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What Can America Learn From the World’s Most Successful Education Systems?

School redesign expert Linda Darling-Hammond explains why we'll be a prison nation if we don't implement major reform

With so many ideas for education innovation and reform here at home, why should the United States pay attention to what school systems around the globe are doing? Veteran journalist Dan Rather recently posed that question to Linda Darling-Hammond, an expert in school redesign and teacher quality who was President Obama’s education adviser for his first presidential campaign.


Like other education experts, Darling-Hammond notes that nations like Finland and Singapore have dramatically improved their education systems in the last four decades while the U.S. has "been pedaling in place." She adds that today, "states are where the action is in America": Finland, for example, is about the size of Minnesota, which means it's easier for a state to try an ambitious reform program than it is for the federal government. That differs from the more top-down approach of the Department of Education's Race to the Top program.

In the video above, Rather pushes Darling-Hammond on whether reforms from a relatively homogenous place like Finland can work in a nation as diverse as this one. She's adamant that the U.S. must learn from the Finns or risk "continuing to be a prison nation" where we spend 900 percent more funding correctional institutions than we did a generation ago. In a democracy, "we all benefit or we all hurt," says Darling-Hammond, "depending on the education other people's kids get."

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Bahugala

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