Center on International Education Benchmarking

The Study Guide

1. U.S. Teaching Force Is Still Mostly White and Female

Teachers in the United States, while gradually getting more diverse, still tend to be white, female, and have an average of 14 years of experience in the classroom according to a new report from the National Center on Education Statistics. The average base salary for a teacher was $55,100 in 2015-16. (Click here for an international comparison of teacher salaries to GDP per capita.) On average, teachers in public schools spent 53 hours per week on all school-related activities, including 27 hours delivering instruction (compared to an OECD average of 19.2 hours of teaching time per week). The data come from a new survey called the National Teacher and Principal Survey, a redesign of the Schools and Staffing Survey that has been administered since 1987. The new survey seeks to provide a detailed picture of K-12 traditional and charter schools and their staff, including teacher preparation and influence over school policies.

Teacher in Classroom

2. Teacher Turnover and What to Do About It

After years of incomplete data about teacher turnover, the Learning Policy Institute released a report this week providing accurate data about teacher turnover, its impact on schools and students and what to do about it. The report found that turnover, while varying widely across states, is greater in the U.S. than attrition in countries that perform at the top of the PISA rankings in mathematics, reading and science. Reasons teachers leave include dissatisfaction with testing and accountability pressures, lack of administrative support, dissatisfaction with teaching as a career and lack of opportunities for advancement. Solutions include providing compensation packages that are competitive with other occupations, service scholarship and loan forgiveness programs, and teacher preparation focused on residency programs and skilled teacher mentoring. To resolve issues with administrator support, the report recommends more rigorous administrator training and licensure and residencies for principal training. The report stresses the urgent need to address teacher shortages given disruptions to students, increased costs and declines in student achievement.

3. Teachers Demand Higher Salaries Amidst Budget Controversy in the Netherlands

In the wake of the primary school teacher strike in the Netherlands in June, teachers’ demands for salary increases remain unmet due to continuing debate over the budget. The outgoing government is responsible for creating the 2018 budget, which traditionally would result in a budget containing “no new plans.” However, deputy prime minister Lodewijk Asscher of the Labor Party stated in June that the budget would need to increase teacher pay in order to gain his approval, which was met with pushback from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. PO in Actie, an advocacy group with a membership of over 40,000 primary school teachers, has promised “more protest actions” in the fall to publicize teachers’ concerns. Read more from NLTimes.nl.

4. Exercise Breaks Boost Children’s Learning Capacity, Researchers Find

Cognitive researchers in the Netherlands have found that short bursts of exercise can boost learning capacity and attention span in children for up to 45 minutes, the average length of a class in many jurisdictions. Finnish newspapers YLE and Aamuhlehti cite the research to support the Finnish policy of giving students approximately 10 minutes in between classes to go outside. Finland guarantees at least one hour of outdoor time for school-age children. Cognitive scientists and educational policymakers in Finland argue that other countries would do well to study these policies. Other top performers, including Shanghai, have similar policies in many schools.

Image Source: Aamuhlehti

5. New Finnish Daycare Curriculum Requires Personalized Learning Plans for All

All young children in daycare will now receive a personalized learning plan, as required by a new mandatory curriculum for daycares that takes effect this fall. Although the curriculum maintains an emphasis on play rather than more structured learning activities, it emphasizes how day care teachers can use young children’s emerging interests to figure out what is motivating them and design learning opportunities based around what excites children and the challenges they encounter during the day. Teachers will be trained in how to track children’s strengths, goals and ongoing challenges as part of these learning plans, as well as in how to turn all playtime activities into opportunities for learning and growth. Read more at YLE.

6. Study Finds Poor Use of Resources By Sydney Schools Affecting Student Performance

A recent study published in the Australian Journal of Education attributes geographic discrepancies in student performance to schools’ poor use of resources. The study used data from the New South Wales Department of Education to track student performance between 10th and 12th grade at 339 secondary schools over the course of five years, from 2005 to 2010. The study found that 45 percent of schools in Sydney’s south-west region were inefficient compared to only 20 percent in Sydney’s north. Authors of the study measured efficiency by analyzing a school’s ability to raise students’ 10th grade Higher School Certificate scores (the Australian secondary school exit examination), and by students’ socioeconomic status and the amount of school funding received. One author of the study, education consultant Vincent Blackburn, claims the most efficient and high-performing schools were using data to tailor teaching to individual students and empowering teachers to make decisions on how best to use resources. Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald.

7. New Report Points to Funding Inequities in Ontario

A new report commissioned by the Ontario Elementary Teachers Federation finds that schools in wealthy areas of the province raise more additional funds than the government provides to low-income areas of the province. The Ontario “learning opportunities grant” provides additional funds to school districts based on a combination of demographic at-risk factors such as income or new immigrant status and specific funds to support remedial education and additional services for low-achieving students. The new report estimates that affluent districts raise an addition CAN$280 (US$220) per student while the learning opportunities grant allocates an average of CAN$179 (US$142) per student in low-income districts. The provincial funding formula was put in place in 1997, specifically to equalize student funding. It took taxing authority away from local school boards and moved to a system of distributing funding equally at a provincial level, but allowed districts to fundraise from parents and other sources. In response to the report Education Minister Mitzie Hunter pointed to the increased investments made in the funding formula since the Liberal Party took over in 2003 and said the government has “…just increased the learning opportunities grant.” For more, see The Toronto Star.

Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter

8. Hong Kong Falls Below Singapore in “Liveability Ranking”

Singapore’s high-performing education system has been cited as one reason that Singapore surpassed Hong Kong in this year’s Global Liveability Ranking. The report, which was released this week by The Economist Intelligence Unit, scores and ranks 140 cities based on standard of living. According to one survey editor, Singapore’s ongoing and successful education reforms (reflected in Singapore’s strong PISA performance) prevented Singapore from losing any points in the education category and contributed to its rise to 35th place on the list. Hong Kong’s drop to 45th place was attributed to increases in measures such as “civil unrest.” Singapore had never previously outperformed Hong Kong on this ranking, and Singapore is now ranked third in Asia, after Toyko and Osaka. Read more from The Standard.

9. Study Reports Link Between Socioeconomic Status and University Participation Rates in the UK

A recent study suggests that socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of university enrollment in England. The report, released by Teach First in partnership with the Credit Suisse EMEA education foundation, found pronounced disparities in university access. For example, in 2015 approximately 50 percent of students from the most advantaged areas continued to university, while only 20 percent of students from the most disadvantaged areas did so. Recommendations include offering loan forgiveness as an incentive for teachers to work in high-need schools. In 2015-16, universities in England invested £725 million (US$933 million) to improve equity in university access. According to Universities Minister Jo Johnson, although gains have been made, “we agree there is more to do.” Read more from BBC News.

10. New Findings on Reading Habits of Primary School Students in Shanghai

According to a new report from PsyLife, an educational assessment consulting organization, Shanghai primary school students read on average just over 8 books per year.  A little more than one-sixth of primary school students read for at least an hour a day, the most popular book titles included The Little Prince and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, according to the study.  The survey was based on reading histories of some 94,000 students and a survey answered by over 9,000 students.  The survey also found that about one-fifth of families spend more than 800 yuan (US$120) per year on books for their children, while some 10 percent some less than 200 yuan (US$30) per year. For comparison, U.S. primary school students read between 55 and about 10 books per year depending on their grade. Read more at Shanghai Daily.

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