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November 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Finland school model sparks education-reform discourse

Consider successful elements

I grew up under a school system, similar it seems, to the Finnish system. Teachers and principals worked as a team, hiring and firing teachers and principals, establishing a curriculum and operating the school. Principals were onlyfirst among equals, elected by the teachers and they also taught.

No superintendent, no school board, no hundreds of school districts, no levy votes. The focus was on education, not administration. Education was considered a privilege and skipping school or assignments was never an issue. Rude behavior? We would not have dared. What is the Finnish student's attitude toward education?

Pasi Sahlberg criticized “teaching to the test” and he is right. However, one of the first questions our students ask is: “Will it be on the test?” [“Finland’s top schools story: Less testing, more trusting,” NWWednesday, Nov. 14].

I do not think that we can adapt to the Finnish system, but we should consider some elements that could work here. Finland is a highly homogeneous country and has a different tradition.

Do Finnish schools mainstream, for instance? Can Finnish teachers teach outside their endorsements? Do Finnish schools allow for equivalencies (credit for classes not taken)? Do Finnish schools provide several tracks (as the German system does)? How do Finnish schools deal with disruptive students?

— James Behrend, Bainbridge Island

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