Who is one of the top countries in the World education-wise? Finland. How do they do it? Shorter school days, less homework, as little measuring and testing as possible, and a flexible curriculum. Say What?!  In the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, Finland placed third in mathematics, second in science literacy, and second in reading.  With Asian countries, like South Korea and Singapore, being Finland’s only real rivals—and the way they teach is more of a learn-it-or-die approach which would only make the Finns cringe.  The United States on the other hand placed around average on its science and mathematics scores and 15th in reading.  Wa-Wa-Waaaaa.

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What happens after you lay down the ax?  A bill has been passed in the New York State senate that ends the seniority rule, no longer is it “last in, first out”.  The seniority rule was that the longer you are at a school, the more privileges you receive. (One privilege being that you are the last to be laid off.)  Mayor Bloomberg says: “We need a merit-based system for determining layoffs this spring, and anything short of that is just not a solution to the problem we face.” This is very promising for the education reformers who have been arguing that seniority doesn’t necessarily mean effective teaching, and have been arguing that the seniority system specifically seems problematic in low income schools which need new teachers to fix past problems.  Now that the determining factor for layoffs is gone, how will the state decide what makes a teacher “good” and what makes one “bad”?  There is talk about a point system that will rank teachers based on evaluations but it may take months or years to set regulations for such a process.  In reality, there is no sign of a concrete plan regarding who will get cut first now.  Is this really because there is no plan?  Or is there a plan already out there that is hidden (for now) from the public to alleviate further commotion about the topic all together?

 

Further Reading:

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/06/134275966/pressure-mounts-to-ax-teacher-seniority-rules

 

“We should be waking them up to what is inside themselves!” says Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert, international advisor and public speaker who has been an advocate for arts in education with many published works, as well. He expresses this in an incredible animated video, which you can watch here along with many other fascinating points.

Reforming education systems all over the world has been. Some have even made several of these reformations. In the United States they include: more standardized testing, teaching these tests and not much else, and cutting out important academic programs, among them art and history. This kind of restructuring creates a stale environment for children in classrooms and the result is that students have little opportunity to develop interest in anything else aside from the core parts of standard education. Granted, there are districts, schools, classrooms, and teachers that go above and beyond, but for many this is the norm.

Robinson argues that the arts are an aesthetic experience where students, or anyone for that matter, can be present in the current moment and feel alive. Sadly, we have failed to do this because, in New York State, we push the passing of the Regent exams and only that. Because we all know that if you can’t pass a few major tests there is no way you’ll be able to succeed in life.

What seems to be the main point is that we should not just reform education, it should be revolutionized. Education as we have known it has traveled this winding path of testing, testing, testing leading us to a dead-end. I understand that this approach may be a little over the top, but if we don’t start thinking about education this way, I fear that we many never come to a solution.

So, should we start driving down this Revolutionary Road? As a future educator, I definitely think so. I have a Chevy Bronco. Anyone need a lift?