Finland is the current darling of international education. Without subjecting their students to year after year of standardized tests and students not even starting school until age 7, Finnish students are rocking international tests year after year. School administrators from all over the world are flocking to Finland so as to bring the Finnish model back home.
So what do the Finns do that's so unique?
They have highly trained teachers. All have master's degrees paid for by the governemnt. All are paid to attend 2 hours of professional development per week. Most curriculum decisions are left to the local educational authorities. Until high school, student assessment is the province of the classroom teachers, those well trained professionals who have the most contact with students. They give very little homework and actually have unstructured play time for students everyday. Finnish adults actually read books!!
And here's the big idea behind the Finnish "miracle" - Equity. All students in Finland get the same education. There are no private schools, no charter schools, no winners and losers in the socio-economic lottery of life. All schools are public schools. (Hear that misters Stam & Tillis ??). Even urban schools with up 50% of their students being immigrant, non-Finnish speaking learners, are doing just as well are the mostly homogeneous rural schools. Equity makes a HUGE difference.
North Carolina's educational leaders, whether R's or D's, would do well to learn from the Finn's success.
More details can be found here. It's a good article.