Thursday, June 4, 2015

What is the Finland model for education and what is Finland doing that other countries are not? Guest Post by Caroline Alexander Lewis

Welcome Caroline Alexander Lewis, author of Just Back Off and Let Us Teach, with a guest post explaining Finland's model for education and how we can apply it to educational reform here in the U.S.

“ What is the Finland Model? ”

by Caroline Alexander Lewis

Finland. Finland. Finland. Why are so many of us talking about the Finland model of education? I guess it’s because they seem to have figured out how best to RACE TO THE TOP and LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND. What they are doing is working for them, as Finnish students consistently score at or near the top in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a standardized test given to 15-year-olds in scores of countries.

In the U.S. we have a significantly larger population, more diversity, and higher poverty levels, yet we can still learn a few things and borrow a few strategies from Finland. We can start by recognizing that successful public education requires development of three key pillars or legs of a stool: (A) the readiness-to-learn of the learners; (B) the quality of the teachers; and (C) the culture of the school: leadership, resources, etc. and by attending to all three.

My focus is on that second leg of the stool, quality teaching. Although many, many factors contribute to learning gains and successful public education, teachers remain an essential and important component. And it’s hard not to admire how Finland has gone about attracting and retaining the brightest and the best to teaching. Long before I fully grasped Finland’s approach, I was crafting a similar strategy for us in the U.S.  I have long recognized the need to pay teachers very well, demand high standards, and treat them like professionals who are expected to get the job done.  This is exactly what Finland is doing. And the yield, the education reform that results, is remarkable.

Currently, our education reform leaders seem fixated on teacher evaluation and, not in ways that improve quality, but in ways that undermine, place blame and seriously demoralize too many good teachers.  Somehow, in the debate on what constitutes successful education, the spotlight has become laser-focused on a teacher’s ability to get students to pass tests. The problem is that what’s easily measurable isn’t always what’s significant in teaching-learning environments. What a teacher truly contributes to an individual student’s attitude, ambition, choices, career paths, and so on may never truly be known. The joy of teaching (connecting; collaborating; embracing challenges; mastering creative pedagogy) seems to elude today’s effective teachers.

I am concerned that our education reform strategies are rapidly burning out our best teachers who, then, are prematurely leaving profession. My book, Just Back Off and Let Us Teach is an attempt to change the discourse; to extol, not vilify, teaching and restore nobility to the profession. Because we cannot—we categorically cannot—reform public education if our pool of effective teachers continues to shrink.  

So let’s do a few things differently. Let’s spend education reform dollars on raising the starting salary for teachers to $75K.  This will go a long way to attracting and retaining the brightest and the best. Let’s require a certified Masters in Education for all teachers, and fund or heavily subsidize it for the brightest applicants with the talent and passion for teaching. Let’s recognize our effective teachers and weed out those who don’t belong. And, like Finland, let’s attract and hire only the very best teaching candidates to the profession. Then, we can Just Back Off and LET THEM TEACH…

*Thank you to Wow! Women on Writing for providing this stop on Caroline Lewis Alexander's blog tour! For more information and more tour stops, click here.

After spending 22 years as a science teacher and school principal, Caroline Lewis became director of education for Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and developed the award-winning Fairchild Challenge to engage students in environmental issues. As founder and CEO of The CLEO Institute, she applies her educational leadership skills to promote solution-oriented approaches to address climate disruptions. A native of Trinidad, she earned an MS in Educational Leadership in 1999 and is committed to elevating and celebrating the teaching profession. 

Find out more about this author by visiting her online:

Just Back Off and Let Us Teach: A Book for Effective Teachers and Those Who Champion Them

By Caroline Lewis

A celebration of effective teaching, Just Back Off and Let Us Teach, by author Caroline Alexander Lewis, applauds effective teachers and acknowledges the enormous range of realities that make up a day in their lives. Lewis recognizes the extraordinary effort it takes for teachers to be consistently effective, and begins to tackle the urgent need for teacher validation across the profession.

If America wants to reform public education and regain its status in the world, it must start valuing teachers and stop the present policy of commissioning study after study and revising measurement tests every few years. That assertion is made by author Caroline Lewis, who outlines reform in her new book Just Back Off and Let Us Teach: A Book for Effective Teachers and Those Who Champion Them.

Both descriptive and motivational, Lewis's book defines five assets or SCOPE skills she believes are distinctive of effective teachers, and proposes a simple self-assessment for all educators. It is part real-world discussion of the core qualities of effective teachers and part reminder of all the power that comes with the job. Through stories and messages, the author wrestles with questions like: How do we identify effective teachers? Celebrate them? Grow them? Help them know themselves? Keep them in the profession?

Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing (December 5, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1457534606
ISBN-13: 978-1457534607
Just Back Off and Let Us Teach is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, andIndieBound. 


For more information about blog hostess, Audry Fryer,
please visit 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Audry - I appreciate the opportunity to share this as I try to change the education reform discussion in our great country - Caroline


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