Finland, when it was young: Ever since December 2001, everyone has known the script:
When it comes to the public schools, we have to copy miraculous Finland, land of miraculous test scores! All across the spectrum, people are still repeating this manifest nonsense today.
Why do we call it nonsense? The script about miraculous Finland emerged from the release of the scores from the inaugural 2000 PISA.
Finland scored at the top of the world. The script was soon being widely yodeled.
Why do we call the script nonsense? We’ve discussed this topic many times before. Yesterday, we did something we’d never done before.
Of course! We decided to see how Finland did on those inaugural 2000 tests, as compared to white students in this country.
Finland is a small, unicultural, middle-class nation. Almost all its students are “majority culture.” (There’s nothing “wrong” with that.)
Finland has very few immigrant students even today. Back then, it truly had none.
How miraculous did Finland look on the 2000 PISA if you compared its scores to the scores of kids from our own majority culture? In our view, not real miraculous!
Incredibly, these are the famous 2000 PISA scores—the scores which launched a thousand rounds of bullroar:
Average scores, 2000 PISA, mathOn that inaugural PISA, white students in the U.S. essentially matched miraculous Finland. The differences you see are tiny, given the nature of the PISA scale.
OECD nations 492
United States, white students 530
United States, all students 493
Average scores, 2000 PISA, science
OECD nations 493
United States, white students 535
United States, all students 499
Average scores, 2000 PISA, reading
OECD nations 494
United States, white students 538
United States, all students 504
Our schools could be better in many ways, on all levels, for all kids. But the deeply serious challenge we face involves the performance of our black and Hispanic kids—and you can’t learn how to do better with those kids by flying off to Finland.
To its credit, Finland didn’t spend hundreds of years trying to eliminate literacy from one major part of its population. That’s what our benighted ancestors did. A literacy shortfall persists.
To its credit, Finland has never created or solved such a problem.
For better or worse, Finland doesn’t have large numbers of immigrant kids who come from low-literacy backgrounds not speaking the language. We have lots of such kids over here.
Those deserving, delightful kids present large educational challenges. For better or worse, Finland has never faced or solved such a challenge.
Simply put, Finland doesn’t seem very miraculous. It’s amazing to look at those inaugural scores, the ones which launched a worldwide script.
How clueless are our “educational experts?” Until yesterday, we had never seen a comparison of this type from those famous 2000 scores.
Was such a comparison ever done? If you simply look at those scores, it’s perfectly clear that Finland wasn’t producing miraculous scores on that inaugural PISA.
Quite plainly, our own white students are not miraculous, but they were matching Finland from the start, warts and all. Why are people still pretending that Finland is somehow miraculous?
Our benighted ancestors created our largest educational challenge through their brutal racial behavior, which lasted for hundreds of years. Their conduct created types of shortfalls which never existed in Finland.
To its credit, Finland never engaged in such appalling historical conduct. But for that reason, Finland never had to solve the problems our ancestors created.
Those 2000 test scores are simply amazing. Is any group, anywhere in the world, as useless as our “educational experts?”
Is any group so clueless? If they have any skill at all, it truly would seem to be this:
Arranging for the free trip to Finland, where they stay in a nice hotel.
Concerning those PISA scores: You can review all PISA scores by using the PISA International Data Explorer supplied by the NCES.
Click here, then click on PISA USA. Click on “I agree to the terms above.” From there, you’re on your own.
On the 2011 TIMSS, U.S. students matched Finland in math. White students in the U.S. basically kicked Finland’s keister. To review those data, click here.
Still, the script of miraculous Finland persists. Why do we say our kids are dumb? Why don’t we beat up on ourselves?