Finnish Lessons: What We Learned from Pasi Sahlberg

By Lisa Guisbond

We all got a taste of Finnish education from Pasi Sahlberg Wednesday night, and boy did it taste good! In describing his country’s approach to school reform, the Finnish educator and author filled First Parish Church with hope and optimism by showing us “some new ideas about what is possible, not just about what is wrong.”

Pasi did not shy away from critiquing the ways U.S. education reform has gone astray. “You are testing your kids too much, it is too expensive, and it has negative consequences for students.” (According to Pasi, an expression I thought was a piece of American folk wisdom is also used in Finland: “Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter.” The difference is, in Finland, they take this to heart!)

Pasi described a system that spends less than the U.S. Nevertheless, it gives all schools equitable resources, has well-trained and highly respected teachers, little standardized testing, and recognizes children’s need for play and creative expression.   → Read More

High-Stakes Testing’s Unintended Consequences

Northeastern University Professor Louis Kruger continues to screen his MCAS documentary, “Children Left Behind,” and speak to community groups about the film’s message. A recent article in the Sharon Patch featured an interview with Kruger, a member of the CPS board of directors:

Kruger says high-stakes tests such as the MCAS have “unintended consequences” for the students who fail them.

“The research indicates that high stakes tests do not accomplish their principal aim of improving the academic skills of students, and in addition the tests have serious side effects on our most vulnerable students,” Kruger says.

“If high stakes tests, such as the MCAS, were pharmaceuticals, the FDA would ban their use.”

   → Read More

Sign CPS Petition to Stop History MCAS

Dear Governor Patrick and Secretary Reville,

As concerned parents, teachers, students and other members of the community, we the undersigned ask that you reconsider implementing the Social Studies MCAS graduation requirement recently endorsed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Since the state education budget is being cut, the $ 2.5 million per year or more that it would cost to administer a Social Studies MCAS will have to come from something else. What does the state plan to cut in order to administer this test? The money should instead be allocated to serve real educational needs, such as well-trained and supported teachers and staff, up-to-date textbooks, libraries, well-maintained buildings and classrooms, and much more. What students do not need is one more standardized test.

We believe that the close vote on the Board, as well as the worsening budget crisis that compels us to make wise choices with scarce education dollars, strengthens our request that you overturn the decision to impose yet another test-based graduation requirement on our children.   → Read More

Civil Rights, Community-based Groups Signal New Education Consensus; MCAS study finds ‘teachers are not to blame’

Three timely and significant reports have been released in the past few weeks that signal a promising change in the public debate on education. A coalition of major national civil rights groups and another of community-based organizations have issued statements and recommendations strongly critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top initiative, signaling a growing consensus that it’s time for a change in direction from the education policies initiated by President Bush and continued by Duncan and President Obama. And a new MCAS study reported in Commonwealth Magazine undermines the idea that we simply need to get rid of bad teachers to turn around “failing schools.” All three are worth reading and supporting.

The civil rights groups’ statement, titled “”Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn” says, in part:

“The Race to the Top Fund and similar strategies for awarding federal education funding will ultimately leave states competing with states, parents competing with parents, and students competing with other students…..

   → Read More