West High best in Utah


West High School, Salt Lake City, Utah

Main entrance to West High School, Salt Lake City, Utah. Wikipedia image

I coulda told you that. It’s my mother’s high school. (Class of ’32)

(My old school, Pleasant Grove High, didn’t make the list.)

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3 Responses to West High best in Utah

  1. [...] up to Finland Commenter Bernarda sent a link to a Washington Post story by Robert Kaiser about Finland, a nation who redesigned its education [...]

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    That’s a great chunk of data, on the Finnish experience. I hope others pay attention.

    I wonder how many local areas in the U.S. really are hamstrung by religious reactionaries. In our district, in Texas, we set a goal some years ago of being the best paying district in our area. We’d just finished a nasty round of “no increases for teachers” budgeting, and a lot of teachers were moving on. More than a half decade (and three superintendents) later, we’re not #1 in pay, but we’re above average. Teacher retention is up, recruiting is much easier, and teacher quality is up, too.
    Doing the obvious stuff to respect teachers pays off. Any district could do it.

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  3. bernarda says:

    Here is a look at another school system, that of Finland. I would like to quote the whole article, but I will just use this rather long extract.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/05/AR2005080502015_2.html

    “The Finnish educational system is the key to the country’s successes and that, too, is a manifestation of egalitarianism. Surprisingly, it is a new system, created over the last generation by a collective act of will. The individual most responsible for it was Erkki Aho, director general of the National Board of Education from 1972 to 1992. Aho, now 68, was “a little bit of a radical,” he told me with a smile — a Finnish Social Democrat who believed in trying to make his country more fair. The early ’70s were a radical time in Finland. Change was in the air.

    For reformers, education was the principal arena. The traditional Finnish system was conservative and divisive: Kids were selected for an academic track at the end of fourth grade. Those not chosen had no chance at higher education. Universities were relatively few, and mostly mediocre.

    Aho and his colleagues thought schooling should be “comprehensive,” keeping all kids together in the same schools for nine years without tracking them by ability. Only for “upper secondary,” or high school, would academic students be separated from those with vocational interests. The schools would be administered by municipal governments, but at the outset, the substance of the reform would be controlled by the National Board of Education and the government in Helsinki.

    The key to reform, Aho and others believed, was teacher training. Teaching had always been a high-status profession in Finland, but now it would become even more prestigious. (Today there are 10 applicants for every place in the universities that train teachers.) Teachers would be required to complete master’s degrees, six years of preparation that combined education courses with substantive work in subject areas. “Of course I faced much criticism,” Aho recalled. “Upper secondary school teachers were very skeptical. Many parents were critical. The cultural elite said this would mean catastrophe for Finnish schools. The right thought the comprehensive schools smacked of socialism.”

    But by the end of the 1980s, the new system was broadly popular. It was strengthened by a reform of higher education that gave Finland numerous new, high-quality universities. A grave economic recession in the early ’90s was a key test, Aho said. “It was wonderful to see how strong the consensus was” that even in dire economic straits, Finland had to save this new school system, which had become “so important to the society,” he said.

    Indeed it had. Finland in the ’90s became a high-tech powerhouse, led by Nokia, now the world’s largest maker of cell phones. Finnish students have become the best in the world, as measured by an internationally administered exam that assesses the educational progress of 15-year-olds in all the industrial countries.

    Aho’s time in charge ended in the early ’90s, when Finns turned against excessive centralization. After he left the Board of Education in 1992, power over the schools reverted to localities and the schools themselves.

    Teachers and headmasters were given the authority to write curricula, choose textbooks and allocate resources. Apart from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests and final exams at the end of high school, Finnish kids take no standardized tests, a stark contrast to the current test obsession in this country.”

    One notable feature is that this was a recent event and the change in the system took place rapidly. Thus, it can be done.

    Another thing is that the local responsibility would not work in most areas of the U.S. where religious reactionaries would subvert the system locally.

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