Recommendations to Improve the Quality of Education and Teaching in Berlin

October 7th, 2020

Quality Commission presents final report on school quality in Berlin

Sandra Scheeres, Senator for Education, Youth and Family Affairs of the State of Berlin, and Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, Managing Scientific Director of the IPN and head of the Commission on School Quality in Berlin appointed by Ms. Scheeres, published the Commission's final report this morning in Berlin.

The quality commission, consisting of a scientific expert commission and a practice commission of relevant participants in the field of education, developed scientifically based recommendations on how teaching and learning processes at the various stages of education from daycare to teacher training in Berlin can be designed in such a way that successful professional and social learning takes place while reducing social inequalities in the education system. The recommendations focus on the fostering of language and mathematical skills.

The quality commission identified six areas of activity:

1. early education

2. fostering linguistic and mathematical skills in the classroom (primary and secondary school)

3. developing and ensuring the quality of teaching

4. performance review and evaluation

5. quality assurance for the transition to secondary level II

6. professionalization: phases of teacher training, lateral entry

According to Köller, under whose leadership the quality commission worked, the Berlin students performed relatively poorly in country comparisons and comparative work for years. "Our primary concern was to provide concrete recommendations on how to improve the learning processes of the students in the core subjects, how to reduce social and cultural disparities in performance in the long term, how to better prepare young adults in the lower secondary level for an apprenticeship or for the upper secondary level, and what support the schools can receive from other contributors, such as the school supervisory authorities or a state institute".

The most important recommendations of the Quality Commission for Berlin in brief:

Early education

- Strengthening the structural quality of early childhood educational institutions through an improved teacher-child formula for children under three years of age and binding guidelines which include preparation and follow-up activities in teachers' working hours.

- Mandatory fostering of school-related skills (especially language and mathematical skills) using improved diagnostics of developmental status; establishment of functional units for diagnostics and fostering.

- Focusing on quality development at facilities in particularly burdened regions.

- Improving the initial, continuing and further training of staff.

Fostering language and mathematical skills in the classroom (primary and secondary school)

- Establishment of an overall strategy on the management level for a central common goal: Reduction of the proportion of the so-called risk group, i.e. students who do not meet minimum language and mathematical standards, by at least 5 percentage points in the next 5 years.

 - Mandatory introduction of research-based concepts to foster linguistic and mathematical skills (e.g. reading and writing fluency, mathematical comprehension); mandatory fostering of students who have been diagnosed with a need for such measures.

- Obligatory support for schools and coherent, science-based, needs-based further training of teachers, focusing all measures on the central objective (German and mathematics) and the most affected schools with many students in need of support (elimination of scattergun approach).

- Significant expansion of specialized training and support systems for teachers of German and mathematics in a coherent organizational structure instead of segmentation.

Development and assurance of teaching quality

- Systematic integration of individual measures of lesson development by establishing a Berlin state institute responsible for the training of prospective teachers, the qualification and placement of school counselors and professional teaching coaches, further education and training, and the development, provision and implementation of materials for school and lesson development.

- Focusing resources on developing quality in subject instruction by reorganizing the school inspection to include external evaluation on specific occasions, with an emphasis on assessing the quality of subject-related teaching and by shifting resources from general school counseling to subject-related support systems.

- Provision and processing of relevant data for data-based quality development of schools and teaching by further developing the indicator model under the leadership of the Institute for School Quality and involving external experts. In addition: systematic linking of the indicator model with school contracts.

Performance review and evaluation

- Continued study of learning outcomes and reference work; yet ongoing examination of the quality of the instruments by the Institute for School Quality (ISQ) and additional provision of interpretation aids and learning materials.

- Maintain the number of class examinations; eliminate the regulation whereby the number of class examinations in the core subjects can be reduced in grades 8 to 10.

- Discontinuation of the compulsory central MSA final examinations at grammar schools, as the results do not differentiate enough; instead, voluntary participation of grammar schools in the MSA final examinations.

Quality assurance for the transition to secondary level II

- Avoidance of “out-of-field” teaching in grades 9 and 10 in all school types leading to university entrance qualifications..

- Scrutiny of the transitional arrangements at ISS and comprehensive schools, where it is possible to transfer to the upper secondary school with a failing grade in one of the core subjects.

- Compulsory learning level assessments at the beginning of the introductory phase of the upper secondary school (11th grade in ISS and community schools).

Professionalization: phases of teacher training, lateral entry

- Consistent orientation of the teacher training as a whole to the professionalization needs of future teachers.

- Greater consideration of the teaching methodology and subject requirements of non-secondary school types in the teacher training programs for German and mathematics.

- Greater emphasis on diagnostic and fostering skills in teacher training courses in German and mathematics.

- Close coordination of the contents of the first and second phase, which goes far beyond the activities of the Cooperation Council and the Expert Advisory Committee.

- Joint development and implementation of a framework concept designed to enable the universities and the second phase participants to acquire pedagogical and didactic expertise in teaching.

- Improvement of the training of career changers in subject, subject related teaching and/or educational sciences by creating a structure that guarantees close coordination with the universities regarding the design of curricula and the recruitment of lecturers.