It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

It’s time to look outside our classrooms to improve student outcomes

We’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.  It seems to me that we are stuck in this kind of endless loop when it comes to improving the educational outcomes of our students. The stakes are high.  One read through a local newspaper or educational journal gives a bleak picture of student performance, achievement gaps and graduation rates. The current round of debate is entrenched around standardized tests, disagreements over what they measure, and how test results reflect on the quality of the education we’re providing students.  It’s a system based on applying more discipline, more testing, more competition, stress and more accountability. This same debate has raged in educational circles for over 25 years, yet student outcomes have not measurably improved during that time.  And in some cases they have diminished. One might be tempted to conclude we’re focused on the wrong thing when it comes to student outcomes.  By extension, you might ask yourself what is working? A recent article in The Hechinger Report points to Finland, and a very different educational system that was built by “breaking all the rules” as we know them in the U.S.  Some interesting differences include: Teachers are encouraged to experiment in their classrooms and aren’t bound by a rigid bureaucracy. They are expected to be the creative engine behind curriculum, not implementers of top-down policy decisions or standardized tests. Teachers are highly trained. No teacher is allowed to teach in a classroom without a master’s degree in education, with specialization in research and classroom practice. Teachers are respected professionals.... read more