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Assessment in inclusive classrooms - Denmark

Copenhagen is the largest municipality in Denmark. As in the rest of the country, the number of children with Asperger’s syndrome has also increased significantly. These children have normally been placed in special schools (as it is prescribed in section 2 of the Act on the Folkeskole), which is the most segregated type of school in Denmark. In 1989, Copenhagen had 20 pupils with Asperger’s syndrome, but in 2002 there were already 97 pupils registered with Asperger’s. 68 pupils with ADHD were registered in 1989 in Copenhagen, and in 2005 the figure is 74, plus approx. 30 pupils who have been diagnosed with ADHD, but who are able to manage in the Folkeskole with some support lessons. The municipality of Copenhagen has established two competence centres where teachers in the Folkeskole can seek advice and support for their daily work with children with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD.

The centres are closely connected to the two special schools that exist in Copenhagen for these children. They have courses for teachers in the Folkeskole and these centres arrange for special teachers to visit teachers in mainstream schools in order to help them elaborate individual education plans (IEP’s), or to develop new pedagogical methods and materials. The results so far show a wish to keep these children in mainstream settings and to improve capabilities in supporting their special educational needs.

The working procedures are as follows:

Support for inattentive children is initiated in co-operation between the class teacher, the local educational-psychological advisory service and teachers from the competence centre. The Act on the Folkeskole prescribes that permanent special education can be initiated only on the basis of an educational-psychological assessment and therefore all municipalities in Denmark have a local Educational-Psychological Advisory Service Centre, called PPR. Support is normally initiated for an individual child with inattentive behaviour. A teacher from the competence centre will contact the class teacher (or team of teachers) and together they will elaborate a written contract that will define the measures to be taken, and when, where and how to take them. Furthermore, it is decided who will take care of the tasks and a time table will be set up. Follow-up and assessment measures will also be decided. Part of the work will be to observe the pupil, the teacher and the class. The observations will provide the basis for advice and guidance from the competence centre to the pupil’s teachers. Assessment of these measures will take place in co-operation between the competence centre, the class teachers and the local school psychologist by comparing the goals in the contract, with what has been achieved in reality, to see if these goals have been reached. This method is similar to the formative assessment method, as educational changes are evaluated on the basis of pupils’ assessments.

Furthermore, the contractual measures are assessed on their effect in relation to:

  • the individual child
  • the options and conditions available for the teacher to teach the inattentive child
  • the other children in class 

Thus, assessment is based on what is written in the contract and on the class teacher’s feed-back to the competence centre. There is no intention to control the work of the teacher, but only to support his or her further work with the inattentive child. For instance, follow-up measures could be agreed upon, such as new observations or further advice and guidance for educational measures to be taken in order to overcome inattentive behaviour. A baseline assessment will decide whether or not the child is to be referred to special support. For instance, the competence centre may have found some problems that have been hidden so far, e.g. troubles at home.

Normally, contact between school and home is taken care of by the class teacher, but in a case where there are severe social difficulties at home, the social authorities will be contacted. The child could also suffer from organic difficulties that are very hard to overcome within a mainstream school environment. A traditional assessment method will be applied, in order to evaluate the results of the measures taken, compared to the goals set out in the contract. This will take place as an oral assessment, in the form of meetings between the teachers of the class and those of the competence centre. The competence centre works for inclusion, and so far teachers have stated that guidance and counselling from the centre have increased their possibilities to include inattentive children in their classroom. (The 2003/2004 evaluation report from the competence centre at Charlottegaarden School, the school in Copenhagen for children with ADHD is available (unfortunately only in Danish) at:  www.netpublikationer.dk/kk/5873).

The competence centre receives an increasing number of inquiries from mainstream schools within the municipality of Copenhagen. This could indicate an efficient method to develop a more inclusive school; on the other hand it could also be a sign of an increased lack of knowledge of special education amongst Danish teachers. The tendencies are still too new to make any final conclusions.

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