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Follow-Up: Finland's Time-Saving Solution

Dedy Fauntleroy

Last time I shared my dream for 2020. This time, I'd like you to close your eyes (metaphorically, of course) and imagine with me what we can do today to get a little closer to that dream.

The quintessential challenge with time is that it is finite. So, in order to "create" more time in schools, we have to give something up or pay for resources that can free up time. We could do both by changing how we handle standardized testing.

What if the United States adopted a testing structure similar to Finland, a country with one of the highest performing education systems in the world? Finland tracks student progress by testing a small representative sample of students each year. (The U.S government already does this when it administers the National Assessment of Educational Progress for grades 4, 8, and 12.)

Imagine recapturing the many hours of instructional time spent on test preparation and administration. We could reallocate that precious time to teach the standards in depth, collaborate with colleagues, and give more attention to struggling students. Imagine further that, as in Finland, the U.S. used these standardized test results to determine what kinds of focused professional development teachers needed.

Imagine recovering a substantial portion of the financial resources spent on standardized testing—test coordination, test preparation materials, and the $1.1 billion per year spent on test creation and scoring. Schools could utilize recovered funds for enrichment teachers, intervention specialists, or half-time release for mentor teachers. Also, with additional staffing, schedules could be organized to provide educators with more time for collaboration and the aforementioned focused professional development.

Now imagine it has been years since we have taken this bold step to change how we structure standardized testing. Years of investing recovered time in professional growth opportunities has led to improved student achievement—and well-supported teachers.

Now open your eyes. Time can and must allow for us to engage with other professionals in order to hone our craft and, ultimately, to serve our students better. I have suggested just one possible way of doing this, but there are others. I believe we will find the best solution to the challenge of time in schools if we empower teacher voices in the conversation. So I leave you with the question: What part will you play in making this vision a reality for our students and for our profession?

Dedy Fauntleroy is an ELL instructional coach in Seattle Public Schools.

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