What America Can Learn from School Choice in Other Countries

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But it is a perilous course of action for those who wish to understand—and improve—the state of American education. If nothing else, reflection on international experience encourages one to think more carefully about practices and proposals at home. It is not so much specific answers that come from conversing with educators from around the world, as it is gaining some intellectual humility. Such conversations provide opportunities to learn the multiple ways in which common questions are posed and answered, and to consider how policies that have proved successful elsewhere might be adapted to the unique context of U.

Many who attended said the conference had sparked conversations well beyond the usual boundaries on thinking about U. The conference opened with an urgent call from U. Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller that action be taken. That kind of increase in economic productivity could, over the long run, boost the U. Hanushek was careful to state that the goal was not to strengthen U.

Further developing the case for reform, University of Arkansas scholars Jay P. Greene and Josh P. And others agreed. But how can we ensure high-quality instruction? According to Mourshed, much depends on the stage a school system has reached. If a system is mediocre and has only low-performing teachers, then it can make the most progress through strong administrative actions that identify clear expectations for teachers and are fairly prescriptive.

Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It

This may involve scripted teaching materials, monitoring of the time teachers devote to each task, and regular visits by master teachers or school inspectors. Among other things, great school systems decentralize pedagogical methods to schools and teachers, and put in place incentives for frontline educators to share innovative practices across schools.

Students in these programs are asked to think about sociological, psychological, and policy issues rather than to discuss what it takes to teach a particular lesson effectively. In this regard, schools of education are unlike other professional schools. He gave the example of business schools, which are increasingly asked to link instruction directly to the work future managers will be expected to do. Reimers urged that education-training programs combine mastery of the subject matter, needed especially today in math and science, with the ability to adapt teaching to different learners, to use technology effectively, and to enable project-based learning and teamwork.

In making these points, Reimers built on the presentation on Finnish training programs given by Jari Lavonen of the University of Helsinki. Those admitted are a select group, and acceptance virtually guarantees a well-compensated and prestigious career. Rigorous training programs expect future teachers to demonstrate content knowledge in both a major and a minor subject, research competence, and classroom effectiveness. In his view, it is this component that enables them to tackle complex classrooms situations effectively later on. There are multiple routes to certification as a secondary-school teacher, but the chances of getting a job are as low as 5 percent, as positions are avidly sought.

Similarly, in Singapore, applicants to teacher-training programs are carefully selected, with a large proportion coming from the top 30 percent of the college population. Kim said the Korean and Singapore success stories could not be understood apart from deep-seated cultural factors.


The demand for teacher excellence comes from parents, who want their children to do well on national examinations that determine future education and occupational opportunities. As a result, teachers are under a lot of pressure. With unionization of the teaching profession in Korea, Kim wonders whether the current model can be sustained. In addition, he emphasized the current lack of high-quality professional development for teachers and adequate mentorship for new teachers. We recruit from whatever the ed schools give us, there is no productivity angle and no pay for results. He also seeks to improve the mentorship that teachers receive in their first year of teaching, which he says is virtually nonexistent in parts of his state.

Hindering the conversation on school choice was the fact that the mechanisms for choice in the United States do not resemble the choice mechanisms elsewhere. In the United States, private schools receive little government aid except for transportation, lunch programs, and, in a few places, school vouchers , whereas in most other countries governments fund private schools at levels close to those for state-run schools.

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Charter schools are privately operated schools that are funded by the government, but they may not teach religion, while government-funded private schools in most other countries may do so. Avis Glaze, former superintendent of the Ontario education system, correctly observed that Canada does not have charter schools, but others mentioned that the large number of religious schools that are both government-funded and subject to state regulation give Canadians even more choice than exists in the United States.

If you adjust the system to include more choice, as contrasted with neighborhood assignment, the only measure of excellence is test scores, all of the other social factors are jettisoned from analysis but these are most important. In the US, there are many private and expensive private schools; nursery schools were of course private before the latest initiative to provide public nursery schooling!

There is little comparison between the private schools and the public schools in terms of results: the private schools eviscerate the public schools on test scores. But, who ever wonders what happens to the private school students who do poorly on those tests? Comment by Fredrick Welfare — 1 Jan, I like comments.

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    What Americans can learn from Sweden’s school choice disaster | LARS P. SYLL

    Entries and comments feeds. LARS P. Ray Fisman Ray Fisman is not the only critical international reviewer of the Swedish voucher experiment. Levin — distinguished economist and director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University — wrote when he recently reviewed the evidence about the effects of vouchers: In Sweden adopted a voucher-type plan in which municipalities would provide the same funding per pupil to either public schools or independent private schools.

    Parents and students have many more choices among both public schools and independent schools than they had prior to the voucher system.

    On the criterion of productive efficiency, the research studies show virtually no difference in achievement between public and independent schools for comparable students. Measures of the extent of competition in local areas also show a trivial relation to achievement. The best study measures the potential choices, public and private, within a particular geographical area.

    Parents And Teachers Helping Students

    For a 10 percent increase in choices, the achievement difference is about one-half of a percentile. Even this result must be understood within the constraint that the achievement measure is not based upon standardized tests, but upon teacher grades. Another study found no difference in these achievement measures between public and private schools, but an overall achievement effect for the system of a few percentiles. Even this author agreed that the result was trivial. For those who are interested in the patterns of achievement decline across subjects and grades, I have provided the enclosed powerpoint presentation … With respect to equity, a comprehensive, national study sponsored by the government found that socio-economic stratification had increased as well as ethnic and immigrant segregation.

    This also affected the distribution of personnel where the better qualified educators were drawn to schools with students of higher socio-economic status and native students. The international testing also showed rising variance or inequality in test scores among schools.

    No evidence existed to challenge the rising inequality. Accordingly, I rated the Swedish voucher system as negative on equity.

    Japan Might Be What Equality in Education Looks Like

    Yet critics of the French system say that spreading government funds across the two sectors means all schools are stretched thin, leaving some public schools, in particular, without the resources they need to serve the students they have. The 6- and 7-year-olds sit at desks organized in rows as Le Bris scurries across the scuffed floors switching between the two grade levels.

    On a Monday morning in October, she prompted the 6-year-olds to practice spelling out three-letter combinations with laminated cards. She shifted gears, called a 6-year-old up to the board to write out an answer, then turned back to finish reading to the 7-year-olds.

    She looked up at the work on the board as she handed out a worksheet about the story to the 7-year-olds. This year her school lost five students and gained one. But she wishes she had more money to bring her classes down to size. Join us today. Sarah Butrymowicz is senior editor for investigations. For her first four years at The Hechinger Report, she was a staff writer, covering k education, traveling… See Archive. At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover.

    Please read our guidelines for more information. By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email.

    What Americans can learn from Sweden’s school choice disaster

    You must fill out all fields to submit a letter. Part 2 of 2: In New Orleans, a reluctant teacher finds his voice and, possibly, his purpose.

    Get the best of our award-winning coverage sent to you weekly. The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox. This story is the third of a three-part series that examines how other countries approach the idea of school choice.

    Read about school choice in New Zealand and Sweden. Sign up for our newsletter. The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers.