Two dozen state lawmakers and legislative staffers spent 18-months studying some of the world’s top-performing school systems, including those in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Ontario, Poland, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan. They concluded as follows:
1: More help is needed for the youngest learners!
In the U.S, poverty is a powerful drag on the youngest learners, with too many children showing up to kindergarten both hungry and lacking important cognitive and noncognitive skills. Research suggests that preschool, when done well, can have a profound impact on children’s lives, but too often in the U.S. it’s done badly or not at all. Of the top performers the group studied, all of them invest in early education. Ontario, for example, offers free, full-day kindergarten not only to 5-year-olds but to 4-year-olds too.
The differences continue once America’s disadvantaged students reach first grade. There, they’re often in poorer schools with low-performing teachers. Not so elsewhere. In many of the world’s top school systems, according to the report, “providing additional resources to schools serving disadvantaged, struggling students is a priority. More teachers are typically allocated to such schools, with the best teachers serving in the most challenged ones.”
2: Teachers need to be better
America’s patchwork of teacher-training programs is famously broad and threadbare. The U.S. simply has too many institutions that claim to train teachers, but pay no attention to what a school district wants or needs in the classroom. In many top-performing countries, educators are often trained at a handful of the best, most selective universities. Once these top-flight teachers enter the classroom, they also enter a very different professional reality — one that involves as much training as teaching. In some places, the report says, just “30 percent to 35 percent of a teacher’s time is spent teaching students, while the rest is spent on activities such as working in teams with other teachers to develop and improve lessons, observing and critiquing classes, and working with struggling students.”
What makes good teaching?
Too often in the U.S., teachers work in isolation, cut off from their fellow teachers. In contrast, many high-performing countries have embraced a team-teaching model, where newer teachers are constantly observing veteran teachers and being observed, fine-tuning their skills in real time. Overseas, observation is about improvement — not just accountability.
And then there’s pay. Yes, other nations have higher standards for their teachers, but with those standards come increased respect and pay, on par with engineers and accountants.
3: Fix Career And Technical Education
For the less academic CTE — auto repair, welding, carpentry, etc. is important, but schools have failed to adapt their CTE offerings to fit the needs of the modern economy. CTE also has the same perception problem ss it does in the UK It is considered a second tier for low-performing students. Actually, many schools ignore practical skills and too often students need college in order to be career ready. In top-performing countries like Singapore, the report says, “CTE is not perceived as a route for students lacking strong academic skills, but as another approach to education, skills development and good jobs. CTE is well-funded, academically challenging and aligned with real workforce needs.”
My comment: you will see that arts subjects get not a mention. Otherwise, the issues are rather similar in both the US and the UK. Teacher pay is a crucial matter. If you pay peanuts for doing a truly exhausting and stressful job then you get …you know what. But better pay infers higher taxes, and while true love and care are mainly lavished on the rich, change will never happen.