Linda Darling-Hammond on Becoming Internationally Competitive

Uploaded by edutopia on 09.02.2010

>>In the United States now, we're talking a lot
about international competition,
internationally benchmarked standards and so on.
And I wanted to see what is actually happening in terms of teaching
and learning in other countries.
So I've looked at a lot of high-achieving countries,
and it became very clear to me right away
that the issue is not just the standards that are written on paper.
It's the entire teaching and learning system that is created
in high-achieving countries like Finland and Singapore, Australia,
Canada, Hong Kong and others, that is very different
from what we have in the United States.
So we have a number of international assessments,
and the one that is most referenced is the Program
and International Student Assessment, which goes by the name PISA.
And on PISA, the United States scores or ranks thirty-fifth
out of the top forty countries in math.
We rank twenty-ninth out of the top forty countries in science.
But we typically do a little bit better in reading.
However, we've gone down on the international assessments
in reading each year that it's been given.
And we've gone down on the math and science assessments as well.
So we're losing ground.
And while we're pushing scores upward on the state tests that we use here,
I think the reason we're falling down on PISA is
that PISA actually addresses higher-order thinking
and performance skills.
In high-achieving countries, they have school-based assessments,
as well as external assessments that are brought together
in the accountability system, that include things like research
and inquiry, scientific investigations, extensive writing.
Most of these countries do not use multiple-choice testing
to any great degree; some don't use it at all.
Kids are always having to write, analyze, explain their views,
produce data, analyze data, both in the classroom and on the assessments.
And so we need to point our system at these higher-order thinking
and performance skills, if we're really going
to be internationally competitive.
So what you see in high-achieving countries is typically a very lean
set of standards.
In Finland, or Japan, for example, all of the math standards can fit
in about ten pages from K-12.
They are very clear about what needs to be taught, and when
and how it builds over time, but they're not overly prescriptive.
By comparison, in the United States,
many states have created good standards.
In some states the standards are sort of a mile wide and an inch deep.
There are 300 things to cover in each grade level, not a small number
of things to do well and deeply.
And the content coverage of large numbers of objectives superficially,
means that we end up reteaching the same thing over
and over again year-after-year, because we didn't stop and do it well
and deeply at a moment in time.
So I kids study fractions in third grade, and then again
in fourth grade and fifth grade.
Many of them don't get it.
They're back at it in sixth and seventh,
and there are high school students who still haven't mastered fractions.
Whereas, if we spent, as many countries do, a quarter of a year
on a single topic, working on it deeply,
you could then understand it deeply enough to move forward.
And I think this accounts for the low achievement that we see, in part,
in this country relative to other countries.
Take a country like Finland, which ranks first among all the OECD,
or European nations, in reading, math and science on the PISA assessments.
What goes on there?
One thing they do is they train their teachers extraordinarily well.
So they are getting three years
of graduate-level teacher education before they even get
in the classroom, and they know how to teach all kids well.
And they focus on assessments and the teaching of deep understanding.
>> In the classrooms, the teachers then do a lot of work
around project-based learning.
You would often, in a classroom, see students working on a lot
of self-initiated work, individually and in small groups.
They may be creating a student newspaper and working
on their journalism project.
They may be designing and conducting scientific investigations.
When they're studying what a fish looks like, they actually will go out
and get 30 fish, and one on each desk and dissect the fish,
and figure out how it operates and so on.
You'll see a lot of investigation, and inquiry in every field.
That's really their hallmark is to create a nation of inquiring minds.
And they also believe that it's very important for students to reflect
on what they've done, what they've learned and be able
to improve on it themselves.
Another vivid example would be Singapore.
There were a group of students I saw who were trying
to development a natural skin treatment to keep mosquitoes away
without using artificial products.
And they had developed five different products
and evaluated them, and so on.
They know how to design an experiment,
they know how to conduct it to evaluate their results
to then improve on what they've done.
This is widespread.
By contrast, science is disappearing from our American classrooms.
Under "No Child Left Behind," with reading
and math scores driving the accountability system,
in low-income schools, science is barely taught at all.
And in many schools, when it's taught, it's taught as a list
of facts to be memorized from a textbook, and then regurgitated
on a multiple-choice test.
Not as a process of inquiry and investigation.
Not as a way of understanding and evaluating and learning
about the world that you could actually take and apply
in the world outside of school.
I have been surprised in the countries that I've studied
about the extent to which teachers are supported with 25 hours a week
of time for planning and learning.
So that when they get in the classroom, what they do is very,
very well thought through.
And informed by what a lot of other teachers are doing.
>> Interestingly, most high-achieving countries pay teachers
about equivalently to engineers.
So they're a bit better paid than US teachers.
But it is not the pay that draws people
into those professions and to stay there.
When teachers are treated professionally,
when they feel they have a lot of opportunity to shape the curriculum,
work with their colleagues, develop high-quality practice,
the morale is very, very high.
The US is not a single entity.
It is a very diverse group of states.
So our highest-achieving states do as well
as the highest-achieving nations in the world.
Our lowest-performing states do as poorly as nations like Jordan
and Nigeria, which are very low-performing nations.
So we can't adapt or adopt what any nation is doing
into our different system whole cloth.
But we can learn from the experience of different systems,
particularly if we think about what should
or could be done at the state level.
We're at an interesting moment here.
The states have come together to create Common Core standards.
More than forty states have been part of this initiative to show in reading
and math and language arts what should be done across the grade span.
The federal government is organizing itself to fund new assessments
that would be tied to the Common Core standards.
And will be reauthorizing the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act, which has been called
"No Child Left Behind" over recent years.
So the federal role will be to design an assessment
and accountability approach that is more internationally comparable.
Allows states to undertake the kinds of curriculum and assessment work
that will allow students to be engaged in this kind
of higher order thinking and performance skills.
>>Teacher: Here's our data for our '08.
This would be the first round.
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