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Assessment practice: introduction - Austria

Since 1993 parents have had the right to send their children with SEN either to a special school or a primary school. These legal changes affecting the inclusion of children and adolescents with SEN have drastically changed the work with Special Needs Education and the implied diagnosis procedures.

The increased involvement of all parties, the co-operation with extra-scholar institutions and the efforts towards the best possible schooling with sufficient provisions can generally be seen in a very positive light.

However, we have not (yet) succeeded in changing the general conditions of primary school and the procedures for the allocation of resources (Issuing of a Special Educational Need) in a way which would enable us to fully implement approaches of integrative education.

Teachers and integration experts have detected massive demand for changes in the following areas:

  • The system of evaluation is severely in conflict with the demand for an inclusive school where each child is regarded as an individual and shall receive development oriented support and evaluation. Alternative forms of evaluation are described in this report.
  • The approach of deficit diagnosis to allocate resources (Issuing of a Special Educational Need) hardly influences educational work. The initial diagnosis should rather offer valuable support for didactics and methodology, promote preventive measures and serve as a basis for the ongoing evaluation of the child. The application of Individual Education Plans is a start in this direction. However, ongoing evaluation requires more than just the evaluation and assessment of children's achievements.
  • In order to obtain sufficient resources (teacher appointments) for inclusion it is necessary to document the deficiencies of the child (deficit diagnosis) and to put them down in a decision. However, this procedure is very time consuming and expensive and requires funds which could already be used for the prevention of learning difficulties. Due to the Austrian legal bases the (stigmatising) allocation of SEN currently is one of the most efficient ways to obtain additional lesson resources. It is, however, very likely that thereby the number of children with SEN is increasing, as current data tell us.
  • During teacher training and especially in further training manifold programmes dealing with the Individual Education Plan, individual differentiation and teaching methods and diagnostics for the subjects mathematics, reading and writing, basal stimulation and the diagnosis at school start are offered. It would also be desirable to offer more possibilities of assistance and support for teachers in service to promote the application of existing programmes.
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