Spreading the Word: How One Teacher Talks Policy With Parents
Board Certified Teacher Lindsey Durant isn’t just learning about education
policy—she’s sharing her insights with parents and colleagues. For example,
here’s an email she recently sent to her colleagues and the parents of her kindergarten
students in Washington state:
Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the University of
Washington on the Finnish education system. I was blown away by the very
different ways Finland works to diligently and effectively educate all students. Some of my main takeaways
1) Our current climate of constant standardized testing shifts accountability
away from students and on to teachers. This robs our children of the experience
of taking full responsibility and accountability for their own learning. While
data is needed to make informed educational decisions, the testing regime has
replaced authentic teaching and learning.
2) Finnish students spend less time in class (4-5 hrs./day), fewer years in school
(they begin at age 7), and more time engaged in developmental play (75 minutes
of recess/day in primary grades); and yet consistently outscore children worldwide
on the PISA (Programme for International Student Achievement) test.
3) Finland’s education system relies on highly trained master teachers who are
recruited from the top 30% of their graduating classes. The profession is highly
respected and teachers make a salary comparable to doctors and lawyers.
Teachers in the Finnish system rarely quit and retention is not
an issue. Teachers lead their schools and are given ample time to collaborate
and observe one another to improve and refine their craft.
4) Finnish students take only 1 standardized assessment at the end of high
school. It is illegal in Finland to assign a traditional letter grade for
primary students. Instead, young students are evaluated on their development of
essential "soft skills" such as learning behaviors, problem solving,
and character development. These skills are thought to be central to future academic
success (A concept discussed at length in the book I recommended earlier this
month, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed).
5) Washington state is about the same size as Finland. We have comparable immigration
statistics and similar ways of funding schools (locally and at the state
level). We already have highly trained master teachers. What stands in our way
of making small changes that reflect our learning from Finland’s education
I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions. Thank you
for allowing me to share my learning with you all.
Within hours, Lindsey
had evidence that parents and colleagues were interested in engaging in
dialogue with her about the “big picture” –and the takeaways for their own
- Jason (parent) - “Very interesting article, Ms. Durant. Thank
you for sharing. Sarah has the book you referenced in your email, How Children Succeed - I'll be sure
to check it out.
- Vernon (colleague)- “Lindsey, thanks for speaking up on the
info concerning Finland’s educational system. I am in full agreement
that the Finland data can have a positive effect on our learning here in
Washington; If we have the courage to face it.”
- Carol (parent)- “Hi
Lindsey, thanks for sharing! That is really
interesting. It would be nice to implement some of these
changes. There is so much talk and so little action. I did read the book you recommended by Paul Tough and at the end I was
left wondering what I can do to help develop my sons' character,
grit, etc.? One thing I have been trying to focus on since reading
Tough's book is to be "present" as much as possible when I am
with my boys. I don't want their memories of me to have a phone in
front of my face. Thanks for the recommendations!
- Jamie (parent)- “Wow this is VERY interesting! Thank you so
much for sharing! It sounds as if Dr. Pasi is making his rounds locally
talking about this. Was this brought to your attention from anyone in the
School District? Is the School District taking this guy seriously, do you
know? I am a firm believer in leaving "it" to the teacher. YOU
know where your students are and how best to teach them. Each child in
every neck of the woods learns differently, and it's your job to know how to
get through to them (as you come well equipped to do so)! I'd be very interesting
in the traction this is getting in the US.
- Yuki (parent)- “Hi Ms. Durant, thank you for sharing your
thoughts on Finland ‘s education system. I have read your notes in
addition to the Seattle Times article. What I found most interesting
was your note #4, which discusses the trend
to elevate "character building" in primary
education. As you pointed out, this relates to the book
you recommended earlier. I haven't read the book itself, but
read many of the informative Amazon reader reviews (so I now feel
like I have read at least a part of the book). What is
your take on this? I still think these are social
skills that are primarily family's responsibility to teach. In
the classroom environment though, what types of activities could you be
using to build basic characters and skills that would
eventually lead to academic achievement? How can we support
your efforts at home? Looking forward to seeing you on Monday. Thank
At CTQ, we believe
teachers and communities can transform schools together.
Hats off to Lindsey
Durant, who reached out to share her discoveries about education policy with
her colleagues and students’ parents.
Do you have your own way of sharing your
learning with others? Have meaningful conversations resulted? Do tell!