School boys in China, South Korea and Taiwan aren’t more disruptive than girls, while there’s a large gender gap in behavior in the U.S., according to a University of Pittsburgh study. Yet U.S., Korean and Taiwanese teachers see girls as better behaved, notes Ed Week.
Youth unemployment is a worldwide problem, reports The Economist in Generation jobless. Yet many employers in countries from the U.S. to Morocco say they can’t find entry-level workers with the right skills.
Poor basic education is only part of the problem.
Countries with the lowest youth jobless rates have a close relationship between education and work. Germany has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.
Countries with high youth unemployment are short of such links. In France few high-school leavers have any real experience of work. In north Africa universities focus on preparing their students to fill civil-service jobs even as companies complain about the shortage of technical skills. The unemployment rate in Morocco is five times as high for graduates as it is for people with only a primary education.
Employers do much less training on the job.
Many countries are trying to improve vocational schools and develop apprenticeships, reports The Economist.
In 2010 South Korea created a network of vocational “meister” schools—from the German for “master craftsman”—to reduce the country’s shortage of machine operators and plumbers. . . . In Britain some further-education colleges are embracing the principle that the best way to learn is to do: North Hertfordshire College has launched a business venture with Fit4less, a low-cost gym. Bluegrass College in Kentucky and Toyota have created a replica of a car factory, where workers and students go to classes together.
Bluegrass is a community and technical college, so job training is part of the mission. Many community colleges work closely with employers on workforce development.
Via Meadia has more thoughts on practical vs. academic education.
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.”
Teachers Matter. Now What?, writes Dana Goldstein in The Nation, citing the Chetty study on the long-term effects of high value-added teachers.
Given the widespread, non-ideological worries about the reliability of standardized test scores when they are used in high-stakes ways, it makes good sense for reform-minded teachers’ unions to embrace value-added as one measure of teacher effectiveness, while simultaneously pushing for teachers’ rights to a fair-minded appeals process.
What’s more, just because we know that teachers with high value-added ratings are better for children, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we should pay such teachers more for good evaluation scores alone. Why not use value-added to help identify the most effective teachers, but then require these professionals to mentor their peers in order to earn higher pay?
That’s the sort of teacher “career ladder” that has been so successful in high-performing nations like South Korea and Finland, and that would guarantee that excellent teachers aren’t just reaching twenty-five students per year but are truly sharing their expertise in a way that transforms entire schools and districts.
Reformers have been advocating teacher career ladders for a long time. Why aren’t they used more widely?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants a longer school day and year, notes the Washington Times.
“Right now, children in India … they’re going to school 30, 35 days more than our students,” he said at an education forum in September, explaining one reason he thinks the American education system is falling behind those of global competitors.
“Anybody who thinks we need less time, not more, is part of the problem,” Mr. Duncan said.
Students in India spend more days in school, but fewer hours in class, totaling 800 “instructional hours” at the elementary level. Forty-two states require more class hours, the report found. Texas requres 1,260 hours a year for elementary students.
High-scoring South Korea requires 703 hours for elementary students, though many parents pay for after-school lessons. Hungarian students score at nearly the U.S. level despite requiring only 601 hours.
U.S. high school students average 1,000 hours in class each year.
In Poland, high school students need 595 hours in the classroom, the lowest of all the countries in the study, yet they top U.S. students on the math and science portions of the PISA exams, the most widely used measuring sticks for international comparisons.
Finland, Norway, Australia and other nations also show higher levels of student achievement while requiring less instruction.
Of course, it’s not just the time spent at school, but how it’s used.
Forget Finland, writes Rick Hess. Stop trying to be South Korea. We can “tap into uniquely American strengths like federalism, entrepreneurial dynamism, and size and heterogeneity” to reform our schools.
America is a really big country. By population, it’s the third largest in the world, and it boasts the most racially and culturally diverse society in history. This is a huge impediment for those who dream of mimicking national policies suited to tiny islands of homogeneity, like Finland. However, this makes the U.S. capable of embracing and supporting many models of teaching and schooling, with each still able to reach critical mass.
“Grandiloquent international best practice reports . . . identify a couple of homogenous nations the size of Minnesota that produce good test scores, cherry-pick a few of their educational practices, and then draw broad prescriptions,” Hess writes. We need to embrace America’s comparative advantages instead of trying to copy the competition.
When it comes to utilizing new tools and technology, the U.S. is “a hotbed of dynamic problem-solving,” he writes.
Non-profits like Teach For America, Florida Virtual School, The New Teacher Project, Carpe Diem, and Citizen Schools are showing new ways to recruit and utilize educators. For-profits like Wireless Generation, Tutor.com, Pearson, Discovery, and Rosetta Stone are offering up a range of ways to harness new tools and technology to support teaching and learning.
Leveraging these new problem-solvers is the challenge, Hess writes.
And keep an eye on Qatar and India, which may be the world leaders in the future.
South Korea is enforcing a cram-school curfew, writes Time’s Amanda Ripley, who embeds with government inspectors on a hagwon raid. Tutoring sessions are supposed to end by 10 pm.
South Korea’s hagwon crackdown is one part of a larger quest to tame the country’s culture of educational masochism. At the national and local levels, politicians are changing school testing and university admissions policies to reduce student stress and reward softer qualities like creativity.
In 2010, 74 percent of students received private after-school instruction at an average cost of $2,600 per year. There are more tutors than teachers in South Korea.
South Korean students are the best in the world on international reading and math tests. (Mellow Finland does well too.)
But the country’s leaders worry that unless its rigid, hierarchical system starts to nurture more innovation, economic growth will stall – and fertility rates will continue to decline as families feel the pressure of paying for all that tutoring. “You Americans see a bright side of the Korean system,” Education Minister Lee Ju-ho tells me, “but Koreans are not happy with it.”
South Korean students are encouraged to stay up late studying and sleep in class, Ripley writes. “The typical academic schedule begins at 8 a.m. and ends sometime from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., depending on the ambition of the student.”
When I visited some schools, I saw classrooms in which a third of the students slept while the teacher continued lecturing, seemingly unfazed. Gift stores sell special pillows that slip over your forearm to make desktop napping more comfortable.
Success in South Korea requires winning a spot in a top university. To reduce the incentives to cram, “500 admissions officers have been appointed to the country’s universities, to judge applicants not only on their test scores and grades but also other abilities,” Ripley writes.
Still hagwons are responding to the curfew by putting lessons online so students can study late at home. Other hagwons claim to be “self-study” libraries to evade the 10 pm curfew. Accompanying government inspectors, Ripley sees 40 teenagers sitting in carrels in “a warren of small study rooms with low ceilings and fluorescent lights.” The air is stale. “It is a disturbing scene, sort of like a sweatshop for children’s brains,” she writes.
Class Warfare author Steven Brill debated Diane Ravitch on C-SPAN. Ravitch blamed poverty for low U.S. scores compared to rival countries, saying affluent U.S. students do as well as Finns and Koreans.
Big deal, responds Matthew Ladner on Jay Greene’s blog. Our best students do as well as the average for all of their students.
No mention of how the very wealthiest schools in America compare to the very wealthiest schools in Finland and South Korea, or that our African-American kids score closer to the average score in Mexico than that in Finland.
The gap between high-scoring and low-scoring U.S. students is wide compared to most of our high-scoring competitors.
Test-based incentive programs, as designed and implemented in the programs that have been carefully studied, have not increased student achievement enough to bring the United States close to the levels of the highest achieving countries.
The report actually finds evidence that suggests positive impacts for accountability, he writes. OK, it hasn’t turned us into Finland or South Korea. But it’s helped.
Why would we discard an effective program just because it falls short of our hopes of producing the world’s best education?
. . . Nowhere does the report indicate an alternative educational program that leads to as large an improvement in overall U.S. achievement as accountability. Nowhere does the report suggest any single program or package of reforms that would close the achievement gap with the highest performing countries. Nowhere does the report really make the case that alternative reform packages should not include an accountability component.
The report dismisses estimated achievement gains of 0.08 standard deviations as insignificant. Even very small gains have very big pay-offs, Hanushek writes. “If the future follows the patterns we have seen historically, the present value of achievement gains of this magnitude would be over $13 trillion.”
“Existing but imperfect accountability schemes could be modified in order to improve on the first generation of plans,” Hanushek adds, but the NRC panel ignored this possibility.
Test scores should be audited independently to prevent cheating, writes Herbert Walberg in the Washington Times.