EDITOR: After reading Thomas Friedman's column about the high-quality, high-outcome schools of Shanghai ("Shanghai's secret makes for better schools," Wednesday), I have the answer to the secret. He says there is none, but there is one: money. He mentions that the school he visited had 754 students and 59 teachers. Do the math. That is a ratio of just over 12 students to each teacher.
I know that doesn't mean each class has only 12 students, but that gives the school the ability to let teachers work without students — lesson planning, observing master teachers, working to improve teaching.
I once went to a professional development session on an idea called Lesson Study. It's basically what the Shanghai teachers do. You observed master teachers, other teachers came to your classroom to offer ideas, your teaching was videotaped so you could see what you were doing, and selected students were interviewed to see what teaching method was most effective. Many teachers wanted to try it. But there was no money to support more common planning or lesson planning.
Wouldn't it be better to take the large sums of money the state spends on standardized testing and support high-outcome practices instead? And support means a constant professional development program, not just one or two sessions.