CRF Blog

Diane Ravitch on Finnish Schools

by Damon Huss

The current wave of evaluating teacher performance based on students’ standardized test scores is a grave mistake, warns Diane Ravitch. The author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System thinks this is part of an unfortunate national trend in which policymakers blame public-school teachers for society’s ills.

In the most recent New York Review of Books, Ravitch examines a new book by Pasi Sahlberg about Finland’s public schools called Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Ravitch points out:

Finland has one of the highest-performing school systems in the world, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses reading, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy of fifteen-year-old students in all thirty-four nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United States.

And yet there is little emphasis on standardized testing in Finland, let alone punishing or rewarding the mostly unionized teachers based on that testing:

To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.” [more]

Here is the first part of an informative two-part interview with Ravitch in 2011, in which she discusses education reform, charter schools, and the evolution of her own ideas: