Massachusetts beats Finland

Finland is an education “miracle story,” according to one set of international tests, but nothing special on others, reports Ed Week’s Curriculum Matters. “If Finland were a state taking the 8th grade NAEP, it would probably score in the middle of the pack,” said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The most striking contrast is in mathematics, where the performance of Finnish 8th graders was not statistically different from the U.S. average on the 2011 TIMSS, or Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, released last month. Finland, which last participated in TIMSS in 1999, actually trailed four U.S. states that took part as “benchmarking education systems” on TIMSS this time: Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana.

. . . “Finland’s exaggerated reputation is based on its performance on PISA, an assessment that matches up well with its way of teaching math,” said Loveless, which he described as “applying math to solve ‘real world’ problems.”

He added, “In contrast, TIMSS tries to assess how well students have learned the curriculum taught in schools.”

Finland’s score of 514 on TIMSS for 8th grade math was close to the U.S. average of 509 and well below Massachusetts’ score of 561. Finland was way, way below South Korea on TIMSS but nearly as high on PISA.

Finland beat the U.S. average on TIMSS science section, but was well under Massachusetts.

In 4th grade reading, Finland beat the U.S. average on PIRLS (Progress in International Reading, Literacy Study), but scored about as well as Florida, the only U.S. state to participate.

Finland’s seventh graders dropped from above average to below average on TIMSS math. Pasi Sahlberg of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture said this was “mostly due to a gradual shift of focus in teaching from content mastery towards problem-solving and use of mathematical knowledge.”

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Comments

  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    MA has had a school choice program in place for quite some time.

    http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/schoice/choice_guide.html

    • Are you just presenting that fact just for the sake of it, or are you insinuating a link between Massachusetts test scores and school choice???

      Massachusetts also has the highest or near highest per pupil spending in the country. That might play a factor as well, though certainly not a complete explanation.

      • Oh come on jab, everyone knows per pupil spending has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the schools. If it did Detroit would be quite the little educational paradise instead of the educational wasteland it is. Must be something else and choice certainly is an attractive candidate.

        After all, your dismissal of choice implies parents won’t choose a good school over bad and that’s such a silly idea that you know reflexively not to be too explicit about it.