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Education Report Card Missed the Mark

June 18, 2005

Re "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Helsinki," Opinion, June 5: W. Norton Grubb's piece comparing Finland's education system with America's does a disservice to both. The U.S. does not "rely on excessive low-level testing," as he charges, unless measuring students once a year in English and math from grades 3 to 8 is excessive. Moreover, Finland is hardly testing-free. In fact, graduating students take a national exam before becoming eligible for higher education.

Grubb misses the mark in other respects. American primary schools have about the same number of students per teacher (15.5) as Finland (15.8). The U.S. has more than twice the number of teachers' aides per 1,000 students.

And separating test scores, such as under No Child Left Behind, has led to a new focus on students who were once hidden behind the averages and left behind. In fact, minority and urban-based students have made some of the strongest academic gains thanks to this practice.

Grubb's pessimism is unwarranted. It will not take us decades to improve our schools. It's happening right now. And a big part of the success story is testing and the accountability that comes with it.

Raymond Simon

Deputy Secretary

U.S. Dept. of Education


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