Q&A: Could less school and fewer tests be the key to better scores?

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  • Husker1 Northern Utah County, UT
    May 16, 2017 9:58 a.m.

    @Howard Beal "Finland has it right, what we do is sick and wrong..."

    I would add the word criminal.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    May 15, 2017 10:05 p.m.

    No, you can't compare Finland say to the U.S. but you could compare Finland to a state that is basically homogeneous. Or Utah or Idaho or Utah-Idaho combined would be close to Finland's population.

    So with that said Finland is kicking our trash in test scores, student creativity, teacher retention and happiness and so on.

    What Finland does have is a nationalized curriculum but decisions on how to run schools and classrooms are done by schools and teachers at the most local level possible. Teachers make decisions and are the chief decision makers for their students. Teachers there teach less in front of students and have more time to collaborate. Students their are expected to get outside and play, not just take tests. Here, we cancel recess or shorten it for more test review time.

    Finland has it right, what we do is sick and wrong...

  • Jbejarano Eagle Mountain, UT
    May 15, 2017 5:52 p.m.

    Some schools are incorporating student led learning. We should look at outliers within the state of Utah for simple changes to
    Make rather than looking for drastic ones which probably wouldn't work here, like no homework.

  • Jbejarano Eagle Mountain, UT
    May 15, 2017 5:52 p.m.

    Culuturally Finland's language and culture are close to extinction. Same with Top ranked Korea. In one moment China or Russia or North Korea could destroy them. In the United States our culture and language is dominant in the world. We therefore have no extra reason to preserve it through our children and our teachers. Unfortunately many parents are apathetic when it comes to education and it shows.

  • worf McAllen, TX
    May 15, 2017 1:06 p.m.

    Play time builds curiosity and creativity.

  • Woodworker Highland, UT
    May 15, 2017 12:09 p.m.

    @ Husker 1, Gatsby, Chuck E. Racer, Mom and Love It, et al:
    As a retired Alpine School District teacher I appreciated and agreed with you comments. I wish the state, federal, and district leaders would listen to you.
    1.I agree that Finland has a unique population to work with including the parental support and attitude in the home about education. The home, above all other factors, will determine whether a student is successful or not.
    2. Next year will bring even more testing to Alpine School District and more time spent on report cards. Their teachers are burning out, and they just don't care. I, too, was a teacher who burned out. Stop the madness!
    3. I believe that with a few exceptions, children should finish their homework in class. This ensures that:

    a) They are given structured time to do it. Many will not do their work at home and their parents won't follow up and support them.
    b) After a long school day, students can go home, take a break, take care of family responsibilities, and get to bed on time.
    c) Less stress. Children can learn without the long, exhausting hours colleges and medical school demand. How does burn out help people's health?

  • Husker1 Northern Utah County, UT
    May 15, 2017 11:07 a.m.

    The stress and anxiety experienced by Tim Walker is common among teachers. People who say teaching is easy have never stood in front of 45 kids just staring at you waiting for you to "entertain" them. Not to mention the micromanagement that comes from district offices and administrators, and the pressure from helicopter parents.

    Finland is a very different society and culture than the U.S. Do they have schools that compare to our inner city warzones? Do they get more parent support? Do they have the gang activity we do? Do they have the drug problems (among students and parents) that we have? Do they place as much importance on sports as we do?? Do they have as many transient families as we do?? We have to be careful when saying something works in Finland so we should try it here.

    That said, I agree with the point that sometimes less is more. Schools in Finland teach for 45 minutes and then give 15 minute breaks. Meanwhile in the U.S., block schedules that force kids to stay attentive for 80-90 minutes before getting a break have become all the rage.

  • gatsby Salt Lake City, UT
    May 15, 2017 11:06 a.m.

    I don't know that the school day needs to be shorter, but I would LOVE to see more "playtime," even for older students i.e. time to be creative, build things, invest in their own projects as this interview states. My kids are 13 and 14 and could use some "down" time at school. Play is a way of engaging, not disengaging, and makes work time more productive. And our kids are being tested to death, via SAge etc and it robs teachers of classroom time, burns kids out and counts for little to nothing, as kids don't see specific results of their tests (which questions they got 'right" or "wrong,"), it's not part of their grade, and so many are opting out that the data is skewed. My kids have had anxiety over testing, which is supposedly diagnostic, but is still characterized as a 'test" and so they feel they must perform well, until they finally don't care anymore, and just answer questions quickly so they can be done--which defeats the whole purpose. More testing is not the answer. What are we so afraid of?? If kids love school they will learn--to me it's that simple. Also, a child's home life is a HUGE factor in how well kids learn, and more testing will never address that

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    May 15, 2017 10:51 a.m.

    We have to realize that Finland, which has a socialistic government, is the size of one of our states with a very homogeneous population. This is very different than ours, so implementing it full scale would probably not work. Having one set curriculum for the whole country would be easy in their country, not so in our diverse nation. And that is not a reason they are succeeding.

    However they have some things right. 1st grade in Alpine SD used to be half day. That would be an improvement. Having recess AND P.E. every day would be a great improvement in the elementary schools. It used to be like that. Less national or statewide testing would mean more teaching for the money and time.

    On the other hand, pressure for testing has come because of faulty teaching philosophies (constructivism) our colleges of education are forcing on teachers. So if we want less testing, we should start by cleaning house with the colleges of education professors.

  • Mom and Love It San Juan, UT
    May 15, 2017 10:48 a.m.

    America spent who knows how much money researching what would make schools more successful. They turned their backs on the data and did the opposite. Finland took those findings and implemented them. It should not be any surprise which county is succeeding and which country still continues to struggle.

    Also, in Finland teachers are respected. Their career is placed in the same category as doctors and lawyers. Because teachers are valued, and not overworked, they stick around. Finland has a 90% retention rate.

    Perhaps we should stop making education about politics (or using schools as glorified babysitting facilities) and start focusing on what we know is best for children.

  • IceCreamGhost Sandy, UT
    May 15, 2017 10:25 a.m.

    Very interesting. I think we could learn a lot from this.

  • worf McAllen, TX
    May 15, 2017 9:40 a.m.

    A few keys to learning:

    * build curiosity
    * independent time to building creativity