I’m posting this as a bookmark to myself as much as anything else. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and its Study Group on International Comparisons in Education produced a report on what we can learn about improving our own education systems in the United States by comparing it to high-performing systems in the rest of the world. One member of the group was Indiana state representative Bob Behning. Some take-aways from my initial scan of the report:
- The U.S. is falling behind when compared to the rest of the world. This can’t be explained away by hand waving about apples-and-oranges.
- The good news, of sorts, is that there are now lots of countries doing better than we are, so we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We can see what works and copy it.
- There needs to be a support structure in place so that kids come to school ready to learn. In other places, that can take the form of government support to families with young children or extended family structures or the community generally. The upshot is that the kids are healthy and the kids are being educated before they get to school. Extra resources are devoted to struggling kids once they get to school.
- Access to elite teachers. The system recruits high quality educators; implements a rigorous system of preparation and licensure; pays them well; develops a mentor system; gives them a professional environment to work in; selects high quality administrators; and develop standards benchmarked to other countries.
- Develop a Career and Technical Education path for those students preferring more of an applied education rather than a more academic approach. This shouldn’t be an educational backwater like so many vocational programs. It should be geared to boosting the national economy and providing a higher standard of living for a broader base of the population.
- These reforms should be part of a comprehensive plan. It will probably be the case that not all problems can be tackled at once, but the plan implementation should not be erratic or arbitrary.
The report then profiles Finland, Singapore, and Ontario as examples. The study group also apparently studied Albert, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, Poland, Shanghai, and Taiwan.