Leslie Winner, executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, believes that Finland can teach us a thing or two about education reform.  Ironically, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation funds organizations that oppose education reform.  But that is another story.

In an op-ed published in today’s News & Observer, Ms. Winner focuses on a few aspects of the Finnish education system, namely improving teacher recruitment and retention, expanding early childhood education, and eliminating standardized testing.  There is some stuff about establishing “a culture of trust and responsibility” and “consensus-based and stable” public policy.  Indeed, nobody brings people together like the Institute for Southern Studies, a Z. Smith Reynolds grant recipient.

Anyway, let’s do a few comparisons of public education in the United States and Finland.

Wow, that is a neat infographic.  Thank you University of Southern California’s Master of Arts in Teaching program!

It looks like Finland gets quite a bang for the buck!  Despite spending $2,000 per-pupil less than the United States, Finland (forest green or FI in the infographic) is at or near the top of nearly every measure of student performance.  How does North Carolina compare? Not great.  See my January 2012 report, North Carolina vs. the World: Comparisons of educational inputs and outcomes.

So, what should we learn from Finland?  First and foremost, we learn that a nation (and state) cannot spend its way to the top.