Can U.S. schools adopt education practices of top-performing nations?

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  • nhsaint PETERBOROUGH, NH
    May 28, 2012 3:00 p.m.

    I recommend that anyone who is interested in this issue take a look at the actual data which is touting that the US is being outperformed. Data can be very misleading, and certainly this is a classic case. Firstly, if you look at the data simply in terms of which nation performed best, that is clearly China, which, if you only look at that piece of the data, outperformed other nations by a wide margin. However, here is what that data does not tell you: China only sends 35% of their students aged 14 and older to high school! Only the best TEST TAKERS make it to high school. And the Chinese did not test nationwide, they only tested in Shanghai and Hong Kong- two cities! The high schools in Hong Kong have the wealthiest students in the nation, not to mention that they were built on the European tradition, not the Chinese tradition. The students in Shanghai are the second wealthiest in the nation. In the tested student population of both cities, there is no poverty reported- that's right, 0% live in poverty. So is this data actually telling us that China is outperforming the USA- emphatically, NO!

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    May 27, 2012 7:56 a.m.

    Finland doesn't have release-time seminary. Finland doesn't have high school football or cheerleading.

    1. You have to pay more.
    2. You have to have parental buy-in.
    3. You have to be able to dump students who don't care.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 26, 2012 3:14 p.m.

    Our education system is shaping the future of this country, and very few see it, for what it is. Opinions fly around, but few hit the nail on the head. Schools are controlling and mandating to our children, and it's excepted.

    How was has education effected lives in Germany during the 1930's? Russia, China, etc?

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 26, 2012 2:37 p.m.

    I think another thing you are seeing with our young teachers is district hopping. Since so many districts are opting now even to honor step increases in salaries, many young teachers can actually move up a step as they move to another district which will usually honor that year in service. So example, if you are in the Provo District in year two of teaching and the district decides not to honor step increase in salary (for your year of service) which has happened, then that teacher could hop over to Alpine where that district would likely credit that year of service. I don't blame young teachers for doing this because in that respect it's the only way they see that they can get a raise but it's hard on schools and the children because of the constant turnover this creates. I agree with Utah Teacher that a better starting wage and always honoring steps and lanes is important, especially for younger teachers. You can't retain good younger teachers when there isn't any growth in salary or likely to be any substantial growth for several years. And constantly recycling teachers is bad for students.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    May 26, 2012 6:23 a.m.

    We could adopt some or all of the standards of education in other countries and improve eduction but we won't becasue there is no profit in free eduction where business and government are using it to profit from the federal government and its funds. Giving up money is something business and education crooks don't want to give up.

    As long as government funds are dangled like a carrot in front of a donkey the donkey will follow the carrot, even to his death over a cliff taking the minds of children with it.

    Freedom of thought and mind have become wards of the state in Utah and its indoctrination for the betterment of business employees. We have substituted business needs of labor trained to work in local business for freedom of will. IE, in Utah its maids and hamburger windows or assembly line robots.

    In Utah the parents are also discouraged from participation or access to education materials and tests because of the indoctrination and mind control policies of the state. The PTA and UEA have spearheaded its policies in to education so that parents cannot have a voice in education or its policies or funding.

  • Utah Teacher Orem, UT
    May 26, 2012 4:32 a.m.

    Howard Beal, you are right on the money. I am a male teacher working at a middle school. I am often told by my students that I am the first male teacher they have ever had. We still get male teachers entering the schools but after trying to make it on a beginning salary, they typically leave after 3 years.

    When I first started teaching, we had very few openings at my school each year. Now we have 5-6 per year out of a staff of 40 teachers. Most are young girls working for a year or two while the husband finishes school. I don't fault them one bit for doing that but it is very hard on the schools. Each year much time and money is wasted training yet another new teacher that will be leaving in a couple of years.

    The beginning salary for a new teacher needs to start at $40,000 at least. That will be enough to live on while starting out. Small raises each year will keep men in the profession as their families grow.

    We need more male role models and we need more professional, career educators in our schools!

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 25, 2012 5:39 p.m.

    I think there is an additional education crisis in America stemming from the fact of low pay, low appreciation, low respect and low morale (for teachers) is driving males out of the profession. In elementary schools, the male teacher is an endangered species and the number of males in secondary schools is decreasing year by year. It really comes down to pay. Like it or not, male teachers are more stable for schools and are likely to stay long term. There is a constant turnover in our schools as young female teachers, many just recently married, leave the profession to start families. They are now usually replaced by the next batch of female teachers and the cycle is perpetuated. Since many of our students come from single-headed households where the majority are ran by females, many of our students, boys and girls alike, are in desperate need for male role models which in many cases teachers and coaches can provide in our schools and nowhere else. Also, schools themselves need more stability and less turnover and more male teachers. Unless pay and respect is increased, along with teaching morale itself, this will be a huge problem in public education.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 25, 2012 5:33 p.m.

    Some questions:

    * Do we really need to copy other nations?
    * how long will it take for our leaders to realize the worthlessness of standardized testing.
    * kiss--means keep it simple stupid. Do we need the spending for the useless educational programs and other requirements?
    * why can't schools, parents, and districts decide on curriculum
    * why can't parents be told what and how their children are being taught. Let them see copies of state objectives and tests, which are being forced on their kids. Let parents visit the classroom.
    * why can't parents be given a simple graph displaying funding and how it was used. Let's increase input.

    Improving, and lowering the costs of education is simple if critical thinking is used.

  • CougarBlue Heber City, UT
    May 25, 2012 3:39 p.m.

    These students spend more time in school in a given week, plus they have parents who back them and become involved. For many of these nations the students have been raised that it is an embarrassment to the parents, the family and the family name if they do not succeed in school. The kids take it a lot more serious than they do here.

    Another difference is in many nations science is taught in small increments from 1st grade on until the students masters that increment and then the next level, which is built on the mastered elements, is introduced and mastered until the student has a greater understanding of the sciences. We wait too long and throw too much at them at the same time.

    Students need to take a far greater responsibility for their learning and their success. Stop blaming everything on the teacher or the administration. The bucks stops at the head of the student.

    I hear so many of our young men read the sacrament prayers and they struggle. These are 16 year old young men and they still have not learned to read fundamental words. They are to blame.

  • satch Highland, UT
    May 25, 2012 2:27 p.m.

    There is a lot of truths in this article that cannot be ignored.

    It's sad, but nothing will ever change in America right now. We are ruled by two parties who are more concerned about their own power than about getting something done.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 25, 2012 1:44 p.m.

    There are some truths to the apples to oranges comparisons. In America education is accessible to all where many other countries track and basically choose not to invest in their poorest or struggling students.

    HOWEVER, there are still things we could glean from other countries. For instance, in Finland they try to put two qualified teachers in every classroom. I think this innovation alone, not core curriculum etc, would revolutionize American schools.

    Also, educators in Finland are respected, both in the traditional signs of respect and appreciation but also in pay. This, as was stated by Orem Parent, completely changes the frame of reference in which parents and students view teachers.

    Also, the health care situation is a crisis in our country. While not a fan of much of Obamacare, not doing anything isn't a solution either. To repeal Obamacare and go to back to what we had just before Obamacare which really caused the whole Obamacare to be passed in the first place, ISN'T a solution. Teachers are getting whacked as health care costs and decreasing insurance benefits are the norm while increase in salaries does not keep up.

  • Ms Molli Bountiful, Utah
    May 25, 2012 12:53 p.m.

    @ The Rock, I'd like to respond to some of your points. I come from a family where the women worked outside of the home (my mother, both my grandmothers and not sure about my great great grandmothers). 4 children in my family - all of us are now aduts. Neither of our parents ever attended our school classes to help out. I have no recollection of a parent ever helping with homework or asking if our homework had been done. I'd say most of my friends were in the same boat. We didn't receive $$ or anything else for our grades. All of us got good grades, as in As most of the time. None of us have been in trouble with the law. All are college graduates (paying ourself and our parents did not attend college). Some received advanced degrees. If a child is able to internalize a work ethic (such as the one I received from BOTH parents working outside of the home), they learn to excel simply because they want to do their best. I could give you plenty of examples of people who are very successful and happy who were raised in a similar fashion.

  • Harvey1950 SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    May 25, 2012 12:19 p.m.

    These international education comparisons always inflate the spending numbers. The U.S. numbers for "education" expenditures include a hefty chunck (up to 40% in some cases) for employee health care. Each of the other countries in this comparison have universal health care, so it's not part of the education budget.

    Universal health care may also be a contributing factor in student performance for these other countries.

  • sjgf South Jordan, UT
    May 25, 2012 11:58 a.m.

    Apples to oranges.

    In many of these countries, "public education" does not mean through 18 years of age. Once kids start getting to middle school age, if they aren't performing, they are not invited to continue in school, but are redirected to non-academic pursuits.

    By the time they get to high school, only the elite are left. If kids aren't academically talented, or aren't interested, they've moved to other pursuits.

    As a result, we are comparing our average scores, including kids who don't have as much aptitude, and kids who's hearts are not in learning, to the average scores of kids who are the "cream of the crop" academically in the other nations.

    When I first heard similar concerns back in the 70's, I watched as the top 4 math students of our high school competed against the top 4 students of each of several German schools. Our kids took 1st, 2nd and 4th out of the top 4.

    Our top students can compete with the top students of any nation. And the mediocre kids of other nations don't compete with ours, as they have dropped off of the stat sheet.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    May 25, 2012 11:38 a.m.


    With the mothers out of the classroom liberal educators were now free to stop teaching and start indoctrinating.

    One of the primary keys to success in education is parental involvement and our education establishment has done everything they could to remove parents from the classroom. (That may not be true in Utah but it is true in Washington State where I live.)

    The key to education success is contained in a book by Oliver DeMille. He discusses the difference between Professorial education and Mentorial education. A professor lectures. A lecture has been defined as "That which passes from the notes of the teacher to the notes of the student without passing through the mind of either."
    The purpose of reading a book is not to get through the book it is to have the book pass through you (Neil Maxwell).

    In a classical education a student will read a classic, discuss the classic with a mentor present and then write about the classic. The students read and discuss the books together.

    This is the way education used to be. Great teachers still do this. This is how classes in the LDS church are run.

    Return to proven principles.

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    May 25, 2012 11:31 a.m.

    Okay, time for facts:
    1. Most top performing countries require students to choose a career path before the 8th grade. They choose to go into a profession or a trade. This separates those that are college material from those that are not. Further, those in the professional path also specialize in Math, Science, Language, etc. America produces generalists not specialists. When they compare American Math students against foreign math students they are testing a generalist against a specialist population that does not include those studying trades. False comparison.
    2. Education majors in the USA test in the bottom 3rd of their class on the SAT and ACT. Those who have higher test scores typically leave the major by the time they graduate. The top students who do enter the profession leave before their 5th year.
    3. America's schools used to be the best but some things changed:
    A. The government got involved.
    B. Women entered the workforce. Before teaching, telephone operator, secretary and nursing were the only. Professions available to women.
    C. When women left the home they were no longer available at home to teach their kids at home or volunteer in the classroom.
    To be Continued.

  • mulrich Columbia, SC
    May 25, 2012 11:12 a.m.

    I don't understand how teachers in other counties work fewer hours yet have more school days. Something is wrong with that math.

    Maybe instead of paying the teachers more we should pay students and parents for performance. I bet the parents would be much more engaged in their children's education if they got $100 for every A on a report card.

  • wrz Salt Lake City, UT
    May 25, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    The problem is not US schools. The problem is the family... Increased single parent and broken homes resulting in parental lack of interest in what/how their kid is doing in school.

  • Scouter Midvale, UT
    May 25, 2012 9:32 a.m.

    It's obvious the problems with our system are vast and complicated. We are being foolish if we don't think it's a combination of less time, diminished work ethic among students, low salaries, and poor teachers. We waste an incredible amount of time in school with meaningless projects and TV watching. I'm appalled when I hear that my high schoolers have spent the day watching episodes of Family Guy and YouTube junk. Teachers complain that they don't make much, and it's true. And at the same time, I don't feel inclined to pay more for my kids to watch movies and to do filler projects constantly that do not prepare them for the competitive world we live in. Students also need attitude adjustments, as do parents. I'm also appalled when I hear of things like my daughter's middle school science class where 80% of the students didn't bother to do a project because they thought it would take too much effort. It was a required project and parents didn't care if their kids did it. Most of the class failed that project - and that was okay with their parents. Sad.

  • Pete1215 Lafayette, IN
    May 25, 2012 9:26 a.m.

    Read "The Bell Curve". The Finnish are Northern Europeans. The Japanese are Asians.

  • redbaron logan, UT
    May 25, 2012 8:41 a.m.

    One key point that can be implemented immediately is to improve teacher quality by making college education programs more competitive. At my university, everyone knew that if you wanted an easy degree you should major in elementary education. That shouldn't be the case. More rigorous requirements and a screening process to be admitted to the major can be implemented right now to weed out the people who give teachers a bad name. The ones who want to teach only because they'll get their summers off and have a cushy pension. Utah in particular has a glut of teachers, so there would be no crisis by limiting the number of education graduates. And yes, I'm a teacher.

  • ClarkKent Bountiful, Utah
    May 25, 2012 8:40 a.m.

    I don't think the differences are influenced by the teacher salaries, the teacher hours, the funds allocated per student, etc. as much as the cultural work ethic. Many Americans don't have one any more. Even during these tough economic times many Americans still complain about how hard they work, how little their employers are doing for them, blah blah blah. We apparently haven't suffered enough or long enough to get back to what used to make this country so great, and that, I would argue, was a work ethic. I'm not referring to teachers here .. I am referring to children who are raised by parents with little to no work ethic. These children haven't internalized a desire to work hard simply because that is the right thing to do.

  • worf Mcallen, TX
    May 25, 2012 8:35 a.m.

    Some observations:

    * Parents need to occasionally be in the classroom to observe and study how their children are being taught.
    * The public should receive a copy of standardized tests being administered to their children. Groups of parents should get together and discuss the relevance of questions, objectives, and strategies of how it's being taught.
    * Schools should not be ran by a centralized power. This is a conflict of interest, and should be done by state or county. In China, students go to school six days a week, from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Students not completing homework or receiving less than an eighty on a test are spanked. Centralized power can become dominating.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    May 25, 2012 8:26 a.m.

    Notice that the American teachers are paid the least, compared to median incomes, yet our system costs the most. The biggest reason that American schools cost so much more is health care. All of the other countries mentioned, Canada, Finland and Japan, have some form of universal health care. The obscene cost of medical care in this country is the elephant in the living room. The GOP doesn't want the Affordable Healthcare Act, but they have no other options, just to rearrange the deck chairs on our sinking economic ship. An annual study by Milliman Medical Index shows that the average cost of health insurance, for a family of four, will top $20K this year. Twenty thousand dollars. We are all becoming enslaved to our broken system. It affects the cost of education and everything else we do.

  • S.Andrew Zaelit Deseret, UT
    May 25, 2012 7:43 a.m.

    No. Here is why. A large part of the problem is cultural. The United States does not operate culturally in the same manner as those nations that routinely score higher. There is no freedom to fail or succeed. Top performers in the public school system are treated just like the bottom performers. Multiculturalism has neutered America’s children. When the goal is to make everyone happy and safe rather than actually educate, performance stalls. We have a generation of parents that have no grounding in what it means to compete so they are disengaged. The other problem is the unions themselves. Any meaningful reforms must meet the lowest common denominator in order to protect every teacher. This inherent weakness in the system will not allow for honest competition. No one excels. There are great teachers out there, but they are being drowned out by the system they are forced to suffer through.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    May 25, 2012 3:23 a.m.

    All we need to do is stop bashing teachers and the education system. Seriously. Once we start talking about how great our teachers and schools are, the kids will follow.

    Right now all we get are disgruntled parents who send their disgruntled kids to disgruntled teachers.

    A positive attitude will fix most of this.

    Sadly it isn't in vogue to say nice things about public education and the teachers that work there.

    My kids are far ahead of where I was at their age. I went on the get a masters degree. All of us were products of the same system. Did something change to make it bad? No, it is still the same system. The only thing that has changed are the parenting skills of this generation.