December 2011

Reformers Asking Finland's Schools The Wrong Questions

How the lessons of Finland's school systems are lost on American education reformers.

Finland’s school system has long been held as the premier school system in the world. Consistently ranking above the high-achieving “super-schools” in places like Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong on international comparison tests. Although all Scandinavian schools tend to perform in the highest rankings in those tests, Finland has consistently been at the top, and thus has become a model for many of the western nations school systems. A recent article in Atlantic Monthly points to many education reformers in the U.S. that are attempting to figure out what makes Finnish schools work, and accuses them of missing the point.

A University Education is a Worthy Pursuit: Is It the Right One?

I’m not sure that there is a bigger believer in education then myself. I had a child young and was a single mom without any real support. However, I went back to college when my daughter was one year old. I  started out in community college and eventually worked my way into the University of Washington.  I received a Bachelor of Arts in Law, Society and Justice when my daughter was approximately seven years old. Getting a university education has been one of the most valuable things that I've done. Yet, I recognize that it is not for everyone.

Everything Points To Portfolio Assessment Over Standardized Tests

...except our government.

In the assessment craze of educational reform there has been an ill-conceived love-affair with high-stakes standardized tests as the ultimate form student assessment. As a public school teacher I can attest to this fact, administering no less than six standardized, norm-referenced tests each year. If you include the several weeks prep that many of the larger state tests demand, one can quickly see the school year dwindle to a series of multiple-choice questions. Fortunately, many higher education institutions are moving from these types of tests to a portfolio format that is more indicative of students’ abilities, and more practical to preparing students for the workforce.

What happens when adults take standardized tests?

They bomb them.

The interwebs have been aflutter about a piece from the Washington Post about a school board member who took a standardized test meant for 10th graders and flunked it miserably. The adult tester, an educator and counselor from Orange County, FL. named Rick Roach, calls for reforms in standardized testing, a racket he believes destroys kids, rather than helping them.

Foreign Language Immersion: Let's Get Global!

Foreign language study in the United States is truly lacking. While a common justification is that there is not funding for it, the studies are clear that children that learn a foreign language as a child will have an easier time learning and retaining it. Some schools do offer language classes but not usually as part of the standard curriculum. I have seen it offered as a once per week after school class. It should be incorporated in the curriculum. One way for students to learn foreign languages is through an immersion program.