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Features of best assessment practice - Austria

Education experts dealing with assessment think that figure grades should be abandoned because alternative forms of assessment can provide sufficient and useful means for the evaluation of the children’s developmental status and the progress they are making. Thus the pupils and their parents receive transparent feedback. The diagnosis which is carried out before the comprehensive description of the current developmental status is a vital basis for further support and further education. However, in contrast to this approach the figure grading also has its function, because it still is the only criterion by which it is decided whether or not pupils can continue school after they have accomplished compulsory education. A change of attitude towards figure grading is not in sight; in fact it is still supported by the vast majority of parents.

The attitude of “learning for the exam”, which especially includes the opinion that school and education quality is linked to a “measurable” output, should be discarded, this is the main point of all these considerations. If we do not include all the pupils with SEN in the current school assessment programmes (such as PISA) then special needs education will not challenge the efficiency of its own measures.

It seems evident that a system which allocates resources to special purposes increases the benefits of the respective schools. Only if the school dedicates itself to the detection and monitoring of deficiencies will it receive additional resources for provisions. However, this system reaches its own limits and results in confusion in the educational work when the general conditions are changing, e.g. when resources are cut.

The multi-channel school system (after Year 4) reduces assessment at school already at quite an early stage to the mere description of the qualifications for the pupil’s further school career. Due to this pressure the attitude described above is even intensified.

With the establishment of Special Education Centres Austria has surely improved the quality of care, support and consulting services concerning provisions and support for pupils with special educational needs. For this, two different approaches have been used. Special schools have been converted into Special Education Centres and have received additional tasks.

At places without an appropriate special school the District School Board formally performs the agendas of a Special Education Centre. In addition the District School Board entrusts a teacher with the corresponding tasks of the Special Education Centre. It is quite evident that there is a difference in terms of quality between these two systems. The special schools are constantly confronted with a dilemma because they are short of those children who are in inclusive classes. It is hardly possible to deny that this has an impact on the quality of parent counselling and optimal support.

This is why e.g. Carinthia has started a new strategy and decoupled the Special Education Centres’ management from the special schools. The special schools continue to exist, however, the administration of special needs care is carried out by the heads of Special Education Centres, who are subordinate to the District School Board and co-operate closely with it.

For the future development of the Special Education Centres the organisational issue will play an important role and will provide further challenges for the regional education management.

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