December 15th, 2013
11:28 AM ET

What education lessons can U.S. learn from overseas?

Fareed speaks with Wendy Kopp, the CEO and co-founder of Teach for All and the founder of Teach for America, about improving education in the United States.

So what seemed to be the best practices that are applicable?

Kopp: I mean just to go back to the Shanghai example, it was about teachers. It's also about school leaders.  And it's about, you know, system leadership. We were blown away by the caliber of the folks who have, over a long time, driven the change. And if you get under the covers, some Shanghai schools are stronger than others. And they take those school principals who are running the best schools and pair them up with the principals at the other schools so that they can transfer the practices. Like this is a people business. I actually couldn't agree more that technology can give a ton of leverage to really strong people.

But to me, and this is what Teach for All is all about, but we've got to start channeling our top talent toward this challenge of improving educational outcomes and especially taking on educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged kids. And that needs to happen all across the world.

Watch the video for the second half of the panel or tune into GPS today at 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

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Topics: Education • United States

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Eva

    One thing Tom and Wendy did not mention, and perhaps they didn't observe this fact when they visited Shanghai schools, but Chinese culture views teaching as prestigious career as law and medicine are in American culture. The Prestige factor is CRUCIAL to attracting the top achievers to be become teachers and bring a higher standard to education.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
  2. doug schocke

    Fareed Zakaria question about sports in the US schools was the most on target. The cost to the system of sports is 40% of the us school budget. Count all costs, buildings, electric, water, real estate, equipment, insurance, use of students class time in rallies. These costs combine to create a non-educational focus on a system that cares more about team sports then preparing students for life and work. There is a very small focus on school as a learning experience.

    December 15, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  3. Jason

    In the pictures of the Shanghai school I didn't see any smartboards or ipads. Maybe we in America should stop wasting money on the next gadget and have kids start using their brains.

    December 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  4. roux

    Friedman and Kopp take the evidence in Shanghai at face value but remember this is in communist China. Not all is as it may appear. Much like the ghost cities and the facades that make much of China look modern this may be as fake as anything else. Zakaria did very little to question his guests.

    I think Kahn was the most informative guest. He sees the international rankings for what they are and knows many countries don't even try to educate the masses. That's truly not the case in America. He seems to think that technology is part of what will help American education but it may be too soon to tell.

    The other guests have an agenda and are selling a product. Kopp basically nodded in agreement with the others. It was rather amusing to watch her.

    American education is diverse. Sure students need more time in the classroom, parents need to be involved and teachers need more training. All of this needs to be done at the local level. Keep the Feds as far away as possible. Everything they touch turns our poorly.

    December 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  5. Lou Toth

    Teaching begins at home! I saw exceptions but dysfunctional "families" have a high correlation to dysfunctional students. We waste too much taxpayer money on primary and secondary education and little on trade and practical education solutions (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.PRIM.PC.ZS/countries?display=map). College graduation rates are too high! U.S. students find that a college degree does not necessarily lead towards a job much less a challenging or rewarding career.
    Answer: (1) Reduce public spending on schools and provide school choice with partial subsidies for students not in public schools.
    (2) Rank students beginning in "middle school". Top 40% are put on a college track, implement trade and business tracks for remaining 60% of students using local, state and national businesses for technical training (We need more competent plumbers and bridge builders than PhD computer science professors).
    (3) We waste public funding on a directionless and misguided education "business" in america that measures success by a diploma and not by the real metric of life long learning leading toward self sufficient individuals and families who enhance the society as a whole.

    December 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  6. Samuel

    A Chinese Canadian author, can't remember her name, once compared the reaction of a North American parent with that of a Chinese parent when their child received a C mark in the exam as following:
    Chinese parent: you got C because you were not prepared and did not study enough. All you care about is playing and wasting time......
    North American Parent: Oh my baby, don't worry. I know the exam was too difficult for you. It was not fair and C is not that bad. Next time you will do better.
    So, parents, and I am one of them, bear a big chunk of the responsibility for the performance of their kids.

    December 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  7. Katrina Whetten

    There is an elephant being ignored in the American classroom that is destroying the American childs education. That elephant is the discipline problem child. America talks a good talk about fighting the bullying problem, but the truth is far different from the rhetoric. Most all public schools have the same problem that if the bullying, or disruptive child is in the geographoc area of a school that school must cope with the problem. They have dozens of steps to try to get them suspended or expelled, and unless the student is violent enough to need law enforcement assistance the process can take years to escalate. By that time hundreds of their classmates have lost several precious hours of education from distraction. Compound this by the number of these students who attend each school and it is amazing that as many students get any education. We have moved our daughter to a charter school. The difference was astounding and immidiate. Where they are not the neighborhood geographical school they are allowed to expell children with discipline issues almost at once. Her school attempts to follow the practice of one warning, one suspension, then removal if the issue does not resolve. However, if bullying is involved, and there is evidence, (the most recent case involved a note) the child is removed immidiately. The graduation rate at her school is near 100%. College is an expected next step in these students lives. Yes they are pushed harder than other schools, my daughter does homework almost every night and on weekends for hours in addition to her time in the classroom. What I truly appreciate however is that her work is not wasted because one or two students are not allowed to continually disrupt her classes and make the teachers focus on discipline instead of teaching. If ALL schools had the option to send disruptive students to a disruptive student school after three offenses I think the educational dynamic would change for the rest of the population. If a student does not want to learn let them go to a school where they will not stop others who do.

    December 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      An elephant in the classroom, @Katrina Wheaten?
      There is a herd of elephants. Some of them cannot be discussed.
      I agree that children who don't want to learn should be removed from the school. I do not see why they have to be entertained somewhere else with my taxes.

      December 16, 2013 at 6:43 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        @Katrina Whetten: I apologize for my StupidPhone's correcting my spelling of your name.
        Machines that correct uneducated pupils' spelling are a major part of our problem.

        December 16, 2013 at 6:49 am |
  8. Olivia C

    Several points were made by the commentators.....parental involvement is a must, the use of technology is a plus and most importantly the continued education of our children's.
    The fact that longer days are noted in other locations where as in NY high schoolers are seen roaming the street at 12/1pm in the afternoon as oppose to learning in some form of a classroom, be it academic or vocational or a trade.
    Teacher continued education needs to be more structured; one day here and there does not allow for true learning. Why not require continuing education during the summer giving teachers the options as to their education schedule; afterall teachers do get partial pay in the summer.
    Parental involvement is needed in the United States. One may or in NYhas gone as far as paying parents to attend parent teacher conferences, what does that say about the value of a child's education to their parents, that they need a form of incentive to check on their child's performance. Those same parents were also reportedly given another financial incentive to take their kids to the, LIBRARY! So, if the parent isn't interested why should the child be, in their own education.

    December 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  9. Ram Ramabhadran

    I was educated early in India and later in the US. It is my firm belief that the educational systems in India and other 'ahead' countries discussed in the show train 'technicians' who can crunch math and answer science questions with 100% accuracy. But these cultures are weighted down by one factor that the US is mostly free of- questioning authority- which is a leadership quality that finds it greatest expression in the US. One visionary leader who defies the norm and the status-quo can lead thousands of 'technician' followers from the educationally advanced nations to get things done.

    While the US education may not be globally stellar in the STEM areas, the education system, notably at the universities, allows for an unprecedented exchange of cross-disciplinary education that is the ferment for creativity. How many countries do you know where an English major can choose to become an MD and how many countries do you know where a 50 year old can dream to change a whole career, like the air traffic controller I met who is now a practicing nurse.

    Salman Khan made the most sense in terms of addressing the statistics which provide fodder the ‘Chicken Littles’. US is a country of leaders and the rest of the world is creating robotic followers to be used in driving innovation. That is not to say that the US cannot do things better!

    December 15, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  10. Holly Z

    I actually teach in a hybrid school in Shanghai. Something that wasn't mentioned on the program is teacher training and contact hours. At the high school level a first year teacher only teaches one class. I don't mean they teach the same class seven times a day. They teach one class which is about seven 40 minute periods per week. They spend the rest of the time observing other teachers, developing lesson plans and marking homework. A full time teacher in the local division of my school has about 16 contact hours per week. That means they have about three classes. Compare that to American teachers who have 35-38 contact hours per week. I am technically a public school teacher in Shanghai. I am full time and I teach 17 periods a week. My local counterparts are usually out the door at 4:45 and they are not taking armloads of papers home with them to grade. I have a total of 45 students across my three classes. My local counterparts have 40 students per class, but they have on average 60 fewer students than American high school teachers. Friedman said teachers want to do better, but look at the situation they're in. They work 12 – 16 hours a day because they are not given time during their contracted work day to complete everything that is expected of them. They deal with defiant, lazy students who come to school to be social not to learn. They deal with parents who believe their child was born in a manger and every shortcoming their child has is the teacher's fault. Children slip through the cracks because teachers are tired. A teacher who has to deal with 180 students and 180 sets of parents is not going to be able to help them all. Combine that with a bloated federal bureaucracy, bloated administrations, and a system that embraces everything new regardless of whether it works and you can understand why most teachers don't last five years. Imagine what teachers could do if they got the support they need, had fewer students so they really could tailor lesson plans to individual students, and actually got a full nights sleep. You might see more teachers on board with longer school days and longer school years.

    December 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Reply
    • dragan

      I work at a large west coast research university. Most of my students are STEM majors interested in teaching, and frequently they express interest in "what's so different" in places like Singapore and Finland where education "seems to work." I'm looking forward to sharing your post with them–I think they'll appreciate your perspective.

      December 16, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  11. Ed Allen

    All of this is resulting from a bad test. We are all accepting that the PISA test provides an accurate measure of achievement. The US has never ever done well on the PISA. The myth that is being sold is that our kids are doing worse. Since the test started in the 1960's the US has tested poorly. SO why all of the fuss now? Even with low PISA scores over 4 decades, we have led the world in innovation, science, technology. finance, art, and music. How has Shanghai done? Follow the money. That is what is driving this created "crisis".

    December 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      :No, this is not "resulting" from one bad test. The PISA scores from the USA only illuminate our problems with education freshly: any aware person has seen this development for decades.
      The USA's Race for the Bottom has pervaded our culture, and consequently our education and our economy, since the 1960s.

      December 16, 2013 at 6:15 am | Reply
  12. Katie

    My dad, a world renown professor at John's Hopkins, called this morning to tell me to watch this... he wanted to let me know that I was one of the teachers that does all of things called for by the panel in my classroom. I use technology, I travel to other countries and learn about their education systems and countries, all so that I can continue to learn and be a better teacher in my expertise of World Geography and social studies. I love what I teach, I love my students, and have been doing this for 19 years. I also teach in one of the top 300 high schools in the country. But in the past 6 months I have dreaded going to work simply because of the new existence of "pay for performance" and being judged by one administrator. One person who is assumed better than me, knows what and how I teach everyday and is able to evaluate me with a clear, balanced perspective even with out visiting my classroom. Well, there is no way any of the above happens. The standards we are evaluated by are wishy washy and unclear, and we are judged on hear-say and our actions when and if the administrators are there to see it. I love teaching, but how can we, teachers, work to push the US back to the top when we have little training that makes us better in our content areas and in real pedagogy, are trying to prove ourselves to administrators rather than actually teaching kids and, and with very low pay. I'm not in it for the pay, but I've been teaching the past 5 years on a pay freeze and this year when I could have earned a raise, did not get one based on one persons view/opinion of my teaching.

    December 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  13. Suly

    When I hear the members of this panel, I wonder how or why they were selected. They are so out of touch with reality. Is anyone discussing the education policies that were enacted since 2000? We continue to do the same thing expecting a different result (yes, the definition of insanity). How about blaming these policies instead of using teachers and unions as scapegoats? The only thing that really makes sense is to realize that the increase in the rate of poverty is the most important factor that truly is correlated with low test scores in America.
    Can we really trust the Chinese test scores? Didn’t they have gymnasts who were 12 years old participating against minimum age rules in the Sydney Olympics of 2000? Actually, if I recall correctly, they were stripped of their medals. It would not surprise me if they only tested their top performing students and not the students that one “expert” in your panel visited. According to Yuanyuan Chen, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and Shuaizhang Feng, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and IZA, 2012, “In Shanghai, almost all migrant children can go to a primary school (either a public or a migrant one), but not all of them can go to a local middle school as migrant middle schools are not allowed to operate and there are not enough public middle schools. Beyond middle school, migrant youths have little educational opportunities if they choose to stay in Shanghai, except for some vocational high schools.” It is my understanding that high school students are tested, and these migrant students are not even allowed to attend middle school. The 40% of migrant students in Shanghai all look the same to me. Where are they migrating from? They are migrating from rural to urban areas. Do they speak a second language? Do you know how many different languages students and parents in America speak? If I wanted to talk to parents three times a week, I would need several interpreters. I think it’s important to let you know that I am a fluent Spanish speaker, and this makes my life as a teacher much easier. I do not know what other teachers do.
    Setting the migrant and immigrant issue aside, let me explain what is happening in the American schools: On Friday, my students went to P.E. from 9:00 to 10:00. From 10:00 to 10:30, 2/3 of my students worked on centers (which I prepare after school and after contracted hours), the other 1/3 went for "reading interventions" to another classroom while I attended to 5 students from another classroom that need intense reading interventions (5th graders that are working at a 2nd and 3rd grade level). At 11:00, while most of my students came back, three left again for math interventions in another classroom, and I took the rest of the kids to the computer lab to finish their second Discovery Launch test. I am also required to get ELL students to use Imagine Learning for language development and other students to use Compass Learning to help with their math skills (both are computer programs).

    Finally, at 11:45 I got to teach my 30-minute math lesson and get students to practice what they learned. At 12:15 the students went to recess and lunch. I picked them up at 12:50 and got to teach English language arts, science, health, social studies, until 2:00. Yes, I am wonder woman and my students are so dedicated and well behaved that I can do all that in one hour. I guess I should look at the bright side. I finally had all my students in the room except for the four Gate students that left my room to get their "extracurricular activities." I wonder if anyone cares that they are not getting the curricular activities that I am responsible to deliver, or the fact that these Gate students are so smart and "bored" in my class that most of them never care or bother to finish their work in my room (none of them are getting straight A’s).

    I only got to teach until 2:00 because we had to attend an assembly to let students know all about the wonderful Magnet Middle Schools they can apply to and pray they get elected to attend. My “Gate” student proudly announced that she had been “invited” to attend these Magnet schools. I reminded her that these Magnet schools also look at classroom grades and test scores (she does not get A’s and does not exceed standards on any of the standardized tests). The assembly took 50 minutes. The worst presentation I have seen so far (I've been teaching for 17 years).

    At 3:15 the bell rang and I did not get done with half of the lesson plans I prepared for Friday. I must come home and grade incomplete papers because I am expected to enter grades for these 28 students every week (there are about 121 standards that need to be graded). I also have to grade a writing pre-test for my students and another 28 students from another 5th grade class because we double score them. All this grading and preparation of lesson plans “aligned to the core curriculum” is done during the weekend.

    And this panel has the gall to talk about the need to spend 30% of my time training and cooperating with colleagues? The leadership in this country has gone insane. They come up with the one-size fits all reforms that trickle down to my desk and I keep adding to my list of things to do. I am in the trenches. I am the one dealing day in and day out with unruly children and lack of parent involvement. I am the one giving up my family time every night and on weekends to prepare for the onslaught of paper work requirements from a district that has no clue what they are doing to education in America and to the many teachers that work so hard. I often cannot sleep at night because I know that we are not doing what is right for the children. We must please the leadership and the politicians who keep asking the so call “experts” for advice on school reform leaving teachers out of the discussion. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Zakaria; however, I wish he had included real teachers in the panel and not these so called education “experts.”

    December 15, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  14. ger republikings

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    December 16, 2013 at 9:09 am | Reply
  15. dragan

    "But to me, and this is what Teach for All is all about, but we've got to start channeling our top talent toward this challenge..."

    I've worked with many students who were interested in Teach for America and they were virtually all of them interested in teaching for a few years, learning a bit about themselves, and then "doing something important" - say, medical school or law school. This is actually the opposite of channeling top talent towards teaching. If anything, it reinforces the image of teaching as this thing that you do for a bit before you focus on something important.

    December 16, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  16. Steven Harley

    Having worked in pubic and high education for over forty years I can not but agree with all the comments that were generated by the program. Highlighting what is lacking in American education is not newsworthy. Daily we read about how poorly American schools are performing. Please have a panel that discusses solutions. Technology along is not the answer.
    One key component for change to occur is the desire for change. We hear a great deal that this reform and that reform will do the trick. We do not hear-Do we really want to find sustainable solutions" ? Our education reforms and initiatives are akin to congress. Making sure the status quo remains in place. At the present time there is much to much money and politics supporting the current state of American education. Please have a follow-up panel that address this issue.

    December 16, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Reply
  17. JAL

    Great panel.

    December 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  18. pmerrill2013

    I am dumbstruck by one of the most important factors of Chinese education that is NOT mentioned. I don't disagree with any of the points made by the commentators (about priorities, values, systems...), but no one acknowledges that school in China is where only part of the learning takes place. There is massive out-of-school tutoring taking place, often starting in grade school and going on for hours a day, including weekends. I suppose that is a reflection of Friedman's call for "better parents", but for Kopp to make claims about the quality of Shanghai education, without noting, as a comment above does, that migrant students are neither educated nor tested (so the pool is skewed), and that out-of-school training is beyond our imagination, feels deceitful. It is totally misleading to assert a direct connection between what takes place in Shanghai's schools with their test results. There is a huge "underground" factor at play, and it suggests incredibly superficial knowledge of what really takes place in China and in other Asian countries not to acknowledge it. It makes SAT-prep in the US look like a coffee break. Did I miss something?

    December 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  19. Donna Zimmer

    Mr. Zakaria mentioned that teacher's unions are against expanding the school year. That is not exactly true. The last time the school year was expanded in Michigan, teachers were just expected to work the extra time for free. Who wouldn't object to being required to work more days without being paid? If taxpayers were willing to increase funding by the same percentage as the increase in the school year, I think you would find support for a longer school year among teacher's unions.

    December 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Reply
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    Thank you for the interesting article.There is more to overseas education than just learning a language. In fact you develop various skills and experiences which are more valuable and interesting than the education provided in a classroom setting.

    June 9, 2014 at 2:08 am | Reply
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