Michael Hynes, the progressive superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford school district on Long Island in New York, and William Doyle, an author who has lived in Finland, recently returned from a trip to that nation’s schools and wrote this article.

They offer a twelve-step program for American schools, based on what they learned in Finland.

Here are three of the steps they recommend. To learn about the other nine, open the link.

They write:

We were stunned by what we observed: A society that selects and respects teachers like elite professionals; a world-class network of vocational and technical schools; a school system that reveres and protects childhood and encourages children to experience joy in learning — where teachers shower children with warmth and attention; where children are given numerous free-play breaks; where special-education students are supported; and where children thrive.

In Finland, we heard none of the clichés common in U.S. education reform circles, like “rigor,” “standards-based accountability,” “data-driven instruction,” “teacher evaluation through value-added measurement” or getting children “college- and career-ready” starting in kindergarten.

Instead, Finnish educators and officials constantly stressed to us their missions of helping every child reach his or her full potential and supporting all children’s well-being. “School should be a child’s favorite place,” said Heikki Happonen, an education professor at the University of Eastern Finland and an authority on creating warm, child-centered learning environments. His colleague Janne Pietarinen explained, “Well-being and learning are intertwined. You can’t have one without the other.”

In short, we glimpsed an inspiring vision of an alternative future for American education, a future that we believe that all of our children deserve right now.

How can the United States improve its schools? We can start by piloting and implementing these 12 global education best practices, many of which are working extremely well for Finland:

1) Emphasize well-being. Make child and teacher well-being a top priority in all schools, as engines of learning and system efficiency.

2) Upgrade testing and other assessments. Explaining why he doesn’t need standardized tests to evaluate his students, one Finnish teacher said: “I am assessing my students every second.” Stop the standardized testing of children in grades 3-8, and “opt-up” to higher-quality assessments by classroom teachers. Eliminate the ranking and sorting of children based on standardized testing. Train students in self-assessment, and require only one comprehensive testing period to graduate from high school.

3) Invest resources fairly. Fund schools equitably on the basis of need. Provide small class sizes.