Focus U.S. and state edreform efforts and resources on the following twenty-six points:
1. Finnish children don't start school until they are 7 (but they have universal pre-school childcare).
2. They rarely take exams or do homework until they are well into their teens.
3. The children are not measured at all for the first six years of their education.
4. There is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken when children are 16.
5. All children, clever or not, are taught in the same classrooms; there are no lower or higher achieving schools.
6. Finland spends around 30 percent less per student than the United States.
7. 30 percent of children receive extra help during their first nine years of school.
8. 66 percent of students go to college.
9. The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the World.
10. Science classes are capped at 16 students so that they may perform practical experiments in every class.
11. 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school.
12. 43 percent of Finnish high-school students go to vocational schools.
13. Elementary school students get 75 minutes of recess a day in Finnish versus an average of 27 minutes in the US.
14. Teachers only spend 4 hours a day in the classroom, and take 2 hours a week for "professional development."
15. Finland has the same amount of teachers as New York City, but far fewer students.
16. The school system is 100% state funded; there are no charter or for-profit schools.
17. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized.
18. The national curriculum provides only broad guidelines.
19. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of college graduates; in 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots.
20. The average starting salary for a Finnish teacher was $29,000 in 2008. (Compared with $36,000 in the United States.)
21. However, high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make. (In the US, this figure is 62%)
22. There is no merit pay for teachers.
23. Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers.
24. In an international standardized measurement in 2001, Finnish children came in at the top, or very close to the top, for science, reading and mathematics.
25. And despite the differences between Finland and the US, it easily beats countries with a similar demographic (Neighbor Norway, of a similar size and featuring a similar homogeneous culture, follows the same strategies as the USA and achieves similar rankings in international studies.)
26. Teachers are not evaluated based on student achievement scores. They are trusted.