Dear NY Times Editorial Board, It’s A Lot Easier to Get to Massachusetts Than Finland

As erstwhile progressives are wont to do, the NY Times touts Finland as an educational model (boldface mine):

Though it dropped several rankings in last year’s tests, Finland has for years been in the highest global ranks in literacy and mathematical skills. The reason dates to the postwar period, when Finns first began to consider creating comprehensive schools that would provide a quality, high-level education for poor and wealthy alike. These schools stand out in several ways, providing daily hot meals; health and dental services; psychological counseling; and an array of services for families and children in need. None of the services are means tested. Moreover, all high school students must take one of the most rigorous required curriculums in the world, including physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, music and at least two foreign languages.

But the most important effort has been in the training of teachers, where the country leads most of the world, including the United States, thanks to a national decision made in 1979. The country decided to move preparation out of teachers’ colleges and into the universities, where it became more rigorous. By professionalizing the teacher corps and raising its value in society, the Finns have made teaching the country’s most popular occupation for the young. These programs recruit from the top quarter of the graduating high school class, demonstrating that such training has a prestige lacking in the United States. In 2010, for example, 6,600 applicants competed for 660 available primary school preparation slots in the eight Finnish universities that educate teachers.

I’ve been through this before, but it’s worth mentioning again (and again. And again…). Massachusetts does a lot of this:

1) Massachusetts has the highest paid teachers in the country; they are valued.
2) Massachusetts’ teachers, relative to most other states, are trained in their subject areas.
3) Massachusetts’ statewide curriculum is more rigorous than the proposed Common Core.
4) Relative to most other states, Massachusetts equalizes school resources and provides a high level of resources (though more needs to be done).

For what it’s worth, there is no statistical difference between Finland’s and Massachusetts’ scores on PISA (Sweet Baby Intelligent Designer, do these bozos read the reports?), and, on the TIMSS tests, Massachusetts blows Finland out of the water (black Massachusetts students tie Finland, while white Massachusetts students crush Finland).

No doubt the fixation on Finland is a boon for the Finnish Tourist Bureau (and we like helping!), but we have a local model that works very well. It’s not exotic–and, alas, no reindeer–but it works. This isn’t to say it couldn’t be better, but someday our intellectual betters might want to ask why other states aren’t adopting the Massachusetts model.

That, of course, would require breaking established narratives about the complete failure of our educational system, so it probably won’t happen.

Related: Bob Somerby brings the heat.

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4 Responses to Dear NY Times Editorial Board, It’s A Lot Easier to Get to Massachusetts Than Finland

  1. NewEnglandBob says:

    Send your column in to the editor at the NYT.

  2. My friend and I have been noting the same thing for years. Even in Mass. folks are surprised to learn that Mass. rivals Finland and Singapore in tests. I suppose I can’t blame the NYTimes for being clueless at least in this case.

  3. Barbara says:

    Ever heard the definition of an expert? Anyone who has come more than 500 miles to give a talk. Analogously, Finland can be the experts on education; Massachusetts can’t. : )

  4. Pingback: Meeting the Massachusetts Standard | Mike the Mad Biologist

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