Last week came the final report of a bipartisan group of more than two-dozen U.S. state lawmakers and legislative staffers who took 18 months to study some of the world’s top-performing school systems, including those in Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Ontario, Poland, Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan.  The group, part of the National Conference of State Legislatures, released its findings, titled No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State, which specifically looked at what the top schools do that schools in the U.S. don’t.

There were three big takeaways, as reported in this story on the report.

  1.  They level the playing field of the youngest learners.  Ontario, for example, offers free, full-day kindergarten not only to 5-year-olds but to 4-year-olds too.  They provide more resources for schools in disadvantaged areas, and provide incentives for the best teachers to teach in these areas.
  2. They emphasize better teacher preparation.  Not only are teaching programs better, but they spend a lot more time on activities such as working in teams with other teachers to develop and improve lessons, observing and critiquing classes, and working with struggling students.  And yes, pay is higher, resulting in more selectivity at the top teaching universities. Teachers in these top performing countries are often paid on par with accountants and engineers.
  3. They emphasize vocational education.  Classes for auto repair, welding, carpentry, etc. are better funded, and more up to date.  They are not considered lower esteemed as they often are in the U.S., and are funded accordingly.

Sure, the U.S. has fermented many obstacles toward attaining these things, such as bitter politics, and severely unequal funding with a tremendous emphasis on local wealth.  For a long time the answers to these problems have been obscured by different opinions on what the end result should be.  But this report and other recent ones like it have cleared the fog and hopefully, removed the excuses.