"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teaching in Finland, Denigration in the U. S.

We know what to expect when the NYTimes moneymen call on their token minority, Brent Staples, to craft an Editorial of the Absurd on CorpEd's antiquated reforms that have effectively blown up public education along with the teaching profession.  Staples' most recent effort does not disappoint, as he uses the most recent PISA release to apply his pretzel logic and funhouse lenses to make sense of the U. S. middle-of-the pack-rankings.  Rather than regarding PISA as the most recent example of how CorpEd's policies have failed again to improve U. S. standings in the international testing contests, Staples does his best to make the Gates-Duncan backwards agenda to fit within what high scoring countries are doing to raise test performance moving forward.

I will focus on just one piece of the Staples' most recent muddle puddle, which deals with teacher quality:
. . . the most important effort [in Finland] 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.
Compare that the U. S., where enrollment is down for education majors, salaries flat, and the profession marginalized by organizations like the New York Times Editorial Board and the Gates Foundation as being ineffective, untrustworthy, lazy, and unprepared by teacher prep programs with no standards.  See below.
The teacher training system in this country is abysmal by comparison. A recent report by the National Council on Teacher Quality called teacher preparation programs “an industry of mediocrity,” rating only 10 percent of more than 1,200 of them as high quality. Most have low or no academic standards for entry. Admission requirements for teaching programs at the State University of New York were raised in September, but only a handful of other states have taken similar steps.
It is notable here that Staples uses information from the corporate think tank, NCTQ, to make his judgments on teacher education program quality.  You may wonder about an organization like NCTQ that makes sweeping evaluations without a single question on teacher ed faculty expertise, training, research, or even student ratings.  And what are we to think of the newspaper of record leaning on a report shot through with shoddy methodology and a gaping absence of any research foundation.

But then we know opinion eschews evidence at the New York Times when it does not confirm the desired conclusion.

Do continue:
Finnish teachers are not drawn to the profession by money; they earn only slightly more than the national average salary. But their salaries go up by about a third in the first 15 years, several percentage points higher than those of their American counterparts. Finland also requires stronger academic credentials for its junior high and high school teachers and rewards them with higher salaries.
That's right--teachers in Finland are drawn to the profession because it is respected and valued. It is valued enough, in fact, the teacher education candidates are given full scholarships so that they do not enter teaching with a 20-30 thousand dollar debt from college loans.  Where is NYTimes opinion on funding teacher education candidates?  

And salary, let's do talk salary and "percentage points."  Beginning teachers nationally made $35,672 last year, compared to $44,259 for others beginning fresh out of college.  

And experienced teachers?  Let's look at some data from, uh, the New York Times, which reported that in the U. S. the "salary level was 40 percent below the averagesalary of other American college graduates. In Finland, by comparison, the veteran teacher’s salary was 13 percent less than that of the average college graduate’s."

But these facts do not impress the New York Times shills for the billionaires who use their bullies' pulpit to shape opinion.  At least that's the way it used to work.

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