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We’d be better at math if the U.S. borrowed these four ideas for training teachers from Finland, Japan and China

The Hechinger Report – Emmanuel Felton

“Why don’t American students really get math? Because their elementary school teachers don’t either, says Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a policy institute that studies what America can learn from the world’s best-performing education systems. Tucker describes a vicious cycle. “We are mainly recruiting teacher candidates from the bottom half of the kids who go to college,” said Tucker. “These kids come out of high school with a very shaky command of high school math and eventually become teachers who can show their students the steps for doing a long division problem, but can’t tell them why it works. So when their students get to high school, they can’t really do algebra either because they don’t understand how the arithmetic works.” In a new report released by NCEE, researcher Ben Jensen looks at what America can learn from how teacher-training institutions in top performing countries prepare elementary school teachers for the classroom. He examined how four systems – Finland, Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong – arm teachers with a rich understanding of the subject areas they will teach and how their future students will learn that content.”(more)

Why The Simple Solution To Academic Success Might Be More Recess

The Huffington Post – Catherine Pearson

“As schools look for more time to squeeze in math, reading and other academic subjects, a long-time cornerstone of elementary school life has taken a hit: recess. According to national estimates, first graders in U.S. public schools in 2005 averaged just under 28 minutes of recess a day. By grade six, it’s roughly 24. But an alternate model, inspired by the Finnish system of peppering short breaks throughout the day, hopes to reverse the tide against unstructured playtime by encouraging schools to add back precious recess minutes in order to curb burnout and improve learning. Dubbed the “LiiNK Project” and founded by Debbie Rhea, associate dean of research in Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences with Texas Christian University, the program has two arms: A character development component intended to foster intangibles like empathy and self-worth, and a restructuring of recess modeled after Finnish schools.”(more)

Inside the schools fighting childhood obesity with fitness

The Guardian – Rebecca Ratcliffe

“Tackling childhood obesity is a global priority, and in many countries schools are playing an increasing role in getting students active. But with a packed curriculum, exam pressures and limited resources, inventive thinking is crucial to getting students moving. Here is an insight into how four schools are increasing physical activity in and out of the classroom.”(more)

Finnish schools no longer teaching subjects like maths and science EMMA REYNOLDS

“Finland is radically overhauling its schools, eliminating maths and science lessons.Nor will there be separate classes for literature, history, geography or any of the traditional core subjects.The new method of “phenomenon teaching” involves teaching of broad topics, combining different skills.”(more)

A Different Kind of Lesson from Finland

Education Next – Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Brandon L. Wright

“Finland has been lauded for years as this planet’s grand K-12 education success story, deserving of study and emulation by other nations. The buzz began with its impressive Program for International Student Assessment results in 2000, which stayed strong through 2006. Educators hastened to Helsinki from far and wide to sample the secret sauce, hoping they might recreate it back home. And most of them loved the taste, as Finland’s recipe contained many ingredients that educators generally like and shunned those they typically find repugnant. It was all about teachers, professionalism, and equity, rather than jarring notions like standards, choice, assessments, and accountability. Gradually, however, the sauna cooled a bit. Finland’s PISA scores and rankings slipped in 2009, and again in 2012, followed by a scathing report from the University of Helsinki that led the program’s uber-advocate Pasi Sahlberg to warn that the time had come for Finns “to concede that the signals of change have been discernible already for a while and to open up a national discussion regarding the state and future of the Finnish comprehensive school that rose to international acclaim due to our students’ success in the PISA studies.” He was right. There had, indeed, been earlier signals: evidence of weak achievement by the country’s small but growing immigrant and minority populations, as well as boys lagging way behind girls.”(more)

Finland Offers Lessons For Building Student, Teacher Agency

Education Next – Michael B. Horn

“Rhonda Broussard is the founder and president of St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, a charter management organization. In 2014, she traveled to and explored the education systems of Finland and New Zealand as an Eisenhower Fellow (full disclosure: I was also a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow). As I listened to her discuss her travels this past May in Philadelphia, I was struck by how relevant some of the insight she had gained in Finland were for those creating blended-learning schools that seek to personalize learning and build student agency. What follows is a brief Q&A that illustrates some of these lessons.”(more)