Ciboski: The Reform Of Education

Oct 18, 2017

There are ongoing concerns and proposals on what to do to improve educational results for K-12 students in the United States.

President George W. Bush announced that he wanted to be known as the “education president,” which led to the “No Child Left Behind” policy and its questionable results. The Obama administration proposed a “Race to the Top” policy, and a “Common Core” curriculum. In Kansas, educational results have been disappointing and lawsuits have been filed to have more funding for K-12 education. I do not think that spending more money is the key to higher achievement levels of students. I think that we should examine other possibilities that would help students achieve greater academic success.

We should delve into the question of why students in some other countries far exceed American students in educational performance on international examinations. I suggest that we study thoroughly and intensely the model of Finland. Finland is a country with five million people. A large number of our states have a population under five million, so they and the more highly populated states could begin by implementing some of Finland’s educational practices.

Finland implemented major education reforms 40 years ago. Since then, Finland’s students lead the developed world in academic achievement in science and mathematics. The triennial program for international assessment, also known by the acronym PISA, tests the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds, and was formed in 1997 as a way to evaluate educational systems worldwide. Finland’s students rank at the very top or near the top and way ahead of the United States in science and mathematics and in some other fields such as civics. This has been achieved for about $30,000 less per student than what the United States spends.

In my next commentary, I will discuss the “culture” of education and the teaching profession in Finland.