Rosenlee and 24 other NEA presidents study Finland’s successful schools system

Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee joined 24 other National Education Association state presidents from across the country on a five-day trip to Finland last month to learn more about the public school system that many consider to be one of the best in the world.

Finland’s education reform was designed by teachers and based on educational theory and research, much of it from the United States. Finnish teachers are responsible for key decisions, public school students take no standardized tests until college entrance exams and Finland emphasizes “whole-child” education with an emphasis on collaboration and equity.

Finland also does not have high-stakes teacher evaluations, instead taking a collaborative approach with administrators supporting teachers to help them in the classroom. There is an emphasis on bottom-up, school-based personalization of curriculum based on shared national objectives.

“Trust is the reason public schools are so successful in Finland,” Rosenlee said. “Teachers are trusted and empowered to do their jobs.”

During the Finland trip, organized by the National Education Association Foundation, state teacher association presidents visited several Finnish public schools, Finland’s National Board of Education, the University of Helsinki to learn about teacher training as well as the teacher trade union.

When he returned from Finland, Rosenlee said he was happy to see Gov. David Ige’s Every Student Succeeds Act Task Force education blueprint starts by saying, “Our public schools and communities will design and establish a trust-based system to move decision making and resources to those closest to the students and their learning.”

“Such a trust-based system will be based on … school accountability systems and personnel evaluations that promote empowerment, innovation and shared responsibility,” the ESSA Task Force said in its preliminary blueprint, written following feedback from teachers, students, parents and other community members around Hawaii.

Rosenlee added: “I am excited to see that the ESSA team’s plan is following the same pathway that Finland has walked to attain so much success.”

By removing outdated and onerous parts of the Board of Education’s Educator Effectiveness System, “we can seize an opportunity to improve teacher morale and teacher quality,” Rosenlee said. “We can treat our teachers as professional and truly entrust them with our children’s future.”