Every three years, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests 15-year-olds from all over the world in science, reading and math. The latest results show the United States in about the same place in reading and science, and noticeably worse in math.
The teachers’ unions know exactly what’s wrong.
“Schools are successful when states invest in students, rely on the participation of an engaged and professional teachers’ union, encourage community involvement and support, and welcome a comprehensive view of education,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen-García.
“The latest U.S. PISA achievement results are disappointing but not surprising. They were predictable given the impact of the last 15 years of U.S. education policies combined with continuing state disinvestment following the 2008 recession,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten.
Those are familiar refrains, but Weingarten signaled a sea change in how the education establishment looks at the international scene:
The PISA report encourages United States policymakers to study countries like Germany, Canada, Hong Kong and Estonia to see how a high level of equity, use of tests for diagnostic (not punishment) purposes, and respect for teachers’ professional knowledge and judgment yield improved student performance. On the flip side, Finland—with a government that is investing less on public education and moving away from its student- and teacher-centered strategies—appears to have lost ground in the past few years. Policymakers in the United States and around the world should look more closely at that cautionary tale.
Yes, edu-trend-followers, it looks like Finland is OUT.
Oh sure, Weingarten can blame it on a change of heart in Finland, and analysts like Matt Barnum can skillfully dismantle “the cult of Finland,” but the real reason it’s time for a change in venue is that Finland is simply not the most appealing or convenient destination for edu-tourists.
Fortunately the PISA results open up a whole new world of possibilities for future edu-junkets.
Need to learn how to raise math scores? The top seven nations are in Asia. Put them in a package and you can visit Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Japan, China and Korea in a single trip. Helsinki seems like weak sauce in comparison.
But if your union board of directors, state education agency or non-profit funders balk at the cost, well, there’s an outing for every budget. Canada ranked 7th in science, 3rd in reading and 10th in math. You can get all of Finland’s weather in a fraction of the time and expense.
Here are a few schools you can check out.