Why Our State Superintendent Could Never Work In Education In Finland

Follow school-reform history and public school advocacy and you will come across the name and hopefully the work of Pasi Sahlberg, a professor of education policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

He has devoted a lifetime of study in how different countries run public education and why some do it much better than others.

In a recent Washington Post’s Answer Sheet posting entitled “What Finland is really doing to improve its acclaimed schools“, Strauss highlighted some observations of Sahlberg and Finnish education director Peter Johnson in what they concretely saw as Finland’s advantages over countries just like the United States in how they treat public education.

“We have learned a lot about why some education systems — such as Alberta, Ontario, Japan and Finland — perform better year after year than others in terms of quality and equity of student outcomes. We also understand now better why some other education systems — for example, England, Australia, the United States and Sweden — have not been able to improve their school systems regardless of politicians’ promises, large-scale reforms and truckloads of money spent on haphazard efforts to change schools during the past two decades.

Among these important lessons are:

  • Education systems and schools shouldn’t be managed like business corporations where tough competition, measurement-based accountability and performance-determined pay are common principles. Instead, successful education systems rely on collaboration, trust, and collegial responsibility in and between schools.

  • The teaching profession shouldn’t be perceived as a technical, temporary craft that anyone with a little guidance can do. Successful education systems rely on continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.

  • The quality of education shouldn’t be judged by the level of literacy and numeracy test scores alone. Successful education systems are designed to emphasize whole-child development, equity of education outcomes, well being, and arts, music, drama and physical education as important elements of curriculum.”

Not using “business” approaches? “Collaboration” instead of “competition? Teaching should not be a “temporary craft?” “Continuous professionalization of teaching and school leadership?” “Continuous on-the-job training?” Quality not measured by scores on “test scores alone?” Arts are just “as important?”

Here in North Carolina most every ALEC-inspired education reform seems to be from a business model. Just look at BEST NC’s approach in recruiting and paying teachers and principals.

Look at the changes in salary schedules and initiatives like SB599 and TEACH NC and you might see the push to making teaching a temporary career that will not have many future veterans in its ranks.

Professionalizing of teaching? Really is not happening here in the Old North State.

North Carolina also did away with state level professional development funding and is the only state in the country to use a school grading performance system that weighs test scores higher than growth.

And just look at how the class-size chaos put arts and other specials in jeopardy in recent years.

And read this part one more time:

“…school leadership that requires advanced academic education, solid scientific and practical knowledge, and continuous on-the-job training.”

Think Mark Johnson fits that description?