By Stephen Sawchuk — December 29, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If you haven’t taken a look at Kevin Carey’s recent musings on Finland’s highly praised K-12 education system over at The Quick and the Ed, do so now: they’re well worth reading and timely for those of you interested in teacher policy.

Why? Well, President-elect Obama, key adviser Linda-Darling Hammond, Arne Duncan and others have talked about improving assessment, offering more flexibility in assessment, etc. Though it’s not entirely clear what that means policywise, Darling-Hammond for one is a fan of locally based, frequently non-standardized assessments that give richer information on student achievement. She often notes that Finland uses these locally based tests.

The danger with these cross-cultural comparisons, as Carey and colleagues point out, is that it isn’t just one piece of the country’s system that contributes to high achievement; it’s the entire way teaching and assessment are structured, not to mention other messier factors (such as cultural attitudes toward teaching, equalized education funding, etc.) For example, although teaching is not extraordinarily highly paid in Finland, it is considered a prestigious and highly respected profession, and only the best of the best in that country become teachers. Here in the U.S., despite some successful efforts to make teaching selective and more exclusive (Teach for America comes to mind), on the whole it still isn’t considered prestigious, doesn’t routinely attract the smartest college graduates, and--as the career ladder debate shows--doesn’t offer much variety in terms of professional opportunities for teachers. (See also my colleague Sean Cavanagh’s article on Finland here.)

This does leave some big assessment/teacher quality questions for Obama. It’s far from clear that portfolio assessments can be appropriately worked into an accountability system, and I agree with Tom Toch that this will be a big discussion for the next No Child Left Behind Act reauthorization. And despite a lot of attention paid to teacher quality during the campaign, it’s equally unclear what Obama’s teacher-quality policies will look like in detail and how they will help make teaching a more respected, professionalized career that attracts better candidates.

The famous choral piece Finlandia, a celebration of that country’s national identity, takes 7-1/2 minutes to perform. But it’s going to take a lot longer than that for Obama, Duncan, and their aides to figure out how best to learn from the country’s successes.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP