I think that many of the lessons found in this book are valuable lessons that we should implement in American school systems. This book went into detail describing the school systems in Finland, Singapore, and Ontario, Canada. The authors researched what these school systems are doing that is working and compared this to American schools.
Darling-Hammond and Rothman highlighted six lessons we could learn from these successful school systems (2015):
1. It takes a system. They focus on recruiting, developing and retaining talented people. Components of the system are coherent and complementary in supporting the overall goal of producing highly effective teachers and school leaders (Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2015).
2. Get it right from the start. These systems have strong systems for recruiting and preparing new teachers. Teacher education programs are highly selective and the state subsidizes teacher education. This makes sure that all teachers get as much preparation as they need...instead of only what they can afford (Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2015).
Fact #1: In Finland, only 1 out of 10 applicants is accepted (2015).
Finland's teacher education program is highly selective and competitive. I don't know how this would go in America. Would it cause a shortage of teachers?
Fact #2: Teachers in Singapore are the top third of their high school graduates.
Is this true in America? Sometimes it is...but not always.
Also, these countries provide new teachers with a REDUCED work load until they have more experience. In my experience, the new teachers get the tough classes that no one else wants to teach. Its almost like new teachers have to "pay their dues" before they get the more desirable teaching positions.
3. Make teaching an attractive profession. In Finland, teaching is a TOP RATED job. People in Finland rank teaching with medical doctors (2015). This is a cultural phenomenon, I understand, but how can we make teaching so desirable and so respected in our country?
In these school systems, schools are well funded and supported. Class sizes are smaller. Teachers have a 60% shorter teaching day than US teachers (2015). Therefore, teachers have more time to plan, grade papers, meet with parents, etc. Our teachers don't have the luxury of long planning periods in the US--most of that work is done at home on the teacher's personal time.
4. Invest in continual learning. The three successful systems described in this book all provide teachers and principals opportunities for support to develop their knowledge and skills, to improve their practice, and to grow as professionals (Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2015). Not only is professional learning provided, it is often provided during the regular school schedule (2015)
5. Put sufficient resources where they are most needed. In each country studied, all three systems recognize that the quality of a child's education should not depend on the income of that child's family (Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2015). These school systems fund schools equitably. Not only do they fund the schools equitably, they also provide incentives to make sure that the highly qualified teachers are equitably distributed among all the schools.
My thoughts on this...in America, if you go to a public school, you are bound by where you live. If a family cannot afford to live in a "good" school system, the children in that family don't get to attend the better performing schools. I definitely think we have a problem with equity in American schools. These lower income school systems have different needs and may need more support than affluent systems.
6. Proactively recruit and develop high-quality leadership. The three systems examined understand that high quality leadership strengthens teaching through skillful guidance and a shared school vision (Darling-Hammond & Rothman, 2015). In these systems, the principal is the instructional leader of the school and this role is paramount to his or her management and budget planning roles (2015). Principals are recruited from the most expert teachers who show leadership potential (2015).
So, what do we do with this information?
From the lessons learned from Finland, Singapore, and Ontario, I think we have things we can improve in the US. The biggest obstacle we face, though, is cultural. I think that, unfortunately, many people in our culture simply don't regard education with the same respect and importance that the cultures in Finland, Singapore, and Ontario. I think that if we can figure out how to fix this, then the other lessons will be able to fall into place.
How does this relate to technology, leadership, and change?
I think that professional development is key to technology, leadership, and change. Professional development is how we teach our teachers about technology and leadership. By giving teachers the skills and knowledge needed to use technology and to be leaders in the school, we will see the change that we need. The school systems in Finland, Singapore, and Ontario consider professional development to be so important that they provide it for teachers and principals throughout the school year and school day. Professional development is well funded in these school systems by the government. It is so important that we encourage our teachers to be life long learners and that we give them the time and resources to do so. I firmly believe that most teachers love to learn themselves, but that they are often spread too thin in their work to make time for learning and growth for themselves.