Paul B. Ash, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools
August 27, 2012
This morning, I will talk about what I learned visiting schools and meeting with ministry officials in England, France, and Finland, and why I believe the Lexington Public Schools is headed in the right direction to educate ALL students at high levels.
In June, I traveled with a 25-member delegation to London, Paris, and Helsinski to examine the educational systems in three countries. Under the auspices of the National Superintendent’s Roundtable, the 25-member delegation met with high government education officials in all three countries and visited schools to talk about their educational policies, and the strengths and weaknesses of their educational systems. My major goal to travel to Finland was to find out if the so-called “Finland phenomenon” is true –that Finland, as a country, has the best schools in the world. If so, then I wanted to find out if there are the implications for Lexington. In addition, I visited France and the United Kingdom to learn about the impact of years of centralized government control of education, which is now the direction being followed by the US and Massachusetts departments of education.
Based on my meetings with education officials, school principals, and teachers in Europe, I am convinced to my core that national policies that focused on standardization, compliance, and accountability in the England and France did not produce academic excellence, and, at best, brought poor performing school districts to mediocrity. This morning, I will provide you proof of this statement based on international tests and candid admissions by government officials in the England and France. Unfortunately, the United States and our own state department of education are heading down this same path.
This morning, I will also talk about the policies in Finland over the last thirty years that has led to high student achievement for nearly all students in the country.
During the next 15 minutes, I will summarize the highlights of what I learned about English, French, and Finnish education. I will then talk about the similarities between the Finnish educational system and the Lexington Public Schools, and why I believe the path we are following is leading to academic excellence of ALL students, a caring and respectful learning environment for ALL students, and a culture of continuous improvement.
While I do acknowledge that there are real obstacles being placed in our way by state and federal officials, I want you to know why I am extremely excited about our journey forward. As we learn to collaborate in all directions, encourage everyone to become leaders, try new interventions in the classroom on a frequent basis, we become a learning school system. We become a school system where innovation and sharing best practices throughout the school system is our norm. As practitioners, we create new solutions in real time to provide students what they need when they need it.
I am also optimistic because our mission is noble, we have enormous community and parent support, and the quality of teaching and leadership in our schools is very strong.
Fellow colleagues, the lesson from of Finland and the Bonner Primary School in London is that WE have the power to enable ALL students to achieve at high levels by creating a flexible school system that supports adult learning focused on student learning. As we work and learn together as partners, we can advance student learning. As one partner, I am honored to learn with you.
I wish all of you an outstanding school year.!