Tag Archives: PISA Tests

Looking at 5 countries with some of the best public education systems in the world, and—SURPRISE, SURPRISE—they all have teachers’ unions

This post will prove beyond a reasonable doubt—for open minds—that the teachers’ unions in the United States are not guilty of the alleged claims made by members of the manufactured, corporate-driven, fake-education, reform movement [MCDFERM].

There is an all-out war raging in the United States against public education, public school teachers and the teachers’ unions. This war started decades ago with the ultra-conservative Walton family supporting the school voucher movement, and the war escalated under neo-conservative President G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind [NCLB] mandating that 100 percent of children by age 17/18 must be college/career ready in 2014-15 [this school year].

Even though this goal has never been achieved throughout history in any country in the world including today, Congress approved NCLB—both Houses of Congress had a Republican majority, but 89-percent of the House and 91-percent of the Senate voted yes.

For instance, between 2005 and 2010, the Walton Family Foundation—an alleged member of the MCDFERM—gave nearly $700 million to education reform organizations. Specifically, the family provides lavish funding for voucher programs, charter schools, and policy and advocacy groups devoted to establishing and promoting alternatives to public schooling. The WALMART 1%

Then neo-liberal President Obama’s Race to the Top and his Common Core State Standards agenda—with help from more than $200 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, another alleged member of MCDFERM—made the situation worse when the federal government threatened the states with the loss of billions of dollars in federal funding through the Department of Education if the states did not use the results of standardized student tests to rank and then fire teachers in addition to closing schools classified as failing—even though the American Statistical Association says: “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1 to 14-percent of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”

The main talking points of the MCDFERM are that there are too many incompetent teachers and that the teacher’s unions and tenure—due process job protection that does NOT guarantee a job for life—get in the way of firing bad teachers. It doesn’t matter that there is no valid evidence to support these often repeated claims by members of the MCDFERM.

To discover the membership of MCDFERM, I strongly suggest you read A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education by Mercedes K. Schneider.

Before moving on, remember that despite great wealth, the U.S. has the highest rate of child poverty among industrialized countries—about 23-percent.

Poverty impairs all aspects of a child’s development and can have lifelong detrimental consequences. Poor children are more likely to go hungry and are less likely to be read to during their early year. Child Poverty

South Korearanked second in the 2012 OECD international PISA Tests—with a population 46 million and a childhood poverty rate of 10.2-percent. [Rankings in this post do not count the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao, the island of Taipei, and the Principality of Liechtenstein]

In 1989, teachers in South Korea established an independent union.  According to a report in The Wall Street Journal Asia, the union claimed support from 82-percent of all teachers. The Korean Teachers Union (KTU) has demanded that the government halt standardized testing, which is used in the country to determine school budgets—those with higher test results get more money from the government. In October 2013, the South Korean government threatened to ban the teachers union—sound familiar?

Finlandranked seventh—with a population of 5.4 million and a childhood poverty rate of 4.17-percent.

More than 95-percent of teachers in Finland are unionized, paying 1.2-percent of their gross salary to support the Trade Union of Education in Finland, OAJ.

The OAJ aims to influence policies that benefit educators. The OAJ negotiates on the national level with employer groups to create 14 universally binding agreements that spell out everything from minimum salaries to working hours for teachers and the length of the school year (currently 190 days).

In addition, Finland has only one standardized exam at the end of high school, says Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an expert on testing in Finland—something we don’t see in the United States.

Canadaranked eighth—with a population 34.3 million and a childhood poverty rate of 15.06-percent.

The Canadian Teacher’s Federation was founded in 1920 and has 200,000 members who work in the public education system, most of whom have four or five years of college.

“What makes Finland and Canada’s school systems more successful, Hargreaves argues, is that both countries value teachers and professional training for them. Most importantly, perhaps, there is discretion for teachers to make their own judgments. … Education reform has failed in countries where the teacher voice is absent – and also where teacher unions are absent.”

Japanranked third—with a population of 128-million and a childhood poverty rate of 13.69-percent.

Japan Teachers Union (JTU), established in 1947, was the largest teachers union until it split in the late 1980s. The JTU has been an active force in education and politics for almost 40 years.

The membership encompasses teachers and other education personnel at all levels, including college professors and clerical and support staff, in both public and private institutions. However, JTU’s members are predominantly teachers in the public elementary and secondary schools.

Some of the education issues about which JTU continues to feel strongly include decentralization of control, school autonomy, freedom of teachers to write and chose textbooks, student centered education, greater teacher participation in decision making, and comprehensive high schools for all youths.

There is a long history of conflict between JTU and the government, with many complex political ramifications not readily apparent or easily understood by those outside Japan.

Switzerlandranked fourth—with a population of 8+ million and a childhood poverty rate of 6.8-percent

As part of the freedom of association, teachers in Switzerland are represented by trade unions and professional organizations. The representatives of the teachers’ unions are systematically included in all reform initiatives. They are very active not only in the negotiations defining teachers’ incentive structure and working conditions but also in producing proposals for policy development in a wide range of educational areas—something we don’t see in the United States.

In conclusion—15-year olds in the United States ranked fourth in problem solving on the 2012 PISA Tests—way above the OECD average, but you will not hear that from the MCDFERM.

We also won’t hear this from the MCDFERM—in mathematics performance among PISA 2012 participants, the U.S. mean score was ranked fifth.

There are many different ways to compare the countries that participated in the 2012 PISA tests, and if the MCDFERM wants to make public education in the United States look bad, all they have to do is cherry-pick select facts to make that happen. Their goal is to fool as many people as possible. To armor yourself against these false claims, I suggest that you carefully read the detailed key findings of the 2012 PISA.

After reading this post, why do you think the MCDFERM is ignoring childhood poverty?

I know that many in the middle class and those who live in poverty think it’s great to live in a capitalist country with an opportunity to get rich—all we have to do is work hard or buy a winning lottery ticket, right?

Wrong! About 50-million Americans live in poverty. That means there’s a 15.8-percent chance of landing in poverty.

But what are the odds of getting rich?

For instance, there are 492 billionaires in the United States—we’ll find the members of MCDFERM in that group—that’s 0.00015-percent of the population, and then there are 9.63 million households with a net worth of $1 million or more—that’s about 3-percent of the population. In addition, the odds of winning a lottery with one ticket are about 1 in 175-million.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves


Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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