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TEACHER AND LEADER EFFECTIVENESS: New Alliance Report Outlines International Lessons from Finland, Ontario, and Singapore

“Nations that take student learning seriously do not leave teacher quality to chance.”

High-performing education systems around the world provide valuable lessons for the United States as policymakers and educators seek to develop systems to improve teacher and school leader effectiveness in this country, concludes a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE).

The release of the report coincided with the March 16–17 International Summit on the Teaching Profession, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and designed to engage countries around the globe in an intensive discussion about promising practices for recruiting, preparing, developing, supporting, retaining, evaluating, and compensating world-class teachers.

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High-Performing Education Systems, edited by Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University professor and codirector of SCOPE, and Robert Rothman, a senior fellow at the Alliance, examines highly effective lessons from education systems that develop and support teachers and leaders in Finland, Ontario, and Singapore. These jurisdictions were chosen because they have attained among the highest and most equitable performance in the world on international assessments and because they attribute their success to their efforts to recruit, prepare, develop, and retain highly effective educators. They are comparable in population to mid-sized U.S. states.

“Nations that take student learning seriously do not leave teacher quality to chance,” observed Darling-Hammond. “They ensure that all teachers get access to the knowledge and skills they need to be successful, and they support their improvement throughout their careers.”

The report outlines five lessons learned from these three jurisdictions’ systems:

  • It takes a system.
  • Get it right from the start.
  • Make teaching an attractive profession.
  • Invest in continuous learning.
  • Proactively recruit and develop high-quality leadership.

The policies of these nations are not expected to be imported wholesale into the United States, the report notes. Rather, these policies can expand U.S. policymakers’ views of what is possible. The examples also show how these policies can be implemented in different contexts.

In addition to an overview chapter that summarizes these lessons and shows how each system carries them out, the report also includes detailed descriptions of teacher- and leader-effectiveness policies from the education systems in Finland, Ontario, and Singapore; these descriptions were written by senior policy officials in each of the jurisdictions.

In Finland, the profession of teaching holds a high social prestige and educators enjoy a high level of authority and autonomy in the classroom, including responsibility for curriculum design and student assessment. Finland has a commitment to research-based teacher education and provides certified teachers with ongoing professional development and reasonable and equitable salaries.

In Ontario, Canada, there is a shared understanding of the importance of setting clear goals for high standards of achievement to enable students of all abilities to achieve their potential. There is also an established respect for teachers as professionals; school principals and district leaders provide teachers with continuous and supportive instructional leadership.

Singapore’s education system first came to international attention in 2003 when its students ranked first in the world in both mathematics and science on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Schools in Singapore are encouraged to engage both students and teachers in experiential and cooperative learning, action research, scientific investigations, entrepreneurial activities, and discussion and debate. The education system’s success is based on well-prepared and well-centered teachers. Career development is an ongoing matter of interest in Singapore schools and career tracks are well-established to support promotions and tap teachers for a variety of leader roles.

In tandem with the report, the Alliance for Excellent Education also released an issue brief that includes a version of the report’s overview chapter. The issue brief is available at here.

Teacher and Leader Effectiveness is available here


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