Two aspects of Finnish education that are commonly praised are the lack of standardized testing until the high school matriculation exam and the freedom teachers are given to teach as they want without interference. This article in today’s New York Times gives some insight into the extreme measures American schools sometimes take to ensure that their students perform well on state exams. It’s quite an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn about the impact of high-stakes testing on the school environment and the job of a teacher. Yes, the kids in the profiled school are quite different from those in the typical Finnish school. But can we not find a better way to educate disadvantaged kids than to stress them out so much that they wet their pants? It’s sad that parents are lining up to get their kids into this type of school, as they see it as the best chance for their kids to gain access to higher education.
This American Life, my favorite radio show, recently produced a story about two different schools located three miles apart. One is a pricey private school, and the other is an underfunded public school. You can listen to the podcast here to find out what happens when students see the difference firsthand.
They’ve also produced some other shows about education that are worth a listen. One is a two-part series (part 1 and part 2) about Chicago’s Harper High School, which has lost many students to gun violence. Another is a story about what happens when the allocation of local school funding goes astray.