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Adding Up Finnish Special Education

By: Marti Richmond

“We are 52 different learners” equals one take away.  A fifth grade comprised of four teachers – one special education, one classroom aide, 48 students- twelve who are special education equals according to one of the fifth grade teachers, 52 different learners. Although the teacher who summed up his classroom as 52 different learners represents one class in one Finnish School, the comment and model represents a model for aspiration for special education.

In many ways the Finnish special education model differs little from the United States: Recent  legislation guarantees special education services, many children are tested by psychologists,  a welfare committee works on generating interventions,  schools receive additional funding for special needs students, some students with more significant disabilities may be served in special classes not offered at a neighborhood school,  students may receive accommodations such as extended time on the few standardized tests administered in the country, and students receive ” personalized” learning plans that are reviewed every two years.  But, the classroom where the regular education and special education teachers work side by side and one of the special education teacher says, “you learn something every day when you are a team and you think of all the students in the class as ‘our’ students.”

Teachers are empowered to identify students and write personalized learning plans without needing a psychologist’s evaluation seem to exemplify what I have come to admire the most in my observations this week, the spirit of collaboration among teachers and the Finnish culture of trust.

1 Comment

  1. Marti, I am taking back the Finnish lesson that we heard again and again–equity in education for all of OUR children. Thank you for capturing this important value so clearly in this post.

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