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A recent analysis of the Finnish system summarized its core principles as follows: The process of change has been almost the reverse of policies in the United States.

Over the past 40 years, Finland has shifted from a highly centralized system emphasizing external testing to a more localized system in which highly trained teachers design curriculum around the very lean national standards.

As an example, I am going to briefly describe how Finland built a strong educational system, nearly from the ground up.

Finland was not succeeding educationally in the 1970s, when the United States was the unquestioned education leader in the world.

One wonders what we might accomplish as a nation if we could finally set aside what appears to be our de facto commitment to inequality, so profoundly at odds with our rhetoric of equity, and put the millions of dollars spent continually arguing and litigating into building a high-quality education system for all children.

Although there was a sizable achievement gap among students in the 1970s, strongly correlated to socio-economic status, this gap has been progressively reduced as a result of curriculum reforms started in the 1980s.Yet this country created a productive teaching and learning system by expanding access while investing purposefully in ambitious educational goals using strategic approaches to build teaching capacity.I use the term “teaching and learning system” advisedly to describe a set of elements that, when well designed and connected, reliably support all students in their learning.By 2006, Finland’s between-school variance on the PISA science scale was only 5 percent, whereas the average between-school variance in other OECD nations was about 33 percent.(Large between-school variation is generally related to social inequality.) The overall variation in achievement among Finnish students is also smaller than that of nearly all the other OECD countries.

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