Archives for category: International

This is the most absurd “report” yet. This organization says that the U.S. does not have an “efficient” school system. Finland has the most efficient school system. What can we do to become more efficient? Cut teachers’ salaries and increase class size.

Funny, when I visited Finland in 2011, I saw many classes, none larger than 16. Teachers’ pay is equivalent to U.S. pay.

“The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money? was released today.

US ranks nineteenth out of thirty countries in new ranking of education system efficiency

Released 19.01 EDT Thursday September 4 2014

The US ranks in the bottom half of a new international comparison of the efficiency of education systems across OECD countries – lower than Japan, Korea and many northern European countries.

The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money?, commissioned by GEMS Education Solutions, is the first comprehensive international analysis that looks at how efficiently education budgets are allocated in each country.

It ranks 30 OECD countries based on their expenditure on teacher costs, which account for 80 per cent of education budgets, and the pupil outcomes they achieve. In this way, it calculates which system generates the greatest educational return for each dollar invested.

The report is written by Professor Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at Sussex University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics; Dr Oscar Marcenaro Gutie�rrez, Associate Professor at the University of Ma�laga; and Adam Still, Education Finance and Development Specialist at GEMS Education Solutions.

The index ranks Finland as the most efficient country in the OECD. According to the index’s econometric model, which calculates the proven statistical link between teacher salaries or class size and PISA scores, the US could match Finland high PISA’s results and still make efficiency savings by increasing class sizes and making a modest cut in teacher salaries. It finds that these results could be achieved even if the US was to increase its pupil/teacher ratio by 10 per cent.

Alternatively, if it were more efficient, the US could match Finland’s PISA results and still reduce teacher salaries by 4.7 per cent from the US average teacher salary of $41,460 to $39,520. The index argues that the US should consider addressing both teacher salary and class sizes to improve its education efficiency. As the largest country in the OECD, its overall education spend is five times that of any other country in the study and its teacher salaries are comparatively high.

The report stops short of advocating particular changes to salaries or class size in each country. It makes clear that there may be labour market, cultural, economic or political reasons why this ‘maximum’ efficiency is not possible without negative consequences. The authors have not examined the practical impact of such changes in each country. However, by showing how far countries fall short of the OECD’s most efficient system, the index provides an instructive point of comparison when Governments are allocating budgets.

The report groups the countries according to their efficiency:

1. Elite Performers: Finland, Japan and Korea score very well in both the efficiency and quality stakes.

2. Efficient and Effective: Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Slovenia are all performing relatively well on efficiency and producing high PISA scores.

3. More Effective than Efficient: Overspending (too high salaries) or bloated (too many teachers): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland. These countries perform better in terms of quality than efficiency. This may be because their system generates other outcomes that aren’t captured by PISA rankings. Alternatively, it may be because their systems are over-resourced beyond the threshold required to achieve high educational outcomes.

4. More Efficient than Effective: Underspending or underperforming: Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA. These countries are more efficient than educationally effective. This could be because they have resource constraints that prevent them from improving quality such as low salaries may prevent the recruitment of highly skilled teachers. Alternatively, if extensive resources are already being spent, it could that the education system is flawed – and that policy changes, rather than additional resources, would improve education outcomes.

5. Inefficient and Ineffective: Brazil, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey These systems are inefficient and at the same time fail to produce good pupil outcomes.

The report finds that changes to teacher salary and pupil teacher ratio can improve efficiency because, out of 63 different inputs into the education system – from teaching materials to infrastructure – these were the only two that had a statistically significant impact on pupils’ PISA scores.

This is a powerful insight for policy makers since, unlike a child’s socio-economic background, parental support, or a child’s aspirations, governments have the policy levers to change both teacher salary and class sizes.

The report acknowledges that some countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, which both spend lavishly on their education system and achieve good results, may choose to pursue policies in which educational efficiency is not their priority. For instance, they may feel that PISA does not capture all the student outcomes that their system is aiming for.

Together, the 30 OECD countries in the study spent $2.2 trillion dollars on their education systems each year, and the average proportion of GDP that countries spend on education has been rising for decades. In an environment where state education budgets are likely to continue to be stretched and face competition from other spending priorities, the Efficiency Index sheds light on the effectiveness of the spending choices that policy-makers are currently making.

KEY FINDINGS:

Over the last 15 years Finland’s education system has been the most efficient in the OECD. Other high performers include Korea, Japan and Hungary and the Czech Republic. In contrast, Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy exhibit low efficiency.

Excellent outcomes are still possible with relatively large class sizes – despite a focus on reducing class-sizes in many western education systems. Finland and Korea, the two countries studied with the most efficient education systems, achieve good results, have relatively large class sizes – the 3rd and 5th largest of the OECD countries – and pay teachers moderate wages.

The US is in the bottom third of the efficiency index. As the biggest OECD country, it has an overall education spend five times higher than any other country in the study and pays very high teachers salaries.

Countries can be inefficient if they both underpay or overpay teachers. Some countries such as Indonesia and Brazil are inefficient because their low teachers pay makes it hard to recruit and retain high-calibre individuals into the profession. Modest extra expenditure would result in significantly better educational outcomes. Equally, higher salaries given to teachers who are already achieving excellence, such as those paid in Switzerland and Germany, may fail to increase performance and therefore harm efficiency.

In general those countries that demonstrate high efficiency also attain high educational outcomes. Five out of the top ten countries in the Efficiency Index are also in the PISA top ten.

Chris Kirk, Chief Executive, GEMS Education Solutions:

“GEMS Education Solutions commissioned the efficiency index to inform the debate about which items of educational expenditure are likely to make the greatest impact on the attainment of children.

It allows us to see which systems around the world produce the best results per pound, providing a data driven analysis that can inform policy choices. It clearly shows that some countries spend their available resources more efficiently than others.

“At a time at which many countries are struggling with tight public budgets. It also sends an important message to poorer countries that significant educational improvement is possible even with limited investment.”

Marc Tucker writes that we test students more than any of the high-performing nations in the world.

Here is a graph that demonstrates the differences.

Tucker proposed a new accountability system for the U.S. that puts us more in line with common practice.

Here are his key points:

“The ideas outlined by Marc Tucker in Fixing Our National Accountability System signify a departure from conventional thinking on the issue of accountability. Rather than focus on punishing teachers for the results of a system that others designed, the core components of this report rest on three fundamental principles:

1) Testing: Instead of testing all of our students every year with low-quality tests, students would take high-quality accountability tests, covering a full core curriculum, only three times in their school career. In some off years, tests in math and ELA would be administered only to samples of students by computer and would not carry high stakes for teachers or students.

2) Use of Data: Data from these tests would be used to identify schools that might be in trouble, and to deploy a team of expert educators to assist in resolving the issues with the help of districts and/or states. This data would be available to the general public but it would not include a rank or grade.

3) Policies for Professionals: Enact policies that make it attractive for our nation’s strongest teachers and principals to work in the most at-risk schools – these very same policies would also make teaching an attractive career for some of our best high school graduates and transform teaching into a high status profession.”

Education policymakers in the U.S. seem to think that more tests will produce higher achievement, but there is no evidence for this assumption. As this article from the Center on International Education Benchmarking shows, the U.S. tests more frequently than any of the world’s high-performing nations.

Jackie Kraemer writes:

“Unlike the top-performing countries on the 2012 PISA, the United States stands out for the amount of external testing it requires for all students. As the chart below shows, the United States is the only country among this set to require annual testing in primary and middle schools in reading and mathematics. A more typical pattern among the top-performers is a required gateway exam, or an exam that allows a student to move on to the next phase of education, at the end of primary school, the end of lower secondary school and the end of upper secondary school. This is true of Canada (Ontario), China (Shanghai), Estonia, Poland and Singapore. In some of these cases, the secondary school exams are used to determine placement in the next level of schooling such as in Singapore and Shanghai where the lower school-leaving exam determines placement in upper secondary school. And in Poland, Shanghai and Singapore the upper secondary academic exam functions as an admission exam for university. This differs from the United States where annual tests are used primarily for school and teacher accountability purposes.”

“How tests are used is also different among the high performers. South Korea and Japan test only for diagnostic purposes in the primary schools, and South Korea continues to test for diagnostic purposes through 10th grade. It is at the secondary level that they introduce the high stakes exams for students, with Japanese students required to take an entrance exam for upper secondary school and students in both countries required to take tests at the end of upper secondary school that will determine what kind of higher education institution they can enter. These tests are recognized as very high pressure for students and both countries are trying to address that issue. In both Korea and Japan, some students enter a vocational training system at the upper secondary level and take tests to qualify for vocational credentials rather than the tests for entry into university.

“Hong Kong and Finland have no required testing until the end of upper secondary school. Taiwan is a bit of a hybrid, with no required testing in primary school, but a Basic Competency Test at the end of lower secondary (along with three required tests a year in each of three subjects during lower secondary) that determines admission to upper secondary school.”

We can’t test our way to success. The more time devoted to testing, the less time available for instruction. tests are best usedfor diagnostic purposes. tests with stakes attached are delayed in these nations until secondary schools. We should learn from the leaders of the pack.

I received news from England that a letter written by Rachel Tomlinson, the head of Barrowford, a primary school in Lancashire, went viral.

The letter was a clone of one written by American teacher Kimberly Hurd Horst on her blog.

No claims of plagiarism here. Maybe every principal and teacher should send the same letter home when students get their Common Core test scores, saying they failed. Remind parents that children are more than a test score. Tell them that the passing mark was set unreasonably high. Tell them that the tests failed, not the children.

In October last year Hurd Horst wrote on her blog: “There are many more ways to be smart than what many schools are currently allowing. The current testing culture personally drives me crazy. It does not tell students that they matter. Tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each student special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each student the way I do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way the families do. They do not know that some of my students speak two languages. They do not know that they can play a musical instrument or that they can dance or paint a picture. Doesn’t that matter more?”

The school seemed to acknowledge debt to Hurd, retweeting a comment from someone linking to her blog.

C.M. Rubin traveled the globe and interviewed educators with interesting ideas, insights, experience.

She conducted more than 250 interviews.

She invited Adam Steiner, a technology specialist in the Holliston, Massachusetts, public schools to review them and select the Top Ten.

I am happy to say that I am one of them.

Read here to find the Top Ten and their interviews.

Andy Hargreaves of Boston College asks an important question: What is the purpose of benchmarking? We collect data, we measure, we test, we set goals, but why? Will it improve performance if we know that someone else does it better? Do they have the same challenges, the same resources? Is there more to education than raising tests ores and do higher test scores necessarily mean better education?

Andy begins with two stories about benchmarking, one positive, one negative. One improved public health, one made it easier to conduct war.

Right now, under pressure from No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, everything is measured. Why? To fire teachers and principals? To close schools? To hand public property to entrepreneurs? Who benefits? What do we do with the losers? Throw them away? Plenty of children were left behind, and many will not make it to “the top.”

Andy writes:

“Is the purpose of our educational benchmarking to further the public good, to raise the standards of education for all, to elevate the poorest and most disadvantaged students to the greatest heights of accomplishment? And once we have done our calculations and made our maps, what pathways will be opened up, and what people and resources will be pulled along them in this worthy quest for equity and excellence? The White House announced earlier this summer that it would address educational inequities by collecting data to help pinpoint where they existed, but there seemed to be no plan to bring up the people and resources to correct them.

“Is there a second purpose of educational benchmarking then? Is it to delineate the weak from the strong, inciting nation to compete against nation, Americans against Asians, and school against school. After we have pinpointed schools that are failing, does this just make it easier for invading opportunists to set up charter schools in their place, or to market online alternatives, tutoring services and the like?

“As in surveying, benchmarking in education should be about discovering where we stand and learning about who we are and what we do by observing those around us. It should be about improving public education, just as the sewer maps for my hometown contributed to public sanitation. Benchmarking should not be about fomenting panics about performance in relation to overseas competitors. And it should not be about dividing schools, families and communities from each other to create easy pickings for the educational market.

“Whenever we are engaged in the data-driven detail of educational benchmarking, these are the greater questions we should be asking. Of what map or whose map are we the servants?”

Stephen Krashen, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California and a noted linguist and researcher, wrote the following commentary:

“Hanushek, Peterson and Woessmann (2014) claim that when we examine students from “advantaged” families, American students do poorly in math: Our rich kids do worse than rich kids from other countries. Hanushek et. al. conclude that this shows that poverty is not the only factor affecting school performance. Their conclusions are based on their analysis of data from the 2012 PIRLS examination, tests given to 15-year-olds in a large number of countries.

“Berliner (2014) argued that Hanushek et. al. used an invalid measure of “advantaged”: at least one parent who graduated college. He also argued that a more valid measure is parental income. Many college graduates, Berliner pointed out, are not in high-income professions.

“Here is Berliner’s paper, followed by my analysis, confirming that Berliner is, for the most part, right: Parental education is not the way to define “advantaged.” Poverty, defined by parental income, predicts math and reading achievement for 49 states in the US even when parental education is controlled, and predicts math achievement on international tests.

“Berliner, D. 2014. Criticism via Sleight of Hand https://dianeravitch.net/2014/07/29/david-berliner-responds-to-economists-who-discount-role-of-child-poverty/

http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2014/08/do-american-rich-kids-do-worse-on_3.html”

When Stephen Colbert interviewed Campbell Brown, he asked her who was funding her activities against unions and teacher tenure. She said she couldn’t reveal their names because she had to protect them, presumably against the few dozen moms protesting outside Colbert’s studio with hand-lettered signs.

Mother Crusader found through her diligent research skills that Campbell Brown is aligned with some “vulture” capitalists, and it might be better for her cause to keep their identities secret.

Darcie Cimarusti (Mother Crusader) writes this:

“I’ve already taken a look at the Board of Directors of Brown’s new outfit, Partners for Educational Justice, which brings together reformy heavyweights from groups like StudentsFirstNY, DFER and NYCAN, and all the money, power, and influence behind those groups.

“But I’m embarrassed to say, I missed a HUGE piece of the puzzle.

“In my last post I described Brown’s husband, Dan Senor, as a board member for StudentsFirstNY and a former advisor for Mitt Romney. But I missed two gigantic parts of his backstory.

“Senor first came to prominence as a spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, gaining a reputation as “the spinmeister responsible for selling the early years of the occupation … as a rosy time—even as bombs exploded daily and sectarian violence ripped apart the country.”[1]

“After leaving the Bush administration, Senor—who is the spouse of former CNN anchorwoman Campbell Brown—became a guest commentator on foreign policy issues for Fox News and a private equity executive. He co-founded the investment firm Rosemont Capital LLC[2] before joining Elliott Management, the hedge fund firm owned by Paul Singer, a billionaire Wall Street investor who has given millions to Republican political campaigns and neoconservative advocacy groups.[3] (emphasis mine)

“So Brown’s husband is a wartime spinmeister, education reformer, AND a Wall Street hedge fund guy? How did I miss that?!?

“And who is Paul SInger, the guy who was able to lure Senor away from the investment firm he co-founded?”

And Mother Crusader continues:

“Singer is the big power broker in the Republican financial world,” says one operative who knows him. “He’s involved with almost everything.” Fortune described him as “a passionate defender of the 1%.” In practical terms, notes one conservative donor, “if you write checks as big as Singer’s, you can be close to anyone.” (emphasis mine)

“Check out how Singer makes his money.

“Mr. Singer is perhaps best known for the fight he put up — and the money he made — in his battle over Peruvian debt. In 1996, he paid $11.4 million for $20 million worth of discounted, government-backed Peruvian bank debt. Then, rather than joining with 180 other Peruvian creditors who agreed to a plan using bonds to forgive some of the impoverished country’s debt, Mr. Singer held out for bigger payments.

“He battled in the courts. At one point he hired an Albany lobbying firm and got New York State to change an obscure law to strengthen his position. When the dust had settled, Mr. Singer ended up getting $58 million for his Peruvian investment.
Groups advocating debt relief — and higher-profile people like Bono — criticize such transactions, maintaining that they force poor countries to divert money from social and economic programs in order to pay back investors. The International Monetary Fund, where a top official once labeled Mr. Singer’s firm a “vulture company,” issued a report recently saying that such funds present a “major challenge” to the success of debt-relief programs in poor countries. (emphasis mine)
Excuse me, but HOLY S%&*!!

“Reading about Singer’s practices in poor, distressed countries around the world is horrific. This is from truthout and Democracy Now!.

“You know, right now what’s happening in this particular case is now these vulture funds have been equipped with an instrument that’s going to force poor countries, like the Ivory Coast and Zambia, into submission. So it’s a very powerful precedent that will be impacting the one-out-of-five people that live in extreme poverty around the world.

……
“AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk, Eric LeCompte, very quickly, in 30 seconds, about Paul Singer, who is the head of the parent company of NML?

“ERIC LECOMPTE: So, essentially, he’s the person that’s developed this predatory behavior, that goes after assets in poor countries that essentially belong to vulnerable communities. He’s the person that leads several firms that are these predatory hedge funds which engage in this exploitative, extreme behavior. And he’s popularized, essentially, this kind of investor action around the world. And right now the World Bank notes that there are about a hundred companies that follow, essentially, the leadership that Paul Singer has laid out in terms of this behavior.

“AMY GOODMAN: And his significance in national politics? Five seconds.

“ERIC LECOMPTE: Yeah, he’s the number one donor to the GOP. (emphasis mine)
Senor and Singer are some seriously scary dudes.”

There is simply no way they are going to be intimidated by a small clutch of protesters milling around outside Colbert’s studio, but that was one hell of an act Brown put on! Singer, and presumably Brown’s husband, take on entire countries for heaven’s sake!”

Secretary Arne Duncan has frequently pointed to the high test scores of students in South Korea as a model for American students to copy. We have heard again and again that we are losing “the global competition” to nations like South Korea where students and parents take tests very seriously. Our students, the Secretary never tires of telling us, are slackers. Their parents want them to be well-rounded when they should all be enrolled in Advanced Placement courses, burning the midnight oil, or attending after-school programs in ever-longer school days.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an article that refuted the myth of South Korea as the acme of educational excellence. The South Korean system, the author writes, is “an assault upon our children.” If all you care about is test scores, South Korean schools look great. But if you want students who are thoughtful, creative, and engaged in their learning, look elsewhere, writes Se-Woong Koo, whose family moved from Seoul to Vancouver to avoid the stress of South Korean schooling. Most parents pressure students to excel in their studies and to do whatever it takes to get high scores.

“Thirteen years later, in 2008,” the author writes, “I taught advanced English grammar to 11-year-olds at an expensive cram school in the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam. The students were serious about studying but their eyes appeared dead.”

“The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay…..

“Cram schools like the one I taught in — known as hagwons in Korean — are a mainstay of the South Korean education system and a symbol of parental yearning to see their children succeed at all costs. Hagwons are soulless facilities, with room after room divided by thin walls, lit by long fluorescent bulbs, and stuffed with students memorizing English vocabulary, Korean grammar rules and math formulas. Students typically stay after regular school hours until 10 p.m. or later.”

“This “investment” in education is what has been used to explain South Koreans’ spectacular scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, increasingly the standard by which students from all over the world are compared to one another.

“But a system driven by overzealous parents and a leviathan private industry is unsustainable over the long run, especially given the physical and psychological costs that students are forced to bear.

“Many young South Koreans suffer physical symptoms of academic stress, like my brother did. In a typical case, one friend reported losing clumps of hair as she focused on her studies in high school; her hair regrew only when she entered college.”

The South Korean system is institutionalized child abuse. Children exist either to glorify the family or to build the national economy. What has been sacrificed? The happiness of the children; the right to live a normal life in which they are not cogs in a national economic machine.

Are you listening, Secretary Duncan? Are you listening, “New York Times” columnists and editorial board? Are you listening, television pundits?

The renowned Finnish educator, Pasi Sahlberg, explains how major American innovations improved education in Finland but are all too often forgotten here, where they originated.

He begins with a new report from the OECD that measures educational innovation between 2003 and 2011. The U.S. does not get high rankings from the OECD, yet oddly enough, other nations send delegations here to learn about what we do that has made us such a successful nation.

Sahlberg writes:

“An interesting observation that anyone interested in what current high-performing school systems have in common is that they all, some more than the others, have derived critical lessons from abroad. Singapore, one of the most successful reformers and highest performers in global education, has been sending students to study education in U.S. universities and encouraged university professors to collaborate in teaching and research with their American colleagues. Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea have done the same. More recently China has also benefited from education innovation from the United States and other Western education systems. Even those running school systems above the 49th parallel in North America admit that U.S. research and innovation have been instrumental in making education in Canada world-class.

“Finland is no exception. If you want to discover the origins of the most successful practices in pedagogy, student assessment, school leadership, and school improvement in Finland, you only need to visit some schools there and have a conversation with teachers and principals. Most of them have studied psychology, teaching methods, curriculum theories, assessment models, and classroom management researched and designed in the United States in their initial teacher education programs. Primary school teacher education syllabi in Finnish universities include scores of books and research articles written by U.S. scholars. Professional development and school improvement courses and programs often include visitors from the U.S. universities to teach and work with Finnish teachers and leaders. So common is the reliance on U.S. ideas in Finland that some have come to call the Finnish school system a large-scale laboratory of American education innovation.

“The relatively low overall rating of “innovation in education” in the United States raises an interesting question: Where are all those great ideas in the United States that other countries have been able to utilize to improve the performance of their school systems during the last century? It is interesting that, according to the OECD, the United States exhibits only modest innovation in its education system but, at the same time, it is the world leader in producing research, practical models and innovation to other countries.”

Read on to learn which five U.S. innovations he considers most important.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 114,345 other followers