personalized learning diversity

4 policies driving student performance in Finland and Japan

A new report details policies producing teachers with deep content knowledge and understanding of how to teach that content

Teacher preparation in Finland, Japan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong builds deep understanding of the content being taught in elementary schools, as well as of how young students learn and understand that content—two essential components of highly effective teaching–and this is a key element of high student performance, according to a new report.

The National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking’s (CIEB) new report, Not So Elementary: Primary School Teacher Quality in Top-Performing Systems, gives new insights into this critical driver of the success of the world’s top-performing education systems—developing elementary teachers with deep content knowledge.

High-performing education systems recognize that a strong foundation in the core subjects in the early grades increases the chances that all students will achieve at higher levels throughout their schooling, according to the report, which also gives guidance on what the United States can learn from these systems to strengthen teaching in elementary schools.

“Not So Elementary underscores the reality for teaching in today’s world: the best education systems have identified deep content knowledge as a critical component of highly effective instructional systems, starting with elementary teachers,” said NCEE President and CEO Marc Tucker. “Countries whose high school graduates are among the world’s best-educated can recruit their teachers from the middle of the range of their graduating seniors, but countries like the United States whose high school graduates are not among the world’s best educated are asking for real trouble by recruiting their teachers from the lower ranges of high school graduates. We now face an enormous challenge: raising the segment of high school graduates from which we recruit our elementary school teachers, demanding much deeper grounding of prospective teachers in the subjects they will teach, and, at the same time, raising the game of the teachers already in our schools.”

“The countries with the best-performing education systems are recruiting very able students from their high schools, and investing heavily in the initial training and continuous development of their teachers to ensure that they have a deep understanding of the subject they will teach and the most effective ways to teach that subject to their students. Without a deep understanding of the subjects being taught in elementary school, a teacher will not be able to identify the specific misunderstandings of the underlying concepts that defeat students and cannot help them grasp the concepts that constitute the essential foundation for more advanced work in middle and high school.”

Next page: Four policy levers that can help improve student learning

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