Discuss: ‘In Finland, teachers are not inspected’

by Terry Heick


Out of all of my experiences as a classroom teacher in ‘struggling’ American K-12 schools, the term ‘non-negotiable’ sticks with me the most. On my first day teaching, I was given a list of what was ‘non-negotiable’ and at first I thought it was a kind of inside joke, but months later I came to see the list–and the blue binder by the door–as the cornerstones to the school’s improvement plan.

The plan? To use PLCs to analyze data from embedded assessments in Common Core-based district pacing guides to identify which ‘best practices’ and ‘research-based instructional strategies’ would help us ‘move students’ from ‘non-proficiency’ to ‘proficiency.’ We would be research-based and data-based and feel really good about it deep down until we felt little tickles in our belly telling us we were doing the right thing.

It was all very surreal.

Years later, I’d read the following on the Washington Post of all places. And while I’ve heard enough about Finland and their school systems to last me a lifetime, Superintendent Michael Hynes phrasing brought me back to my experience in the classroom.

I’ve written about this idea so many times, I’m not sure I have anything new to say, really. I do, however, want to your thoughts on it in the comments below. A few possible prompts:

Those of you in Finland, is Hynes correct? Is this an accurate assessment of Finnish schools?  If so, what sociocultural realities make this work? And is it like this in all schools or just the ‘best’ schools?

What should and should not be ‘negotiable’ in K-12 public schools? Should all teachers, content areas, grade levels, experience levels, etc., be treated the same? Put another way, should ‘autonomy’ be standardized like everything else in public education? If so, What are the pros and cons of this approach? Is there any way to do it better than we are or are we operating at the very peak of our professional capacity?

How does the tone and phrasing of modern ed reform impact school ‘climate,’ teacher performance (and burnout), innovation in the classroom, etc?

How do any of these ideas work in your school or classroom? What have you learned in the process that you can share with others to help them?