Once Again: For Real Education Reform, You Can Just Visit Massachusetts

Although, unlike Finland, it doesn’t have reindeer. I know I’ve beaten this to a pulp, but flogging dead horses is what we do around here: if you want a model for education reform, you don’t need to travel to Finland, just visit Massachusetts. I’ll outsource this to Vikram Bath (boldface mine):

There is still a much, much better non-Asian model. It’s Massachusetts.

14% of children in Massachusetts live in relative poverty. That’s still below the US average, but much more American-like than Finland.

Unlike Finland, Massachusetts has already figured out how to deal with all the existing regulations imposed by the US government.

Unlike Finland, Massachusetts has figured out how to cooperate productively with US teachers unions.

Unlike Finland, Massachusetts has demonstrated how to get results from US-trained teachers rather than masters holders from Finnish research schools, of which the world only has so many.

Unlike Finland, Massachusetts has experienced success teaching real American students who go home every day to be subjected to American parenting styles.

The 2012 PISA reading scores for Massachusetts were 527. Math was 514. Science was 527. Finland’s were 524, 519, and 545 respectively. Better in two of three categories, but with a different population on a different continent with different resources facing different constraints and challenges. Achieving Massachusetts scores nationally would move us up 20 places in the math rankings, 19 in science, and 18 in reading (which would be ahead of Finland)….

Who reads The Atlantic and the New York Times? It isn’t education reformers. It’s us. They write. We consume, digest, and excrete later. It’s for sharing on Facebook and bringing up at cocktail parties and debating on blogs. And for that “Finns succeed because they do everything the opposite of America” is a winner. “Massachusetts succeeds because they have some subtle curricular and pedagogical differences that require careful examination to disentangle” is not.

It is that simple: Massachusetts, state-wide, has curricular and pedagogical differences that help improve outcomes. They’re not sexy and don’t give you license to bust unions, but, oddly enough, they work.

Three additional points:

1) When one looks at the TIMSS scores, Massachusetts crushes Finland. PISA scores have problems.

2) I disagree with Bath about Romney, since the chronology doesn’t work: Romney hadn’t even been elected by the time Massachusetts had implemented its education reforms.

3) Kevin Drum argues that New Jersey, not Massachusetts, should be the model education state based on Hispanic test scores on the NAEP. Once you disaggregate English-language status, New Jersey’s advantage disappears.

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4 Responses to Once Again: For Real Education Reform, You Can Just Visit Massachusetts

  1. Thanks for posting on this. Don’t stop the education posts, they are elemental to understanding many of America’s most insidious plights–and I’m particularly interested in education reform. Thanks, again!

  2. cettel22 says:

    Mike, I am an economist who greatly respects your scientific approach to social, political, and economic problems, and who would like feedback from you on a draft paper which argues that microeconomic theory has by now been conclusively proven false and needs replacement; and that then presents new microeconomic postulates that are in accord with the now large body of empirical studies that disprove existing microeconomic theory. You can reach me at hyacintheditions@mail.com if you’d like to see it.

  3. Pingback: The Two Opposite Approaches to School-Reform: One Works, The Other Fails; Why Does Obama Push the Failed Approach? Washington’s Blog | Olduvaiblog

  4. Pingback: More Bureaucracy: Another Result of Education Reform | Mike the Mad Biologist

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