I asked Sahlberg how it was possible to hold teachers or schools accountable when there were no standardized tests. He replied that Finnish educators speak not of accountability, but of responsibility. He said, “Our teachers are very responsible; they are professionals.” When asked what happens to incompetent teachers, Sahlberg insisted that they would never be appointed; once qualified teachers are appointed, it is very difficult to remove them. When asked how Finnish teachers would react if they were told they would be judged by their students’ test scores, he replied, “They would walk out and they wouldn’t return until the authorities stopped this crazy idea.”
When we first moved into the city, we were excited at the prospect of what we thought would be good public schools, given that our elementary school covers one of the wealthiest local neighborhoods. My first warning that these hopes were in vain came some years ago, when one of my bosses was telling me he pulled his children from public school, because the decision came down to integrate the gifted children with the general population, in some strange hope that they would be a good influence on their new classmates. Which likely explains why the majority of the local school’s students are on food assistance – middle and upper class flight from horrendous policies.
In researching the local elementary schools, we find they all practice the same policy, teaching to the test. Things have changed from when I was a student.
One interesting aspect of the new school reform ideology, that the article hints on, is the idea that if their policies improve education (a big if), that this education will have a positive effect upon poverty. That really only seems to be the only solution to poverty these days – improved education and broader access to college. One is left wondering how a BA or BS will affect a janitor financially, other than providing another source of crippling debt.