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Teachers Union Chief: U.S. Could Learn a Lot From Foreign School Systems

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She says "children are not lab rats..."

For one union chief, America has a lot to learn about the education system and should take its cues for countries like Canada and Finland.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, reportedly said that American exceptionalism does not “exempt” the U.S. from employing education practices that "work" in other countries. And for Weingarten, that includes a nearly 100 percent unionized teacher-force like the one found in Finland.

During her speech Monday at the labor union’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Weingarten spoke about how she feels teachers are more highly valued in other countries than they are here. CNSNews reports:

Weingarten said she has visited schools in Canada and Finland. Those countries and others, she said, “all put a strong emphasis on teacher preparation, continuous development, and mentoring and collaboration -- and in each of these countries, teaching is a highly respected profession.”

In Finland, she said, teacher training is “demanding, rigorous and extensive.”

“Finnish teachers are esteemed and are compensated fairly, and their training is fully paid for by the government,” Weingarten said. “And they’re virtually 100 percent unionized, as teachers are in most of the top-performing countries.”

According to CNS, Weingarten believes that while other countries' school systems are improving, the United States is stuck "experimenting" with "stop-start" programs such as vouchers, merit pay, tour-of-duty teaching, and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.

“The problem with all of these experiments is that our children are not lab rats,” Weingarten said. “This is not about navigating through a maze. It’s about navigating through life, and we have to help them do that.”

So what say you? Should our school system follow the lead of other countries, or should we be the ones setting the gold standard?

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