DENVER (AP) – Dutch schools outrank the United States in math, reading and science, so why are educators from the Netherlands touring U.S. schools to learn better teaching methods?
Mary Tupan, a researcher from Utrecht who toured several struggling schools Tuesday in Denver with 11 other Dutch educators and researchers, said her country has an urgent need to learn the latest, best practices for helping students who are having problems in school and for dealing with different cultures and different languages.
The delegation is also touring schools in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
Major cities throughout the Netherlands have seen an influx of immigrants over the past decade, creating new challenges for its public education system, Tupan said..
She says the delegation has been asked by the Dutch government to come up with recommendations to make sure public school students are ready for college, a challenge that has plagued Colorado and other states for years.
In Colorado, college officials complain that many students arrive unprepared for college and need significant remedial help and instruction after they graduate from high school. It costs the state millions of dollars to teach students what they should already know when they got their high school diplomas.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organization that ranks education, place the Netherlands in 7th place last year in math, reading and science, while the U.S. came in 14th among member countries.
Tupan said her country is doing well, but educators still have a lot to learn about dealing with problem schools.
“There is a sense of urgency, because society needs more skilled people. We’re also facing aging populations, while dealing with a global economy,” Tupan said.
David Nachtweih, a spokesman for Denver’s turnaround schools who accompanied the Dutch delegates on their tour, said public schools in the United States are experimenting with new programs that are showing some success.
Nearly half of the students at a former high school in northeast Denver were having problems before the school was broken up into separate learning centers, he said. The new campuses feature a center for community arts, college preparatory classes, a center for international studies and a high-tech early college prep school that will serve about 4,000 children from elementary through high school.
It’s considered one of the largest school turnaround plans in Denver School District history.
Nachtweih said schools also are focusing on professional development for teachers, increased class time and extra tutoring for students having problems.
Tupan said colleges and universities in the Netherlands are accessible to all students, but many of those students are failing to graduate. She said educators realized they need to start reforms in public schools so students are ready for college.
Cities such as Utrecht, the Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam are becoming heavily dominated by immigrants and even the best countries for education are having to deal with similar problems, she said.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
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