Thursday, February 12, 2015

David Berliner and Pasi Sahlberg

I'm in Calgary at the Calgary Teachers' Convention and I am listening to David Berliner and Pasi Sahlberg talk about The Roots of Success for All Children: It's in the context of their lives, not just in their classroom experiences.

David Berliner


  • Despite what you might hear, teachers do not affect standardized test scores very much
  • Teachers do affect student's lives but not their scores
  • Standardized test are influenced by socio-economic circumstances and less by classroom instruction.
  • Want to improve scores? Improve children's lives outside of school.
  • As the context of children's lives changes, so do their standardized test scores.
  • Children who live in chaos tend to be chaotic. Remove the chaos --  
  • Societies affect on children's performance is intense.
  • The Problem is Poverty.
  • There are many school variables that teachers can't control: class size, administrators, collective empathy of the faculty, teacher turn over, students coming and going.
  • We can not trust standardized tests to tell us what we want to know about our schools.
  • Want to find the school with the highest test scores? Buy an expensive house.
  • When governments cut education, they make inequality and inequity worse, and the poorest people pay the most.
  • There is a huge difference in the number of books in the richest homes and the poorest homes.
  • Affluent parents tend to speak more with their children than the poorest parents who are struggling to make ends meet.
  • The best education systems care as much about what happens outside of the classroom as what happens inside.
  • Standardized tests are insensitive to teacher instruction.
  • Alberta needs to pay closer attention to the research on school improvement
  • Here are all of my posts on David Berliner

Pasi Sahlberg

  • In 2000, many school systems thought that they had found the secret elixir to fix all schools: Accountability through standardized tests. PISA's influence was born.
  • Since 2000, the focus of school improvement has been focused intensely on teachers.
  • The United States is a good example of how not to improve education.
  • Finland's reaction to school improvement and PISA is unique and paradoxical.
  • Finland did not react or allow PISA to affect their system until 2008. 8 years after they were lauded as the best in the world. Finland was reluctant to share their story.
  • Two Global Paths of Inquiry: What makes education systems perform well? What prevents system-wide improvement?
  • Traditional Policy Logic: Should we focus on quality or equity? We know that we don't have to choose.
  • Canada does very well with high quality and equity, but we are going in the wrong direction.
  • While Canada and Alberta has traditionally compared well with their equity and equality, they are going in the wrong direction.
  • Finland has had an inclusive education system for two decades.

Five things to learn from Finland:

  1. Resourcing Policy: Schools with more needs, need more resources.
  2. Early Childhood Care: This isn't really about education -- it's about childcare. 
  3. Health and Wellbeing: Universal healthcare inside and outside of school. In the US, the number 1 reason why students miss school is because of problems with their teeth.
  4. Special Education: A system that is proactive and preventative with students with special needs. Prevention is always cheaper than repair. 
  5. Balanced Curriculum: Children need to learn about the arts and physical education as much as numeracy and literacy.

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