Concerning a 12-year-old public school script!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 3, 2014

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, math
OECD nations 492
Finland 536
United States, white students 530
United States, all students 493

Average scores, 2000 PISA, science
OECD nations 493
Finland 538
United States, white students 535
United States, all students 499

Average scores, 2000 PISA, reading
OECD nations 494
Finland 546
United States, white students 538
United States, all students 504
On 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.

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.

Question:

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?

23 comments:

  1. Finland is doing something right. It is a consistent outlier among European countries when it comes to the lower % of the population believing in pseudoscience (astrology, homeopathy, creationism).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Finland, nevertheless, does have some lessons for the world about good government.

    Also, I remember, in the 1970 or 80s seeing documentary footage on the alarming epidemic of binge drinking among Finnish teenagers, including many as young as thirteen and fourteen, who were filmed drinking openly right from the bottle on school playgrounds. Evidently there were social problems in Finland that needed to be addressed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. And income and wealth inequality among only whites in the U.S. is almost certainly much worse than among the whole population in Finland, so scores even among U.S. whites should be expected to suffer as a result.

    ReplyDelete
  4. CHALLENGE FOR "TROLLS"

    12 days of Xmas from the blogger:

    I'll start:

    On the first day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me -
    Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Day 2 is easy too:

    On the second day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me -
    Two lying librulz
    and a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  6. On the third day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  7. On the fourth day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    Four hateful Dowds
    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the third day of New Year my true love gave to me,
      credit for work to clever to be me,

      And a sock and some sweet puppetry.

      Good to see you were thinking of me with you first burst
      of 2014 CMc.

      KZ

      Delete
  8. On the fifth day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    FIVE ZIMMERMEN !

    Four hateful Dowds
    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  9. On the sixth day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    Six Rhees a-spinning

    FIVE ZIMMERMEN !

    Four hateful Dowds
    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  10. On the seventh day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    Seven Salons smutting
    Six Rhees a-spinning

    FIVE ZIMMERMEN !

    Four hateful Dowds
    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  11. On the eighth day of Christmas, the blogger sent to me

    An eight-year war on Gore
    Seven Salons smutting
    Six Rhees a-spinning

    FIVE ZIMMERMEN !

    Four hateful Dowds
    Three PISA scores,
    Two lying librulz
    And a Maddow at MSNBC.

    ReplyDelete
  12. as we have been saying, when you control for poverty the US public schools are up there with the rest of the world. And Finland has teacher unions! Charters are not the answer there nor here.

    ReplyDelete
  13. as we have been saying, when you control for poverty the US public schools are up there with the rest of the world. And Finland has teacher unions! Charters are not the answer there nor here.

    ReplyDelete
  14. More unions are the answer. Seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great work! As a teacher of low-literacy student populations, I appreciate your education posts . Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  16. One good reason Finland attracts positive attention is that they essentially do not administer standardized tests. There are standardized college admissions tests (I have been told you can get into college without them), and some sampling. The rest is done by teachers. So that is something we should and could emulate - or at least dramatically reduce the quantity and stop the high stakes.

    Yes, teachers are unionized. Yes, they have social democracy (still) which could be translated as a real social safety net - which means they have less inequality and far fewer children in poverty. And their school reform efforts started by addressing poverty - rather than pretending that test-driven, increasingly privatized schools will overcome poverty.

    Finally, it is not the Finns who tout PISA and TIMMS results - they are skeptical of them as well, but do think they do some things well - such as those I note above, along with strong teacher preparation and conditions that allow teachers to work together (as do many other nations).

    ReplyDelete
  17. Regarding the PISA scores, I think there are two issues as to why Finland = U.S. is never reported:

    1) Many reporters (and a fair number of education specialists) don't understand basic statistics. The standard deviations on the numbers are huge, but reporters, non-specialists, etc. too often focus on the estimate (e.g., "546"). If they understand statistics (or even just read the entire report), they would realize that the U.S. isn't different from most European countries.

    2) Reporters/experts et alia focus on the rankings ("The U.S. is 16th"), even though the rankings don't mean very much (see point #1).

    Rub these two things together and that's how you get the Myth of Blessed Finland.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The for-profit educational testing-big media industry is the equivalent of the private health insurance industry, as far as its noxious parasitical effect on US culture. I won't say anything about our parasitical and hyper-noxious military-industrial-intelligence complex, except that the media, including the testing industry, appears to be enmeshed with it.

    We do need social democracy and more, not less, government jobs, at this point, if we want to address our social and moral crisis. As far as separation of Church and state, I personally feel that it would not be amiss for there to be some kinds of limited state aid to religious schools (though I am not religious myself), provided they met certain strict criteria, such as not proselytizing or discriminating. I understand this is how things work in European countries. Religion is an important part of people's cultural identity -- though I don't feel it should be the main or only part.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Europe is much more secular than the US.

      Delete