Main menu

Challenges and tendencies - Austria

At present alternative assessment forms can only be implemented by means of pilot projects.  An exception is made for children with severe disabilities, which are referred to as children with a higher level of educational needs in the syllabus. These children are assessed via a description of their developmental progress.

The number of pilot projects concerning alternative assessment differs from province to province. However, in some regions the number of these pilot projects by far exceeds the limit of 2.7%, which is prescribed by the law.

In the following, alternative forms of assessment are described, which are predominantly applied in Austrian primary schools: 

Grade report conversations, during which the teacher discusses with the parents the strengths and deficiencies of the child. Together, further goals can be defined.

Verbal assessment, during which an analysis of strengths and deficiencies is also put down in writing. Furthermore, aspects of social learning, working styles and individual progress are registered.

Catalogues of attainment targets, which enlist relatively well arranged attainment targets, whose accomplishment can be visualised by ticking them off.

Direct presentation of achievements, also called portfolios, are compilations of the pupils' works, which document their learning progress and their dealing with the subjects. The works are selected jointly by children and teachers and are presented by the pupils. They form a tool for developing a notion of self-assessment and assessment by others, for developing a feedback culture within their class and are the basis for Individual Education Plans, school development conferences, etc. 

Furthermore, mixed forms of the assessment possibilities mentioned above are applied. In addition to alternative evaluation the children will be graded with figures if the parents require that.

Standards and national surveys

The movement towards autonomy in Austria on the educational sector has entailed an enhancement of self-responsibility of teachers, teams of teachers and schools, as far as the methodical and didactical work is concerned. In addition, international comparisons of the developments on a regional, national and European level (cf. PISA, TIMSS or DESI) have required a complementary strategy for educational planning and school related developments (...)

Educational standards are supposed to indicate to which extent schools comply with the teaching of competences which are generally considered to be necessary. These standards have the aim to give way to autonomy and enhance responsibility by setting a framework of references. Currently, the development of national standards is in a pilot phase. About 140 selected schools are participating. 

'Standards should provide clear goals for school education and therefore are supposed to provide orientation. The standard assessment (test) which should be carried out at the interfaces of Year 4 and Year 8 is meant to assess the achieved standard of performance of a child. Educational standards set a normative expectation towards which the respective school should concentrate its efforts. They influence instruction indirectly by setting a pedagogic framework of orientation and by taking into account the learning results. In Austria, educational standards are not designed as an instrument for quality ranking. They should be applied as a means for self-assessment and orientation of schools and teachers'. (Lucyshyn, Josef: Implementation von Bildungsstandards in Österreich. Arbeitsbericht. Bmbwk/ Bundesinstitut für Bildungsforschung, Innovation und Entwicklung des Bildungswesens. Salzburg 2006) . 

Educational standards do not replace assessment and grading since they only cover parts of the syllabus.

Process standards for children with SEN

Although one of the major goals of special needs provision is the support provided for learning and achievements it is not really useful to set general binding norms which state at what time, especially pupils with learning difficulties and mental disabilities of a certain age, should display certain abilities or must achieve previously set (performance) goals. It would however be a severe error to derive the conclusion out of this that special needs education could generally cope without standards and thus without a set of important quality assessment measures. Instead of the formulation of result oriented standards it seems to be more useful to provide more precise structural and processing standards of special needs provision at school, that is, to define more precisely and binding how school and education should be designed to give pupils the optimal support for the development of their individual skills and situations and to achieve successful social inclusion.

The role of the school supervising authority / monitoring

Taking into account the federal structure of the Austrian school system, the regulations of school organisation are defined by the provinces, it is the school administration's task to divide the resources provided by the federal or provincial government among the inspection districts. The allocation of teaching lessons to the individual schools is carried out by the respective districts. The district quota (for school start and SEN lessons) are administered by the inspectors and are allocated to the respective class or school according to their requirements (also the school management and the respective heads of Special Education Centres are involved for the allocation of lessons to their own schools).

Provincial regulations also set up the maximum numbers of pupils for inclusive classes, which vary according to the number of inclusive pupils or according to the severity of the disability. Also a statement of the school supervising authority is required. Partly the reduction of the maximum numbers of pupils in a class entails a class parting from which all pupils will benefit.

In case of especially difficult situations in a class the school supervising authority has a portfolio of lessons at its disposal to be able to intervene supportively.

In the course of school and class visitations the school supervising authority reviews, discusses and partly evaluates the education plans of the children with SEN.

After primary school all children with a SEN have to be assessed by the school supervising authority to find out if they still present a SEN or if it can be lifted.

In those districts which have no special schools the administration of the Special Education Centres is formally passed on to the District School Boards. This requires an additional inclusion of the school supervising authority for all issues concerning special needs education. For the accomplishment of all these tasks the representatives of the respective Special Education Centres are involved.

School partnership  "The parents" role and their satisfaction with the results

Although the discussion about the usefulness of figure grades has been going on for years especially in the field of primary school we can say that parents are generally satisfied with the traditional figure-grade assessment of their children. If alternative forms of assessment are provided in the framework of pilot projects the parents are also satisfied if they are well informed and are able to cope with the new assessment strategies (cf. Kahlhammer, Jelle: Die direkte Leistungsvorlage im Blickpunkt der Eltern, Salzburg 1996.

http://land.salzburg.at/landesschulrat/service/indexser.htm

The effects of standardised national tests in mainstream schools on the parents' satisfaction can not be estimated at present state since this project is still in a pilot stage. The interest of the media in national publications on pupils' achievements is high and the general public is discussing on most diverse levels the relevance of such assessments for the field of education.

For special needs education the co-operation with the parents plays a vital role. Regular discussions and meetings with the parents and agreements with the legal custodians present a necessary precondition for the development of the IEP and the regular adaptation of the educational goals.

"Integration Austria" (I:Ö), an association which supports parents in terms of issues of school integration, has detected some changes concerning requests for information and counselling since the introduction of integration. More than ten years ago parents rather wanted to claim their rights to an integrative schooling of their children.

At present concerned parents are increasingly seeking advice for issues of syllabuses concerning e.g. the placement to a syllabus of another school type (special school) for children with increased educational needs. These parents fear that their children would receive less opportunities for development if the goals of the syllabuses were set lower or/and if their children were instructed in a different environment.

On the whole the awareness of their rights (parents of children with SEN) has increased. Emancipated parents are questioning more things than in earlier times and want to be involved in all decisions. In Austria parents hardly ever raise objections against decisions regarding SEN. The reasons for that could be that parents have hardly any alternatives or simply that the counselling is excellent.

Unfortunately, I:Ö still receives complaints about not objective counselling from Special Education Centres. Since the reduction of resources the Special Education Centres have sometimes appealed to the parents' "good parenthood" to let their children be instructed in special schools. The quantity of inclusive lessons provided by the authorities is simply not sufficient to instruct children with SEN adequately.

In fact parents have a hard time deciding in favour of inclusion if the necessary conditions cannot be provided.

Sources: 

  • Lucyshyn, Josef: Implementation von Bildungsstandards in Österreich. Arbeitsbericht. Bmbwk/ Bundesinstitut für Bildungsforschung, Innovation und Entwicklung des Bildungswesens. Salzburg 2006 Implementation of educational standards in Austria. Work report. Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture/ Federal Institute for Educational Research, Innovation and Development of the Educational System
  • Kahlhammer, Jelle Die direkte Leistungsvorlage im Blickpunkt der Eltern, Salzburg 1996: Direct assessment policies in the eye of the parents
  • LinkedIn
  • Google +