Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

K-12 Education in the US

This topic was discussed August 19, 2013

Following up on our discussion of August 5, this session will focus in on primary and secondary education.

  • Finland model?  There seemed to be lots of support for elements of the education model in Finland:
    • Higher educational, certification and training standards for teachers
    • Much higher teacher-to-administrative personnel ratio
    • Robust performance reviews from peers [and other sources?] determining pay
    • Higher “societal status” accorded to teachers by their communities
    • Far fewer standardized tests applied to the entire student population

    Can we/should we try to replicate that model in the US?

  • Changing teacher role.  How can we transition toward such a model?
    • End of teacher tenure?
    • Higher standards (how measured?) and pay/retain for performance?(/li>
    • More curriculum flexibility for teachers, relying on their professional judgment as to what to teach and when
  • College prep vs. vocational training.  Should the secondary curriculum be primarily focused on college prep, or should other paths to strong, middle-class employment opportunities (“trade” skills, etc.) also be encouraged? How might we mitigate the perceived stigma that many of these careers are only for those who failed at college prep?


  • As a follow-up to K-12 discussion this is an article on a conservative experiment in education reform. Admittedly a different demographic from Maine at $7,556/student it offers vouchers (selected by less than1% of the student population), charter schools, support for home schooling, merit pay for teachers, a creative broad curriculum, testing for results, and an enthusiastic young superintendent. It will be interesting to see how it works.

  • Richard, thanks for posting this. I read the entire article, as the broad range of experiments that Douglas County is running do, quite possibly, make their school district one of the most interesting in the country. I definitely like the way the district is putting students first–and offering them choices of approach to learning. The market-driven salary system for teachers fascinates me. I’ll be really curious to see if this works well. Yes, a good high school Physics teacher is harder to find than a good fourth-grade teacher, and, on the surface, it appears that offering the Physics teacher considerably more money than an elementary school teacher might bring in stronger applicants for Physics. However, I would argue that a fourth-grade teacher has a far larger influence on the future, both academic and social, of his or her students than a Physics
    teacher; therefore, the elementary school teacher should be paid more than the Physics teacher. Were I again teaching high school English, but in a system that paid elementary teachers more than me and my high school colleagues, no one would hear me complain. It is almost impossible to overestimate the value to her/his students of a really good elementary school teacher.

  • Oops! Above should read ” Broad range…does…” Should have edited more carefully. Glad I’m not up for hire in Douglas County!

  • Sorry to miss last two weeks I’m in Italy – home next week.

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