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Inside Man Presents -- Education

Aired July 21, 2013 - 22:00   ET


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The future belongs to the nation that best educates its people.

MORGAN SPURLOCK, CNN HOST (voice-over): But according to an internationally administered test given to kids from 65 countries all around the world, the U.S. has racked just 15th in reading, only 23rd in science, and 31st in math. Some say the problem is we have made education all about testing, relying more and more on the data, and less and less on our teachers.

Today, American kids are stuck on the mediocrity merry-go-round, with one in four students not even graduating from high school. Something seriously wrong with our approach to education in America, and the futures of almost 50 million kids enrolled in public schools depend on getting it right. So how do we best educate our kids?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I grow up, I would like to be either a dancer or an athlete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me too. I want to be a football player.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I grow up, I want to do something with animals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I grow up, I want to be a makeup artist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I grow up, I want to be a teacher like my teacher.

SPURLOCK: I'm a parent, and my son Lakin is only 6-years-old. When he grows up, he wants to be a police detective. And like most jobs, he can't do it without an education. But when it comes to teaching our kids, Americans are continually falling behind.

Even though we're one of the wealthiest nations in the world, spending more than $500 billion a year to educate our kids, we're trailing Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Finland? That's right, mighty Finland. A nation a little smaller than Montana with a population of 5.4 million people has consistently scored in one of the top two spots on the program for international assessment, or PISA in Reading, Math, and Science every year for the past decade. After so many years of consistent and excellent results, Finland has become home to one of the best school systems in the world. So what are the Fins doing in the classrooms that we are not? I'm going to find out by teaching there. First stop, beautiful Kirkkojarvi (ph).



SPURLOCK: How are you? Great to meet you.

LOUHIVUORI: Welcome to school.

SPURLOCK: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

LOUHIVUORI: So this is a comprehensive school from six years to 16 years.

SPURLOCK: This looks like nothing like any school I ever went to. This is amazing looking.

LOUHIVUORI: Thank you.

SPURLOCK: The Fins do things a little differently. Instead of focusing relentlessly on testing, performance, and fundamentals like we do, they take a balanced approach to education.

How long are the kids in school? What time do they come in the morning and when do they go home?

LOUHIVUORI: 8:00 or 9:00 they usually start. And then, the small kids finish lessons about 12:00 or 1:00.

SPURLOCK: OK. Five hours a day. That's it?

LOUHIVUORI: Six hours a day.

SPURLOCK: That's a short day.

LOUHIVUORI: The secret of the Finnish school system is we have short school days, much recess, very little homework, long holidays.

SPURLOCK: This sounds like the best school system ever.

LOUHIVUORI: So this is our arts class. We have got, of course, drawing and painting. But then we've got a film lab. Then we have a clay over there.

SPURLOCK: While cash-strapped American public schools slashed extracurricular activities, the Fins fill students' time with art, music, home economics, and plenty of recess.

LOUHIVUORI: When there is lots of snow, they will be skiing behind there into the forests.

SPURLOCK: Like cross-country skiing?

LOUHIVUORI: Yes. Yes, yes.

SPURLOCK: And they manage to do it all for a lot less money, spending on average about 20 percent less per student annually than we do.

LOUHIVUORI: So, now, we are going to technical hand work.

SPURLOCK: OH, my God. Look at that. This would never happen in America. It's amazing. The idea that you are like letting a bunch of kids make their own knives. I'm just saying this would never happen in America.

LOUHIVUORI: We are talking about trust here. We trust the kids. This is our music class.

SPURLOCK: Thank you, Finland. Good night!

The Fins have made school into a place students actually enjoy being. Imagine that. And they have done it without a lot of high stakes student asses assessments, test-based accountability, or any of the other strategies you will find in American schools there is a secret to their success, but it's not measured the same way it is in the U.S.

You know, in the states we have all these standardized tests just so we can see how kids are performing. Why do you not have standardized testing here?

LOUHIVUORI: Because in the Finnish system, the word is trust. The government trusts the school principals. The principals trust the teachers. These tests, they don't have anything. They just, you know, you use the energy in the wrong things. We use energy for teaching, not for winning in a contest.

SPURLOCK: Yes. What does it cost to send your kid here?


SPURLOCK: Zero? Nothing. It's free.

LOUHIVUORI: Finnish schools are free. Even up to university it's free.

SPURLOCK: So even college is free?

LOUHIVUORI: Yes. A free warm meal every day at school. Free teaching, free books, free medical care.

SPURLOCK: That's incredible.

LOUHIVUORI: And this way nobody is left out.

SPURLOCK: Yes. That's really no child left behind. One of the things I'm going to do when I'm here is teach a lesson to the kids. So, doing a lesson about storytelling might be a good idea. What does it take to tell a good story? What should I think about when I'm structuring a lesson plan for this?

LOUHIVUORI: If you're boring, who cares.

SPURLOCK: Yes. So, is that the secret to being a good teacher? Don't be boring?



I need to write a lesson plan for my class tomorrow. But I don't have a clue on that what to say to a room full of Finnish teenagers. I think I need to get some help from the experts.

Becoming a teacher in Finland isn't easy. Only eight universities in the entire country are allowed to prepare teachers, and admission to these teacher education programs is highly competitive. Only one in every ten applicants is accepted. Perspective teachers need outstanding high school grades, high marks on their exam scores, strong interpersonal skills, and extracurricular experience.

So, we are in one of the primary facilities in all of Finland where they actually train teachers to become educators.

This university enrolls about 300 students every year who all study between five and seven years to finish their masters degrees in education.

Every single teacher has to do that before they can set foot in a classroom.

It's a demanding program, but educators and administrators know it gets results.

One of the things you hear a lot in education, when it comes to education in the states right now is accountability. Accountability for schools, for the teachers, is that something that would ever happen in Finland?

PASI SAHLBERG, DIRECTOR GENERAL, CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL MOBILITY AND COOPERATION: You know, Finnish language doesn't have a word accountability, particularly in education. Accountability is something that is left when responsibility is subtracted.

In many places people are getting education completely wrong when they think that stronger accountability, more testing, more competition, more pressure, penalizing teachers and principals, it simply doesn't work in education.



SPURLOCK: Then what does work in education? Before I teach my lesson, teacher trainer Olli Monta will help me figure it out.

OLLI MONTA (ph), TEACHER: What kind of education would you like to deliver for the kids? SPURLOCK: You know, I think that, you know, I tell stories. I make movies. So I thought that doing a lesson about what makes a great story.

MONTA (ph): When I have these talks with my student teachers, I always want them to include in the beginning something to make your audience interact with you. So pay attention to the very start of your class.

SPURLOCK: How I start the lesson?

MONTA (ph): Yes, actually.


MONTA (ph): And how the emphasis also in teacher training is whenever you have a chance to throw the ball to the classroom, please do it.


MONTA (ph): And activate the kids as much as you can. Visualizing is really important. Open ended is important and entertainment.


MONTA (ph): Good luck, man.

SPURLOCK: Thank you.

Fins go to school for at least five years to learn how to be outstanding teachers. Me, I've only got one day. So I better get to work.


SPURLOCK: I'm in Finland checking out the school system, one of the best in the world. I'm going to be teaching here tomorrow, so I want to learn everything I can about how to command a classroom from the teachers who do it every day.

I'm back at the school. And today I'm going to see what life is like actually as an eighth grader. Time to go to class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one here. Do you know? What is?



SPURLOCK: That's like the first time I've done algebra since the 1983.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are the best.

SPURLOCK: I've been held back 20 years. After every class or every other class, they get 15 minutes and just chill. But if you went to school in the states, like you wouldn't have a break right now. You would go class, class, class, lunch, class, class, class. Getting to go outside, you come back in and now you're great, let's go back to school. Let's go into another class. It makes a big difference.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know which country attaches to Finland?

SPURLOCK: Soviet Union.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. How do you know very much about it.

All school lunch smells the same, no matter where you are in the world. It all smells like the same aroma.

Wieners in brown sauce. We are in the post lunch biology class where we are dissecting fish. After spending a day in the classroom, it's easy to see why the Finnish teachers are so well respected. The teachers are focused and prepared. The students are stimulated, and everyone is engaged in the lesson, even me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So you've written in your notebooks previously about the typical American things.

SPURLOCK: This whole lesson is called things that are typically American. Uncle Sam, McDonald's, Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons. That pretty much summed it up. This section is called kings and queens. And now at this one page, Michael Jackson is on the other. This wasn't even planned. This is just the lesson for today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, there are many different types of fast food. Many of them come from the U.S. Coke and Pepsi, we try to -- America's most typical soft drinks.

SPURLOCK: Do we all drive big trucks?


SPURLOCK: We all eat fast food.

KULSMA: Yes, fast food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn't want these Finnish kids to have a stereotype of an American because it's a great country. There is a lot to see and a lot more than just this hamburger culture or --

SPURLOCK: And it wouldn't be fair if I didn't get a taste of real Finnish culture too. So I'm going home with eighth graders Jakko and Bibi to see what life is like outside of the classroom.

So do you guys have lots of homework tonight? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not so much.

SPURLOCK: A little bit.

OK. So that's 2 x squared and 2 x times 2 is what?


SPURLOCK: Yes. That's correct. So on average how much homework do you have per night?

KULSMA: Not much. It's about this size.

SPURLOCK: So, it's like 15 minutes maybe, 20?

KULSMA: Yes, yes.

SPURLOCK: Because in the states, there is a lot more homework for someone your age when they come home, would have an hour, hour and a half worth of homework.



OK. Thank you very much. It looks delicious. How is it raising a family in Finland?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right.

SPURLOCK: But you get a lot of support, right, from the government when you have a family?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A critical child benefit. 110 Euros or something per month, per child.

SPURLOCK: So, everyone in the whole country gets this?


SPURLOCK: No matter who you are?


SPURLOCK: That's like $500 a month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, for raising kids.

SPURLOCK: Just for having kids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there some tax allowances also.

SPURLOCK: Yes. With three kids, that's almost $6,000 U.S. a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, close to it.

SPURLOCK: And then the school system you don't pay for, first grade all the way through college.


SPURLOCK: Free education, free health care, free dental care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think our system is pretty good at the moment, quite even for everybody.


Now, that I've gotten to know some Finnish students and parents, I think I've got to get a better handle on what is important to them in the classroom. They put a lot of trust in their teachers. And today, they're going to trust me with a class of 25 eighth graders. Maybe they're not that smart after all!

I'm a little nervous. A little freaking out.

Good morning. How is everybody doing today? I want to talk to you about stories today. What are the parts of a story? Can anybody tell me what the parts of a story? Anybody have an idea?

I called my mom last night as I was coming in here to talk to you guys. And she said you got to make sure and tell them the key to a good story is there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Here is our beginning. I apologize for having terrible handwriting and spelling. That's kind of -- did I spell that right? I think so.

So every story has a hero and a villain. And see? Antagonist. Never said I was a speller. What are good action words? Let's go around the word. I'm going to ask each of you to tell me an action word. How about you? You don't know. Any type of descriptor. Silence. The silence is huge. How about you?


SPURLOCK: Angry, angry is a great word.


SPURLOCK: Explosive. You can almost act out a word like that. Explosive, like that. Explosive. What's a good action word.


SPURLOCK: Scary! Scary! See. These are great action words. I think words are such a key thing when you're telling a story. You know, what I tell people is if you want to be a good storyteller, one of the biggest things you should do is write what you know. Tell stories from your point of view.

Who has a question about stories? Before we wrap up? No? Awesome. Well, thanks, guys. Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for being in my class. Have a great day. I think it's safe to say that I bombed. Big-time.

MONTA (ph): So how do you feel?

SPURLOCK: Relieved. Relieved that it's done. I feel like it's stressful. I wish I would have spent more time really preparing what I was going to do and say. And like I was in there just trying to stay afloat. I feel like I jumped right in and didn't give enough time to set up the idea.

MONTA (ph): You were comfortable working inside the classroom. You were able to see, take your position. You moved around. You tried to engage them by asking questions.

SPURLOCK: What was the bad part of what I did?

MONTA (ph): Actually, you answered the question already. Do more planning. You have a more like structure setup for your lesson, and you engage students more.


MONTA (ph): That's what you should work on.

SPURLOCK: OK. How did I do as a teacher?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did pretty well.

SPURLOCK: Pretty well. And what didn't work at all?

MONTA (ph): Yelling at students and stuff.

SPURLOCK: What did you learn about telling stories?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not anything else new.

SPURLOCK: What were my mistakes?


SPURLOCK: Yelling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was pretty good lesson, I think.

SPURLOCK: What did I screw up on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you were right about your handwriting.




SPURLOCK: OK. That wasn't my finest hour. Next time, I will do a little more preparation and a little less yelling. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SPURLOCK: There seems to be like a real respect for what school is within Finland. They create such a rich environment for education that it's kind of mind-blowing. It exceeded every expectation that I could have ever had coming here. And when you look at kind of the model that is set up combined with the extensive training that these teachers have, you can't help but think maybe this is a model that we should be emulating more. Thank you, my friend.

LOUHIVUORI: Thank you.

SPURLOCK: Thank you. This is fantastic. Thank you for everything. This was great. Cool. I'll come back. I'll get my masters and come back.

LOUHIVUORI: You're always welcome.

SPURLOCK: Cool. Thanks, guys.


SPURLOCK: But could the Finnish model work in America? It's not exactly an apples for apples comparison.

For starters, we have nearly 50 million public school students in the U.S. that's almost ten times the number of people the Finns have in their entire country. And we have a huge problem that isn't a major issue in Finland.

The U.S. has the second highest child poverty rate among developed countries. Finland has the second lowest. In the U.S., the difference between performance of low income students and high income students is staggering. With study after study showing that income disparity is directly linked to school success.

So, maybe we can't put the Finnish model to work in the U.S., but what can we do?

A few maverick educators are trying to figure that out, and some of them are getting it right. Like this charter school in Brooklyn, New York, where I will be taking my second shot at teaching. But what is successful here couldn't be more different than it is in Finland.

JT LEAIRD, PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMSBURG COLLEGIATE: Good morning. Hey, David. Get some gloves.

SPURLOCK: Hey, good morning. I'm Morgan.

LEAIRD: Hi, I'm Tina. Nice to meet you. Morning.

SPURLOCK: Good morning. So you know all the students?


SPURLOCK: Every single one? LEAIRD: Three hundred and eleven, yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uncommon school is a nonprofit charter managed organization. We start and manage public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low income students for college.

SPURLOCK: How does your school differ from like a typical public school?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a charter school, we get more latitude and flexibility and more independence in how we run schools. But in exchange for that freedom and flexibility, we are held to a higher standard that we have to show results.

SPURLOCK: At Williamsburg Collegiate, like most charter schools, administrators are free to allocate their budget resources however they choose. They can create their lesson plans, operating hours and cater their extracurricular activities to their students developing a unique school culture. They also have a comprehensive hiring process, attracting teachers who believe in the school's mission.

But here in New York a charter school is up for evaluation every five years. If students or teachers fail to perform, their charter is revoked and the school is shut down. So Williamsburg takes almost every opportunity to get their students to excel.

How successful has the uncommon school been?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty percent of our students are considered low income, 99 percent of our students are African-American and Latino. Here at Williamsburg Collegiate, 100 percent of the sixth, seventh and eighth graders scored advanced to proficient on the state math exams compared to 75 percent which is the state-wide average.

SPURLOCK: Hundred percent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hundred percent in grades six through eight. So, we are creating a new achievement gap because our students are outperforming the regular school student.


Well, Finnish schools trust teachers to evaluate their students using tests only sparingly, at Williamsburg, all about testing, all the time.


SPURLOCK: Like this?

HALL: Yes. Perfect.

So now we have a bunch of raw data that is going to go into a spreadsheet. This master spreadsheet has every grade for every subject for every kid in the school. SPURLOCK: It's amazing. It's incredible. It seems like you guys are analyzing everything.

HALL: Yes. I mean, I think we definitely as an organization and as a school.

SPURLOCK: Almost obsessively.

HALL: I would say that is accurate. I think we are obsessed with data, but I think we are obsessed with data because we know how powerful it can be. You definitely don't want pick a data as just tests. Because tests are sort of the summary part. It's like the end part of what we do.


HALL: And there is all this stuff that goes into it before. Every teacher starts the day by shaking hands and greeting the kids on the way into class. We think of even as that type of stuff as data.

SPURLOCK: How do you respond to people who say we're testing kids too much, we're pushing them too hard, too far by having so much testing being emphasized in schools?

HALL: We definitely know that testing is important, but we also focus on creating tests that are worth teaching to.

SPURLOCK: The rigger and regimen of testing seem to be working for Williamsburg Collegiate. But not everyone is on board with the methods. For more than a decade, schools all across America have emphasized testing over teaching with deeply disappointing results. A whopping 80 percent of American schools are failing to meet the proficiency goals set up by federal legislation.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Children do learn when standards are high and results are measured.

SPURLOCK: When no child left behind legislation was passed in 2001, it mandated certain accountability measures in order for schools to get federal funding. All tied to performance on standardized tests. With funding at stake, some schools took drastic measures to meet these government standards.

In March 2013, 35 Atlanta educators were indicted for allegedly participating in a standardized test cheating ring. Rigorous testing seems to work for Williamsburg. So why has it fail for so many other schools across the U.S.?

Some Chicago parents say it's because in their schools testing has become the most critical measure of success.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to sign a petition against the amount of testing happening in CPS? This is a list.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of all the tests that are happening.

Hi, good morning. We're gathering signatures against the high stakes testing.

It is out of control. Two weeks of instructional time is being lost every year. In kindergarten, it can be up to 14 tests per year. My son is five. When he first took his test in the beginning of the year, he didn't know how to read. He said how am I supposed to press next? I don't even know how to read.

I'm going downtown if anything happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why you going downtown?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To talk to the CPS people about the --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The testing. What should I tell them, Lila?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened when you got tested?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I didn't know the answers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Do you want me to tell them that then?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But tell I didn't like it.


My name is Claire (INAUDIBLE) and I'm a parent with three children in the Chicago public school system. My daughter had come home in tears saying how horrible this test was. She couldn't hear the questions. The headsets didn't fit correctly. She couldn't get the mouse to work. She was afraid to go to sleep that night. She was worried about the test the next day because she was worried she was going to do badly. Afterwards she said I am no good at kindergarten.

In this I saw absolutely no value in to why a kid 5-years-old should be anything other than happy to be at school. The fact that Chicago public schools are using these to ascertain data, but at the emotional cost I think is too high a price to pay. I mean, obviously if all you're doing is testing, you aren't learning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A test is something that you take to see if you have learned well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have to answer the questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do like math problems without looking at other people to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very important to pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I get a high grade, it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Try my best to do it right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm like stressing every moment when I take the test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They all have bubbles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just going like think, think, think, think, think, think, think, think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then you fill in the bubbles. Bubble.

SPURLOCK: Protests like the ones in Chicago are happening everywhere. All over the country, students, teachers, and parents are rallying against the failing system. We need some way to evaluate our students. But when it comes to testing, how much is too much?

Like Finnish schools, Williamsburg Collegiate finds success by focusing on the whole student. And while Williamsburg tests students all the time, they see the tests as a means to an end.

Everywhere you look, there are things that are talking about going to college. You know, that are about, you know, reading books. And they have pictures of students here, reminding them to be professional.

In my middle school looked nothing like this. I didn't have any things like this. It didn't constantly remind you to prepare each student for college. It just was not part of the conversation. And it's so instilled in them from day one that that's all they're thinking about. It is a really unique and special place. It's pretty incredible.


SPURLOCK: I'm getting ready to teach a class at Williamsburg Collegiate, an outstanding charter school in Brooklyn, New York, that is closing the achievement gap one student at a time.

So when people say that part of the problem with education is poverty, you guys don't believe that?

LEAIRD: Poverty is a huge issue. And does it make it -- does it make it harder for our kids? Definitely.

SPURLOCK: Yes. LEAIRD: Are we going to wait around until someone fixes poverty? Absolutely not. You know, we're going to do what we can do to get kids ready for college.

SPURLOCK: You've got kids now who are graduating and going to college. Are you closing that achievement gap?

LEAIRD: We're really excited to say that we are. So I say all the time what we're doing is not rocket science. We do not have some silver bullet. We have teachers who work their tails off.

SPURLOCK: Much like the Finns, the people at Williamsburg Collegiate have made it a priority to hire the most qualified, highly skilled teachers in the business. But the most important thing they look for in a teacher might surprise you.

LEAIRD: We just have a ton of fun with the kids, you know. I'm looking for teachers who want to just jump in to every piece, not just teaching eighth grade algebra, but also a culture that is positive and is joyful. It's those kinds of people who are able to pitch in and work together as a team.

So this is eighth grade reading. So these are actually the kids that you'll be teaching tomorrow.

SPURLOCK: After they're hired, teachers at Williamsburg Collegiate learn and develop techniques designed to keep the students interested every minute of every day.

CLASS: Ooh, ah, you're looking good.

SPURLOCK: They use hand claps, snaps, and affirmations when a fellow student gets something right. And teachers cold call on students who aren't volunteering to make sure that they engage.

On the off chance that a student has a free moment, she'll use it to read. And teachers ask students to track the speaker to make sure they are really listening and engage.


SPURLOCK: It's an immersive approach to learning, and it works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Cube root of 64? One clap for crystal. Cube root of 27.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One clap for Adam. Square root for 36.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One clap for Morgan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is president during World War I? Gabrielle?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double snaps. Nice. Second question. Westward expansion. Many Americans justified it based on this idea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double snaps. Third question. She was an anarchist critical of the government and deported in the early 1920s to Russia. Who was she? Adriana?



Two more. Primary author of the declaration of independence? Mr. Garcia? Voice? Voice?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double snaps. Take a seat. Nice job. Five or five. Really awesome. What is one really obviously wrong answer to the second question?

SPURLOCK: It is incredible to see how fast things go at this school. And not only that, but to see how quiet the hallways are. Like this is the loudest, me talking in the hallway is the loudest it's been all day long. The kids are so incredibly respectful in the hallways and classrooms. It never happened in my classroom where you applaud somebody getting a good answer or you clap for them or anything like that. It is like there is this constant reward and celebration of being smart.

That is something they have worked hard to create at Williamsburg. And it's something most American public schools are failing to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My last school was horrible.

SPURLOCK: Really? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would do whatever I wanted. And I like to be challenged. And this school challenges me a lot.

SPURLOCK: And when you were at your other school, did you ever think about going to college or anything like that?


SPURLOCK: Not at all. How does it compare to where you went to school before here?

DOROTHY DUMAS, 7TH GRADE STUDENT: I think the education is harder. But I like it. You can try to give up all you want, but it's not going to work.

SPURLOCK: They're not going to let you take the easy way out here?


SPURLOCK: They're going to make you work for it.

DUMAS: I never thought I would make it to college. So I never really thought about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My reading used to be terrible. Like a first grade level.

SPURLOCK: You were reading at a first grade level. So did they just pass you through? Like at your old school they kept passing you on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes that. Pass you on. They didn't care where I was at.

SPURLOCK: So now what is your reading level?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's at a high school level.

SPURLOCK: You're reading at a high school level in eighth grade. That's fantastic.

And it's not just their reading scores that have changed. Some families say Williamsburg Collegiate turned their kids' entire lives around.

MICHAEL DUMAS, DOROTHY'S FATHER: Since she been in charter school, her whole attitude change. Her whole demeanor change she actually like going to school. They show more attention, you know. And it seems like they bring out the best in kids.

DEBBIE DUMAS, DOROTHY'S MOTHER: She is going to have to get her education so she can grow up to be, you know, who she want to be. She'll be the first one to go to college. The Lord's will. If everything turn out as planned, yes.

DOROTHY DUMAS: My education is important to me. They made that like a first priority in my life now. So I really do appreciate that school and the teachers and everything for that. My dream so far, I dream of being a designer. I dream of finding the real me. I dream of graduating from college. I dream of being a songwriter and I dream of being a singer.

LEAIRD: I understand you wanted to teach a lesson on storytelling. Basically, the layout of the lesson made it like a traditional WCCS style. Always start the class actively working.


LEAIRD: And lead them through a discussion. And I got in here just to cold call as well. We want to make sure that every kid in the room is held accountable to having done the do now and having had the discussion with the partner.

SPURLOCK: Instead of getting the wallflower who is sitting over here like this. That's the one I want to call on? LEAIRD: That's the one you want to call on.

And then we're going to set them up with an op-ed article and asking them can a nonfiction article be considered a story. And so what we picked, just because it was something that had background knowledge for them is the soda ban.

SPURLOCK: That's great.

LEAIRD: And then they would go into actually doing the writing on their own.

SPURLOCK: And how much time?

LEAIRD: You've got an hour. They will be starting the do now at 1:22. Right at the start of class. They should be into the review of it by 1:27.

SPURLOCK: So now I start going to the cold calling at 1:46.

LEAIRD: That will put us at 1:49.

SPURLOCK: It looks like so -- it's a completely regimented.

What about the other way to get kids actively engaged in feedback, you know, getting them to snap when they're -- when somebody gives a good answer. Should I be incorporating good things like that into the lesson?

LEAIRD: I definitely think so. So it can be hands on your head if you're ready. And on your mark, get set, go, that's a real simple one to do. You can tell them to give them two raise the roofs, woo woo! You can tell them to do a cheese grater. So, that would go like this.

You're great, great, great! I cannot believe I'm doing these for you right now. Put your seal elbows like this and go.

That's really good. You can be a real live WCCS teacher. This is exactly the process we go through.

SPURLOCK: Well, I appreciate that. It is incredible how absolutely regimented the entire classroom is. Like down to the minute as we are going through my lesson plan for tomorrow. When you look at these other teachers that are here, there is such skill and they are such a control of that classroom environment. And it's an intimidating thing, just because of the constant pace.

So hopefully I'll be able to pull it off. Two snaps for that.


SPURLOCK: So I'm working on my lesson plan for tomorrow. I think the biggest thing for me is making sure that I can stay on time.

When I was in Finland, you know, it was all about listening and connecting to the students. It's very, very different. I mean, you have to be banging away that whole time.

So it's the big day that I have to give my lesson today. I have been practicing a little bit to get ready. I have been waiting and your partner discuss.

If I learned anything from Finland, it's that preparation is the key to successful teaching. So this time I'm rehearsing every move down to the minute.

You have two minutes. Go.

I just hope I can do better this time around.

Having like all of this stuff that they have already prepared based on this, I feel infinitely more prepared than I did in Finland. It does help. Kids like structure.

This is the hard part, because I'd like to -- I really want to call on as many of these kids in class as I can. And memorize as many of these names as I can before I get in there. That's probably not going to happen, because I also need to memorize about three pages of this.

Hi, I'm Morgan, Mr. Spurlock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Mr. Spurlock.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Mr. Spurlock.

SPURLOCK: Good afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.

SPURLOCK: Good afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon, Mr. Spurlock.

SPURLOCK: Good afternoon.

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon.

Good afternoon.



SPURLOCK: OK, What we are going to do now, we're diving into a lot of elements of storytelling today, which we are going to expand on after this. So for the first five minutes, it is like I'd like you to work through this. OK. We have had a great article. The soda ban explained. So, we are going read it whom. Who wants to go first. Niasha (ph)? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't drink much soda. I don't buy big gulps, and my body mass index is right where it should be.

SPURLOCK: Who is the protagonist? Who is the antagonist? What's the conflict? What's the resolution? Go ahead. You should talk to your partners at your table.

It is pretty awesome. I'm so impressed by everything at this school, mostly the kids.

OK. Great. Who all thought in the story that Bloomberg was the protagonist? Let me see your hands. Who thought he was the hero? Who thought Bloomberg was antagonist? He was the bad guy? You all had an opinion.

You can see what makes the teachers in Finland and Williamsburg so successful. It's more than just grading papers or giving tests. Students have to be engaged of every minute of every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is kind of like a persuasive thing because it leaves you with something to think about.

SPURLOCK: Great answer. Let's give snaps on two. One, two.

The Finns trusted me. And that's the first step to a healthy learning environment. But the structure here at Williamsburg helped me deliver a clear, interactive lesson with absolutely no downtime.

Thank you very much.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

Have a great day.

Thank you.

A pleasure.

I thought that went pretty great. I tell you when you look at having the structure, having the things that I had to hit at certain times, I thought was spectacular, because it really kept me on task, and it kept me on point and it kept me on schedule. We have to do everything we wanted to do in the whole course of the class. And now we will see if it actually worked.


SPURLOCK: So the thing that I really want to try and figure out is whether or not the lesson that I gave was actually successful. So that's what I'm trying to figure out is how I can kind of grade that and judge that so that I know they accomplished the goal and actually walked away with some really, you know, pertinent knowledge and information. All that mayor Michael Bloomberg wants is to take the people's rights from drinking what they want. But the people, protagonist, just want the soda.

Dorothy, like she marked the protagonist, the antagonist, the conflict, she set up what is happening. I think most of them got it. It's good.

And as successful as I've been here at Williamsburg, this is only one classroom in one school out of the tens of thousands in our country. And we've got a lot more work to do if we want these results for the rest of America's kids.

No matter where you're from, everybody wants what is best for their kids. While parents from Chicago to Seattle keep fighting for their children's rights, their kids just keep on growing. And everyone's looking for the magic bullet when it comes to education. But there really isn't one. Whether the approach is unstructured, super structured, or somewhere in the middle, kids can and will thrive in the right conditions. But it all seems to start with the teachers and giving those teachers the resources to teach and not just to test.

Very good. So which words in there do you think had expression in them?

America will never be Finland. For all our similarities, our country is too big and too diverse to replicate their system. But they do have something that we can adapt. We can start treating teaching with the respect and accolades that it deserves.

In Finland, teaching is treated as one of the nation's highest callings. In the U.S., it should be treated the same way too.

It's the keystone to a new kind of education in America, and our children's futures are depending on it.

I'm not a teacher, but I play one on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The following is a CNN Special Report.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May we see your son your highness?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was born a prince, but raised in a broken home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Little 7-year-old William saying I hate to see you sad, mommy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is the shy commoner who finally fit the glass slipper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is not somebody who is grown up in a castle or palace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To their rocky courtship..

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are going to get married or they are not going to get married -