26 Amazing Facts About Finland’s Unorthodox Education System

This is a summary of an article written by and posted a few years ago at Business Insider. Taylor begins,

Since it implemented huge education reforms 40 years ago, Finland’s school system has consistently come at the top for the international rankings for education systems.

So how do they do it?

It’s simple — by going against the evaluation-driven, centralized model that much of the Western world uses.

And here are the 26 things he lists:

  1. Finnish children don’t start school until they are 7.
  2. Compared with other systems, they rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens.
  3. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.
  4. There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.
  5. All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms.
  6. Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.
  7. 30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.
  8. 66 percent of students go to college. (The highest rate in Europe)
  9. The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World. [Ted note: I assume they mean academically, not physically.]
  10. Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments every class.
  11. 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school. (17.5% higher than in U.S.)
  12. 43 percent of Finnish high-school students go to vocational schools.
  13. Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.
  14. Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for “professional development.”
  15. Finland has the same amount of teachers as New York City, but far fewer students. (600,000 students compared to 1.1 million in NYC.)
  16. The school system is 100% state funded.
  17. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.
  18. The national curriculum is only broad guidelines.
  19. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates.
  20. In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots.
  21. The average starting salary for a Finnish teacher was $29,000 in 2008. (Compared with $36,000 in the United States.)
  22. However, high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make. (In the US, this figure is 62%.)
  23. There is no merit pay for teachers.
  24. Teachers are effectively given the same status as doctors and lawyers.
  25. In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came top or very close to the top for science, reading and mathematics. (It’s consistently come top or very near every time since.)
  26. And despite the differences between Finland and the US, it easily beats countries with a similar demographic. (Neighbor Norway, of a similar size and featuring a similar homogeneous culture, follows the same same strategies as the USA and achieves similar rankings in international studies.)

Sources he cites include:

And a few more sources for you:

 

Anti-Homeless Spikes? Heartless.
Cementing Over Them? Ingenious.

Londoners have made their feelings clear about a corporate “solution” to the problem of homelessness—and the company listened.

By Molly Rusk Posted June 26, 2014 at www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/anti-homeless-spikes-heartless-cementing-over-them-ingenious.

Early in the morning on June 12, a few members of a group known as the London Black Revolutionaries showed up in front of a Tesco shopping center on Regent Street in London and covered the store’s “anti-homeless spikes” with home-made cement.

A few days before the stunt, the spikes generated a firestorm of public criticism of the retail giant. The criticism largely took place online and centered around a series of photos of the spikes taken in October 2013 by photojournalist Joshua Preston.

The spikes were intended to deter “antisocial behavior,” Tesco told The Guardian in response to the criticism. But Londoners were having none of that.

“We want homes not spikes,” Preston said in a press release from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, an organization that campaigns against austerity policies—such as cuts to pensions and public spending. “We will show Tesco that its decision to victimize the homeless is shameful.”

Read the rest of the article at www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/anti-homeless-spikes-heartless-cementing-over-them-ingenious.

The Vergara Ruling

There is so much I could say about this… and I’ll try to write more about it soon. In the meanwhile, here are links to various news articles, analyses, responses and perspectives on the ruling and its larger meanings/implications… to which I will continue to add…

Old Family Photos 1: Henry, Roger, Norman Altenberg

In response to a request from cousin Nancy Kolodny, here are some old Altenberg family photos that cousin Lee Altenberg sent me a while ago, which he scanned from old prints.

Grandpa Leo Altenberg, 1940 or '41?

Grandpa Leo Altenberg, 1940 or ’41?

Grandpa Leo, 1918 or 1919?

Grandpa Leo, 1918 or 1919?

Uncle Norman at Twin Lakes Camp (Maine), 1929

Uncle Norman at Twin Lakes Camp (Maine), 1929

Uncle Norman, 1941

Uncle Norman, 1941

Uncle Norman, 1946?

Uncle Norman, 1946?

Uncles Norma & Roger

Uncles Norma & Roger

Dad (Henry) on right, Uncle Roger on left, ages 12 and 14, 1937.

Dad (Henry) on right, Uncle Roger on left, ages 12 and 14, 1937.

Uncle Roger, age 17, 1939

Uncle Roger, age 17, 1939

Uncle Norman and his wife Delia, 1952

Uncle Norman and his wife Delia, 1952

Uncle Norman and Delia, and their son my cousin Leo

Uncle Norman and Delia, and their son my cousin Leo

New Report Rebukes Central Feature of ‘Race to the Top’

By Diane Ravitch, posted 12 April 2014, and reposted at CommonDreams.org (www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/14-7):

The central feature of the Obama administration’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” program was sharply refuted last week by the American Statistical Association (115 KB PDF), one of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. Spurred on by the administration’s combination of federal cash and mandates, most states are now using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers. This method of evaluating teachers by test scores is called value-added measurement, or VAM. Teachers’ compensation, their tenure, bonuses and other rewards and sanctions are tied directly to the rise or fall of their student test scores, which the Obama administration considers a good measure of teacher quality.

Secretary Arne Duncan believes so strongly in VAM that he has threatened to punish Washington state for refusing to adopt this method of evaluating teachers and principals. In New York, a state court fined New York City $150 million for failing to agree on a VAM plan.

The ASA issued a short but stinging statement that strongly warned against the misuse of VAM. The organization neither condemns nor promotes the use of VAM, but its warnings about the limitations of this methodology clearly demonstrate that the Obama administration has committed the nation’s public schools to a policy fraught with error. ASA warns that VAMs are “complex statistical models” that require “high-level statistical expertise” and awareness of their “assumptions and possible limitations,” especially when they are used for high-stakes purposes as is now common. Few, if any, state education departments have the statistical expertise to use VAM models appropriately. In some states, like Florida, teachers have been rated based on the scores of students they never taught.

The ASA points out that VAMs are based on standardized tests and “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.” They typically measure correlation, not causation. That means that the rise or fall of student test scores attributed to the teacher might actually be caused by other factors outside the classroom, not under the teacher’s control. The VAM rating of teachers is so unstable that it may change if the same students are given a different test.

The ASA’s most damning indictment of the policy promoted so vigorously by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is:

Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about one percent to 14 percent of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.

The ASA points out:

This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.

As many education researchers have explained — including a joint statement by the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education (112 KB PDF) — the VAM ratings of those who teach children with disabilities and English language learners will be low, because these children have greater learning challenges than their peers, as will the ratings of those who teach gifted students, because the latter group has already reached a ceiling. Those two groups, like the ASA agreed that test scores are affected by many factors besides the teacher, not only the family, but the school’s leadership, its resources, class size, curriculum, as well as the student’s motivation, attendance and health. Yet the Obama administration and most of our states are holding teachers alone accountable for student test scores.

Yosemite

Some lovely time lapse photography of Yosemite National Park, by Project Yosemite:

Yosemite HD II from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

They introduce themselves (at www.projectyose.com) thusly:

“Project Yosemite is a time-lapse video project set in Yosemite National Park and shot by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. We started it in January 2012 after meeting through the video sharing website, Vimeo. The idea for the project came to us during our first overnight trip to Half Dome.”

The Growth of Walmart

This gif is just so illuminating (“horrifying” is what the original post called it), I wanted to share it. This is a post written by Brandon Weber and posted on UPWORTHY, as part of a special Upworthy series about work and the economy, made possible by the AFL-CIO (of which I am a member, through CFT-AFT).

When big box stores (I’ll leave it to you to decide just WHICH big-box stores) come to town, they almost always shut down all the mom-and-pop stores in the area they open in. And it’s a pretty simple formula:

  1. Move in.
  2. Open doors with lower prices than anyone else.
  3. Get employees on welfare and Medicaid because you don’t want to pay well or provide medical insurance.
  4. Force smaller shops out of business.
  5. Raise prices, because now you’re the only game in town.
  6. Rinse, repeat 15 miles down the road.

I’ve heard some say, “capitalism works this way, and great for the owners of [INSERT_BIG_BOX_STORE_HERE] that they’re able to do so well because at least they create jobs.”

To them I say, “At what price?”

walmart-growth

Note: This map only goes to 2006; it’s much worse now, believe it or not.

About:
This image was found on PolicyMic. It was created by Daniel Ferry, Excel Hero, who explains how it’s done. For some of the facts about Walmart’s pay and etc., there’s this from last year. And for even more facts about its pay, here’s an image and data source from a previous post as well.