as well. For example assessments both informal (e.g. good listening, quizes) and formal (test) are suppose to measure deep knowledge of content, rather than superficial content--but guess which is fastest and easiest to put together? Superficial. Our standardized show this as well with students able to chug in and plug a memorized formula, but completely unable to handle the same problem when put into a paragraph with a couple extra pieces of information (like the real world!).

    Teaching attrition is among the highest of all professions, more than half leave within five years. (I should beat the odds because it's lower among former soldiers). The number one reason for leaving in several studies is lack of preparation time. (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Teacher Follow-up Survey (“Questionnaire for Current Teachers” and “Questionnaire for Former Teachers”)

    And here we have the best school system in the world (Finland) where teachers are of the highest quality coming in and get more time to teach, compared to another nation who's teachers come from the middling college performers (on average...I'm WAY ahead here too), and get little time to prepare.

    I'm not suggesting prep time is a panacea, but it would go far to fix things--almost certainty further than more standardized testing, a school remodeling, a new sports stadium or even smaller class size.
    Very good points! Agreed entirely, now that I have a better understanding of it. Thanks for explaing that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    And here we have the best school system in the world (Finland) where teachers are of the highest quality coming in and get more time to teach, compared to another nation who's teachers come from the middling college performers (on average...I'm WAY ahead here too), and get little time to prepare.
    A kind way of putting it - teachers in the US are drawn from the bottom third of college graduates, measured by GPA in college. And often that is a GPA earned as an "Education" major - or even a "Physical Education" major.

    The reasons are not that hard to see - the working conditions suck, the hours are long, you get no community respect, and the pay is second tier.

    Meanwhile, the lack of prep time cannot be addressed without some attention to the financing system - Finland taxes rich people's incomes, the US taxes poor people's property. Extra teachers are great expenses, for the local school.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    A kind way of putting it - teachers in the US are drawn from the bottom third of college graduates,
    Middling means in the middle, not in the lower 3rd. A good number of teacher programs and states require a 3.0 average GPA which is just below average at most colleges (~3.1 or so). But drawing off, the center on average, compared to Finland which has a highly competitive teacher programs from the top 10% is going to have a significant effect.

    . And often that is a GPA earned as an "Education" major
    Nothing wrong with that.

    - or even a "Physical Education" major.
    Their role will be in physical education...not teaching special education, math or science--where most of the demand is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Angler View Post
    And if teachers spend less time teaching, kids spend more time playing
    As part of my teacher candidate program I'd spent about 80 hours so far observing and helping various science, math and special education classrooms. In almost every case the school is divided up into 6 periods and the teachers typically getting only one for preparation. More come to work a bit early say by an hour and perhaps stay another hour--for a total of perhaps 2.5 hours to do preparation and administrative tasks for what's going to be about 5 hours of teaching. To "state standards" each lesson plan takes a couple hours to put together--so guess what's actually happening in the schools? Many of the teachers are doing it by the seat of their pants, all to often just following the text book order nearly as blind as their students or scrambling to put together worksheets they pulled from online but didn't review themselves etc.

    Combine the lack of preparation time with the mus-priority of school districts towards their sports program, getting new computers most of their staff won't know how to use or other things--despite EVERY study showing the teacher is the most important element of student learning, and it's not hard to imagine why American schools are not doing that well.

    I've heard of the superman vid and will watch later. Thanks for the link.
    Hey, no reason we cannot be friendly. I hear weather up that way in Pacific Northwest has been severe lately- down here in Texas we are just glad drought seems to be over. Best of luck in pounding knowledge into young skulls, and I agree athletic teams get too much emphasis- at a time when many kids are less fit and more fat than ever, paradoxically.

    Janus, hope you are enjoying your namesake month as well as your Finnish heritage.
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    Another pet peeve of mine is the lack of foreign language instruction in the lower grades when natural aptitude for acquiring language skills is highest. We have known this for years but seem INCAPABLE of adopting a sane policy on the subject! PLEASE tell me I am wrong, somebody!
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    A kind way of putting it - teachers in the US are drawn from the bottom third of college graduates,


    Middling means in the middle, not in the lower 3rd
    And lower third means the lowest of three equal divisions, not middling.
    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    . And often that is a GPA earned as an "Education" major

    Nothing wrong with that.
    It's not usually rigorous at the undergrad level, and it's not good preparation for a teacher. Teachers need competence in stuff like reading and writing and arithmetic, music and biology and astronomy and geography and history - not "education".

    I know teachers with Minnesota certification for elementary grades who cannot write grammatical Standard Written English, handle compound fractions with negative numbers in them, or make a light bulb shine given two wires and a battery. They aren't bad people, but one must teach something - some content - and they don't know much of anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    - or even a "Physical Education" major. Their role will be in physical education...not teaching special education, math or science--where most of the demand is.
    There's a lot of schools running with one decent math teacher, for the college prep classes, and a coach or two handling the remedial and lower grade stuff. Or maybe Biology, where they get embarrassed talking to a class with girls in it about sex and confuse everyone about meiosis vs mitosis, or Social Studies, where their kids don't learn about history and government and society instead of not learning about angles and variables.

    Getting a two-fer - a coach who picks up a class or two - is important to the budget. And they can't find a math or physics teacher anyway - that's the upper third of the college grads. They're headed for jobs that 1) pay 2) get respect 3) start and end on a schedule, with comfortable chairs and adequate time for lunch 4) let them piss when they need to.

    It's a standard market failure - an excellent third grade teacher is worth about 250, 000 dollars a year in benefits to the community (actual study, reported a year or so ago), but there's no way to connect the benefits to the buyer except by wisdom, and no one with that kind of surplus to tax except the wealthy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    A kind way of putting it - teachers in the US are drawn from the bottom third of college graduates,


    Middling means in the middle, not in the lower 3rd
    And lower third means the lowest of three equal divisions, not middling.
    But you seem to think the range of GPA in the middle third is greater than 0.1? Or you don't believe the GPA comparison. Or are just making things up.

    So lets look at another measure, which even removes the bias of teacher programs from the mix, that of SAT and GRE scores.

    "Researchers compared Praxis results of 153,000 people in 20 states and the District of Columbia, looking at self-reported GPAs and SAT scores of test-takers in two periods: 1994-1997 and 2002-2005. Teaching candidates' mean verbal score on the SAT rose from 518 to 531; the mean math score rose from 504 to 521. That's slightly higher than the general population's average SAT scores from 1990 to 2005 — 504 verbal and 510 in math.
    "I think this is a pretty powerful finding," said Art Wise, president of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the national professional accrediting body for schools of education. "A new generation of teachers is being formed, and they are, by traditional academic measures, stronger than they were eight years ago."
    Teacher qualifications improve in the past decade - USATODAY.com

    That's right the actual data suggest teacher candidates are actually slightly better, than average college students. Given the "slightly" it's still probably in the middle on average. It also runs counter to your idea that the teacher prep programs are easier than other degrees, since they are demonstratively according to the study higher SAT & GRE performers, but getting a slightly lower GPA than other college students.

    Either way, their proximity to the middle, is much lower than Finland.

    --
    I don't think there's many physical education majors teaching special education, math or science. If you really think so than please provide some data that supports it. The actual data shows, on average, onlt about about 10% of classes are taught by unqualified teachers (meaning not endorsed in their subject), but as high as 20% in the poorest areas.
    Poor schools continue to have high rates of unqualified teachers — IDEA
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; January 24th, 2012 at 10:22 AM.
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    Best of luck in pounding knowledge into young skulls
    Thank you.


    Quote Originally Posted by Arthur Angler View Post
    Another pet peeve of mine is the lack of foreign language instruction in the lower grades when natural aptitude for acquiring language skills is highest.
    I once thought this too, but the studies show just the opposite.

    Adults actually learn a 2nd language the fastest.

    I think the persistent myth that children learn fastest might come from the marketing of popular programs like RosettaStone.

    Here's an article about it: Are young children are the best language learners?

    * Scovel T, 1999 The younger the better myth and bilingual education In: Gonzalez, R (ed.) Language Ideologies: Critical Perspectives Urbana, IL: NCTE
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post
    It's a standard market failure - an excellent third grade teacher is worth about 250, 000 dollars a year in benefits to the community (actual study, reported a year or so ago), but there's no way to connect the benefits to the buyer except by wisdom, and no one with that kind of surplus to tax except the wealthy.
    Taxes, taxes, taxes - your answer to every problem. The OP says that Finland actually spends less per student than the US. Then there is US homeschooling which outperforms public schooling by 30 to 37 percentile points while spending $500–$600 a year on each student, in comparison to $9,000-$10,000 for each public school student.
    Homeschooling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Quote Originally Posted by harold
    Taxes, taxes, taxes - your answer to every problem. The OP says that Finland actually spends less per student than the US. Then there is US homeschooling which outperforms public schooling by 30 to 37 percentile points while spending $500–$600 a year on each student, in comparison to $9,000-$10,000 for each public school student.
    So?

    When you have raised the currently too low (market failure) US teacher pay without taxing anyone, let me know. When you have removed the burden of those thousands of dollars in public funds from local property owners, let me know.

    And when you have done better research into the per pupil cost of public education (average less than 6k, not 9-10 k Best Places to Live in Minneapolis, Minnesota), included the actual costs of home schooling, and figured out how to home school the children of illiterates, innumerates, dual income immigrants, single parents with full time jobs, and so forth, we can discuss comparative costs.

    Most homes schooling kids spend more than $500 a year per student on food alone. Then there's books, internet, travel expenses, lab and other resources, the football teams your link mentioned, and so forth. Throw in the voluntary teaching and curriculum (from unusually well qualified and committed people so far, a circumstance which will not survive the abolition of the public school) - and the taxpayer funded teaching and curriculum - and we'll have begun a reasonable discussion.

    Home schooling is a fine thing, and much to be encouraged, but the public school was developed in the first place because the existing home schooling wasn't performing well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iceaura View Post

    And when you have done better research into the per pupil cost of public education (average less than 6k, not 9-10 k Best Places to Live in Minneapolis, Minnesota), included the actual costs of home schooling, and figured out how to home school the children of illiterates, innumerates, dual income immigrants, single parents with full time jobs, and so forth, we can discuss comparative costs.
    In that case the OP is wrong. Finland spends more than we do.
    The Finnish miracle - Academics & Activities | GreatSchools
    Is the secret massive financial investment? No. Finland spends only $7,500 per student, considerably less than the United States' average $8,700.
    If we are comparing to Finland, we need to require a master's degree for teachers like they do. Then we can compare teacher salaries.
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    If we are comparing to Finland, we need to require a master's degree for teachers like they do. Then we can compare teacher salaries.
    We aren't comparing teacher salaries.

    The salaries of US teachers are too low for its market, not the markets of foreign countries. When civil engineers with a BS start at 75k out of college, your problem hiring upper ranked math grads to teach high school has nothing to do with masters degrees.

    If we were comparing salaries of teachers with masters degrees, plenty of US teachers have them - and they do get paid a little more (nothing like BS in civil engineering, but a little more). The teachers unions fought for that, and got it. That is one of the complaints from the rightwingies in the US - because there is no evidence, none, that a masters degree correlates with high school teaching performance in any subject, in the US.
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    That is one of the complaints from the rightwingies in the US - because there is no evidence, none, that a masters degree correlates with high school teaching performance in any subject.
    I am a "rightwingies," and havent' heard that, but no matter, Master's degree do count by High School.
    "We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials, particularly licensure and certification, affects student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. "
    Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School

    It also shows that teachers with masters degree in the subject area improve high school student in those ares: (Clotfelder et al. 2007b).

    Where they get things right, is the effect is low to moderate at best and there's little disagreement that less tangible things like communication skills, persistent and positive attitude, and mental flexibility probably count more.
    They also make the point that teacher unions tend to protect the low performing teachers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    The teachers unions fought for that, and got it. That is one of the complaints from the rightwingies in the US -

    I am a "rightwingies," and havent' heard that,
    You haven't heard that the teachers unions have imposed work rules and salary schedules unrelated to performance?

    OK.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx
    but no matter, Master's degree do count by High School.
    "We find compelling evidence that teacher credentials, particularly licensure and certification, affects student achievement in systematic ways and that the magnitudes are large enough to be policy relevant. "
    Teacher Credentials and Student Achievement in High School
    Odd choice of quote - irrelevant, when apparently there were relevant quotes and argument to be had:
    It also shows that teachers with masters degree in the subject area improve high school student in those ares:
    Can't read it, but have read other studies that found no such effect after correction for other factors.

    At any rate, no one is claiming that a masters in "Education" - the degree obtained by Finland's teachers - is worth a nickel extra in the US. So demanding US credentials that sound like Finland's would not, in itself, help.
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    Here is the full paragraph from the paper:
    "Variation 2 focuses on the teachers with master’s degrees. The results indicate
    virtually no difference between teachers without master’s degrees and those who received
    their master’s before entering teaching. However, teachers who received master’s degrees
    after they began teaching appear to be some what more effective than those without a
    master’s degree. This pattern differs quite markedly from the pattern that emerged in our
    previous research on elementary school teac hers (Clotfelter, La dd& Vigdor, 2007a). For
    teachers in the earlier grades, th e earning of a master’s degree more than five years into
    teaching was associated with a negative effect on student achievement. We interpreted
    that finding to mean that it was the less effective teachers who chose to pursue master’s
    degrees later in their careers. At the high school level, in contrast, for whatever reason,
    having a teacher with a master’s degree is predictive of higher achievement. "
    And the paper:
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j...BdY7awuuDxMPfw

    This one applies to North Carolina--and it's uncertainly whether it's conclusion would apply everywhere. Unfortunately there don't seem to be many similar studies that break it down in as much detail.
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    Quote Originally Posted by lynx
    Here is the full paragraph from the paper:
    Kind of what I thought - highly motivated teachers, who want to learn more in their subject, tend to teach better. And that extra knowledge does come in handy in high school - some bright young folks will push a regular BA pretty hard.

    Whereas those who earned masters right away and found they still couldn't get hired to good job, tended to end up in teaching without necessarily being all that motivated. It's not the possession of the degree, but the motivation, that counts.

    The elementary teachers who get their masters later would often be those looking for a new field or administrative position, no? That is, a masters is few people's idea of preparing to teach third grade, or improving one's competence at handling a third grade classroom. These people want out.
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    It's not the possession of the degree, but the motivation, that counts.
    And that is helped immeasurably by general social standards. The big thing to remember about Finnish teachers is that they are highly respected as professionals - but they are not paid particularly highly.

    A lot of US, UK and Oz teachers would be a whole lot happier with their conditions, hours of weekend work and pay packets if it came with social recognition and status rather than constant accusations of being lazy, or overpaid, or glorified child minders or similar disheartening negativity.
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