How to make a good school even better an improvement of the standards in the 1. Danish public school

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1 How to make a good school even better an improvement of the standards in the 1 Danish public school December 2012

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3 How to make a good school even better an improvement of the standards in the 1 Danish public school 1 Public school here comprises municipal primary and lower secondary education (Danish: Folkeskole).

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5 5 Contents An even better public school vision and challenges An overall improvement of the public school An integrated and active school day Improved professional development and integration of knowledge of good teaching Clear objectives for the development of the public school and increased local independence A collective task

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7 7 An even better public school vision and challenges Denmark has a good public school system for primary and lower secondary education. We must, however, continuously develop and raise the standards in the public school in order to further improve it. It is the government s ambition to ensure that our children become the best educated generation in the history of Denmark. All children in the public school must benefit from good teaching that enables the optimal development of the individual child s opportunities and academic potential. And the public school must lay the educational foundation for 95 percent of all young people being qualified to complete upper secondary education. Therefore, Denmark needs to improve the quality of the public school in order for all children to increase their competence levels. By nature children are enthusiastic learners who are naturally curious about life. This we must encourage throughout their years of schooling. Vision for an even better public school It is the government s vision to have a public school that challenges all children to reach their full potential. A public school that provides children with the best academic qualifications possible, and which gives them the best background for completing secondary education and do well in life. The outcome of the teaching should not depend on where you live or who your parents are. The public school must also encourage the development of the children s personal and social competences, and it must teach them to become dedicated citizens in an active democracy. It should be exciting to go to school. The public school must be a school adapted to modern children, a school that makes them thrive and enjoy learning. The teachers must be offered training and further education to become highly qualified in the subjects they teach, and they must always apply the most recognized teaching methods. As a profession, teachers should enjoy respect and trust. All children enjoy learning and teachers enjoy teaching. This is our approach to developing the public school. The foundation for learning is laid already in the first years of childhood. The day care facilities must stimulate children s natural desire to learn and by encouraging playing and learning activities a smooth transition to the public school should be made. Challenges: The children do not learn sufficiently in school We can be proud of our public school. For nearly 200 years it has been an important driver in the development of the Danish society. But the Danish public school is also facing significant challenges: Many students do not benefit sufficiently from their schooling. The vast majority of children do well in school. They can, however, improve even further. And it is necessary that they do. Society in general, the labour market and the globalising world continuously demand more from all of us. Many children face problems in the public school. Nearly one student in six leaves school without having acquired The main academic challenges of the public school Too many students are poor readers: 15 per cent of students leaving compulsory education have not obtained reading literacy. Few students are good readers: Only 5 per cent are assessed to qualify as strong readers Many students have Maths problems: 17 per cent of the students are assessed not to have functional Maths competences. Many students have limited natural science skills: 17 per cent of the students are assessed not to have functional competences in natural science. Many teachers find it difficult to approach individualized learning that takes differences in the academic levels of students into account. Source OECD (2010): PISA 2009 Results: What Students Know and Can Do: Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science (vol.i), EVA (2011): Individualized learning as a leading pedagogical principle.

8 8 sufficient reading skills. One student in six has not obtained the most basic skills in Maths. This means that in every single class an average of three to four students end up not acquiring the qualifications needed when leaving the public school. And children whose parents have little education perform poorly compared to children of parents with further and higher education. It is far from being satisfactory that so many children and young people lack skills in basic subjects like Danish and Maths. This lack becomes a barrier for acquiring skills in other school subjects. It becomes a barrier for completing an upper secondary education. And it becomes a barrier for dealing with the many diverse aspects of life in the work place and everyday life in general. There are children who acquire new knowledge very fast. They must also be challenged in the public school in order for them to reach their full potential. Today this does not happen to a sufficient extent. Doing well is contagious and challenging the academically gifted students to excel will benefit all students. In its current form, the public school sees other challenges too. It is hard to keep the children motivated and interested throughout their entire schooling. In many classrooms noise and distraction disturb the teaching. These are problems that may influence the children s well-being in school as well as their academic results. Therefore, it is crucial to the government that the public school will see an improvement. It should, however, be an improvement based on the areas where the public school performs well, like in preparing students for life as modern citizens who participate in democratic processes. Areas where the Danish public school performs well Denmark is in the top end of an international review that examines how school systems and schools and teachers throughout the world prepare students for their future lives as citizens. Danish students are good at understanding and participating in democratic processes. Both students and teachers experience a good debating culture and a good social climate in the school. In an international review Denmark lies in the top end when it comes to facilitating a debate culture. Teachers generally earn a high degree of trust from parents. Teachers belong to one of the professions with the highest degree of credibility. Source The Department of Education (2010): ICC 2009, Main international results, Gallup/Local Government Denmark (2007): Results from Gallup survey conducted for Local Government Denmark in 2007, Radius/Epinion (2012): Credibility survey 2012

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11 11 An overall improvement of the public school In the past ten years the public school has taken several steps in the right direction. A number of changes to The Public School Act have been made. Focus on teaching the youngest students has been increased, and the positive effect has been prompt. However, in order for our children to become the best educated generation in the history of Denmark, a significant and all-round improvement of the public school is needed. It should be an improvement where we do things in a new and better way rather than just do more of the same thing. And after such a reform the public school should be left in peace to implement the new initiatives and make them work without continuously being forced to introduce new and extensive rules and regulations. Only by improving the standards of the public school can we ensure that all children acquire the most basic academic skills and that all children reach their full potential to an even higher degree. Many people contribute to the development of the public school. Teachers make a valuable contribution through their high professional qualifications and enthusiasm. They are at the very centre of developing a better public school. Many parents take an active part and interest in their children s education and contribute enthusiastically to school related activities. The local governments are very focused on the quality standards of the schools in their municipalities. And Parliament has agreed on a reform that will raise Three clear objectives for the development of the Public school The Public school must challenge all students to reach their full potential The Public school must lower the significance of social background on academic results Trust in the school and student well-being must be enhanced through respect for professional knowledge and practice in the public school. the academic levels of the teacher education programs and make them more attractive. An overall quality improvement of the public school requires contributions from all stakeholders: Students, parents, teachers, other pedagogical staff, principals, local governments and Parliament. Only joint responsibility and ownership will create the desired results. It is the government s wish to establish an on-going dialogue with relevant parties related to the public school. This is to ensure that all stakeholders take part in the development of the public school. All children must improve their academic qualifications It is the intention of the government to raise the quality standards of the public school for the benefit of all children: The children who do well, but who can further improve; the children who have a hard time in school and who do not now obtain sufficient skills to complete upper secondary education. And the children who perform very well and who need extra challenges. The academic skills of young people improve year by year in the world around us. And Danish society also has increasingly high expectations regarding education of good quality. The public school must match developments in the world around us and in Denmark. And it must do more than that. The modern public school must prepare our children and young people for the demands of the world of tomorrow.

12 12 An overall improvement The government will improve the quality of the public school through a number of different initiatives: An academic quality improvement and a more exciting and active school day for the children The children must spend more time together with their teachers and they must receive more and better quality teaching in Danish, Maths and other subjects. The children should experience a school with an inspirational atmosphere where they as something new participate in interesting activity lessons together with their teachers and other pedagogical staff. The activity lessons serve the purpose of furthering the academic disciplines as well as encouraging play, exercise and homework assistance. The children must experience an integrated and active school day which means a 30 hour week from pre-school to form level 3, a 35 hour week for form levels 4 to 6 and a 37 hour week for form levels 7 to 9. An overall improvement of the public school more and better quality teaching The government wants to improve the academic standards of the public school through more and better quality teaching. More teaching means more lessons in Danish, Maths, English, Practical/creative subjects, Natural sciences/technology and electives. Modern, better quality teaching means: Introducing new activity lessons that support and supplement the teaching and add variation and excitement to the school day Development of new teaching methods and tools Improved local possibilities for co-teaching Increased use of IT and digital learning Enhanced professional development should be made available to teachers and other pedagogical staff in the Public school Increased focus on leadership and professional development initiatives for school principals More research projects in pedagogy and teaching methods should be made available to teachers and school principals A new team of educational consultants who should advise the municipalities and the schools on quality development Clear objectives for the development of the public school Simplification of rules and regulations to allow increased independence for municipalities and schools Locally, it should be possible to practice co-teaching in the lower form levels and in classes with special needs. This will enable closer contact between children and adults. Professional development for teachers, other pedagogical staff and school principals Teachers, other pedagogical staff and school principals must significantly improve and strengthen their professional development. Teachers must be even better qualified than is the case today. It is the government s objective that by 2020 all students in the public school should be taught by teachers who have main subject qualifications (part of teacher education programme, equivalent of approx. 50 ECTS points) in all the subjects they teach, or who have obtained equivalent qualifications from continuing teaching education. The objective of obtaining full main subject qualification standards must be included in the Danish Public School Act. The government will allocate DKK 1000 million for the years 2014 to 2020 to improve the professional levels of teachers and other pedagogical staff in the public school. The teachers must have improved access to information regarding which teaching methods that have proven most efficient, in order for them to provide modern, high quality teaching. Clear objectives and increased local influence Everyone teachers and other pedagogical staff, students, school principals, local governments etc. must work in accordance with clear national objectives for the Public school. This is to ensure that all parties pull in the same direction and jointly contribute to the development of the Public school year by year. The municipalities and the schools must be allowed to independently plan the daily teaching and the activities in the schools.

13 Main elements in the government s proposal for an overall improvement of the public school An integrated and active school day with more time for improved teaching and activities The children must experience integrated and active schooling. This means a 30 hour week for pre-school class to form level 3, a 35 hour week for form levels 4 to 6 and a 37 hour week for form levels 7 to 9. More classes and improved quality teaching in Danish and Maths. Activity lessons with teachers and other pedagogical staff should add variety and excitement to the school day. The activity lessons must support the academic curriculum as well as allow time for play, exercise and homework assistance. All children must do some kind of exercise every day. Improved local possibilities for co-teaching in the lower form levels and in classes with special needs. Better quality teaching in subjects other than Danish and Maths English from form level 1. More classes and improved teaching in Practical/creative subjects and Natural sciences/technology subjects. Electives from form level 7. Other improvements of quality and the social school climate Increased use of IT and digital learning Involvement of students and parents and increased focus on thriving students and the social school climate. Increased focus on transition to upper secondary education in the final years of compulsory schooling. Inclusion a public school with room for everyone. Improved professional development and integration of knowledge of good teaching Professional development possibilities should be made available to teachers and other pedagogical staff. It is the government s objective that by 2020 all students in the public school should be taught by teachers who have main subject qualifications in all the subjects they teach. The government plans to allocate DKK 1000 million for the years 2014 to 2020 to raise the professional standards of teachers and other pedagogical staff in the public school. Improved career paths for teachers. Governmental allocation of DKK 60 million from for professional development of leaders in the public school. Enhanced research in the fields of pedagogy and teaching methods to be made available to teachers and leaders. Team of educational consultants to support the focus on quality in the public school. New school council for child learning. Clear objectives for the development of the public school and increased local independence Three clear national objectives for the development of the public school. Simplification of rules and regulations to allow increased independence for municipalities and schools. 13

14 14 Integrated and active school days that improve the quality of the school Increasingly integrated school days mean that schooling from pre-school class to the end of form level 9 will result in longer school days allowing more classes and improved quality teaching. And new activity lessons to ensure exciting and varied school days. The extended school day should be seen in the light of children spending shorter hours in after school clubs or leisure-time care facilities at school. This is one of the cornerstones in the improvement of the public school: By transferring time and activities from after school clubs and leisure-time care facilities to actual schooling, the children will experience an increasingly integrated and exciting school day. In this way we achieve several positive things in one go: The children will experience a school where they get more lessons and new activity lessons. The activity lessons serve the purpose of supporting and supplementing the teaching by providing activities that facilitate academic achievement. They could be practical projects based on academic themes; they could be practice, play-and learn activities and homework assistance. Such a combination of teaching and related activities will further the children s academic development. During their school day the children will have more time for physical exercise. Apart from boosting the children s health and their physical development, it will facilitate learning and contribute to increased concentration and less noise in class. The children will get more time to work with group projects and themes that may further their general social and personal development. And the children will enhance their cooperative and social skills for their own future benefit. An integrated school day with combined teaching and activity lessons will mean that the school day becomes varied and exciting. This may increase the number of thriving children and it will further their motivation to learn. In addition to this, children who do not already utilize the leisure-time care facilities at school will also be part of the new activity lessons in school. This will result in a higher degree of inclusion of e.g. children from a non-danish ethnical background. At the end of the school day there will still be plenty of time for leisure and sports activities. From pre-school classes up to form level 3, the school day will typically end at 2 pm. For children in form levels 4 to 6 it will end at 3 pm. And for the oldest children the school day will end around 3.30 pm.

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16 An integrated school day for Jasmin in form level 1 An example Jasmin is a student in form level 1. When she wakes up on Monday morning, she is excited about going to school. This Monday it is her turn to tell about what she has experienced during the weekend. Every Monday morning all form level 1 students gather for the first half hour of school. They sing and they take it in turns to tell about their experiences. After morning assembly Jasmin has a Maths class where the focus is on addition. Jasmin s teacher is good at making learning fun. Today they have a lot of multi-coloured bricks which they use to practice sums. Before lunch Jasmin has a Danish class. At the moment friendship is the overall theme in both Danish and English classes and in form time (klassens tid). In the Danish lesson the students are going to write down words and sentences which they think illustrate what is means to be a good friend. They begin by working together on identifying certain words that the teacher can copy onto the interactive board in the classroom. The teacher then saves all the words on the computer in order for the students to be able to access them on their computers at home. Afterwards they have to practice writing full sentences. The students have a long lunch break with plenty of time to eat their lunch and to play outside. The older students organise different games in the school yard (Legepatrulje). All children must choose a game where they exercise. Jasmin chooses Kongeløber (a tag and chase school yard game) together with some of the other girls from her class. After lunch the Danish lesson continues and Jasmin becomes part of a group that has to work together on a small play to illustrate three different words about friendship. Before Jasmin s school day is over, she has an activity class where all students from the lower form levels are divided into groups that engage in different activities. In the beginning of form level 1 Jasmin had some challenges combining letters and sounds. Therefore, she attends an activity class every Monday with other students facing similar reading challenges. In this way, she can improve her reading skills without missing out on the Danish classes. She also thinks that it is nice to get to know some of the other students better. Jasmin s parents can already tell that she is making progress when they read with her in the evenings.

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19 19 An integrated and active school day with more time for improved quality teaching and activities The teachers bring inspiration to the school and make the children want to learn. Therefore, teachers and students must spend more time together at school. The students must experience an integrated and active school day filled with exciting activities that enhance the quality of the teaching and bring life to the class room. Integrated and active school days with more time for improved quality teaching and activities 1. More lessons and improved quality teaching in Danish and Maths. 2. Activity lessons with teachers and other pedagogical staff should add variety and excitement to the school day. The activity lessons must support the academic curriculum as well as allow time for play, exercise and homework assistance. Every child must do some kind of exercise every day 3. Improved local possibilities for co-teaching in the lower form levels and in classes with special needs. 4. Better quality teaching in subjects other than that Danish and Maths English from form level 1. More lessons and improved quality in Practical/ creative subjects and Natural sciences/technology subjects. Electives from form level O ther improvements of quality and the social school climate Increased use of it and digital learning. Involvement of students and parents and increased focus on thriving students and the social climate. Increased focus on transition to upper secondary education in the final years of compulsory schooling. Inclusion a Public school with room for everyone. It is a matter of more time as well as better quality. It is a new way of organising schooling. The government suggests that children get an integrated and active school day with more lessons, improved quality teaching and more time for different activities. In this way the students will experience an active and modern school day. The government suggests that a typical school week should consist of 30 hours for pre-school class to form level to 3 35 hours for form levels hours for form levels 7-9. This is equivalent of an average school day of 6, 7 and 7.4 hours respectively (including breaks). The integrated school day offers the possibility of having more lessons in Danish, Maths and other subjects too, which will lead to an improvement of the students academic skills. The government suggests that about one fifth of the extra time in school is spent on more teaching. This will mean an extra 800 lessons over the span of ten years of schooling compared to what is the case today. The suggestion enables schools to increase the number of lessons from form level 1 to 9 like this: 1 lesson per week in form levels 1 to 3 3 lessons per week in form levels 4 to 6 4 lessons per week in form level 7 2 lessons per week in form levels 8 to 9. Today most schools have organised the working year to be 200 school days. This is not going to be changed. The extra hours are meant to strengthen the teaching quality in Danish and Maths in particular by allocating extra hours to these subjects. However, strengthening of the teaching quality in the Practical/creative subjects is also needed, as is also the case for Natural sciences/technology, English and electives.

20 20 A quality improvement of the Public school: More lessons and more time for activity Pre-school class (Børnehaveklasse) Form level 1 (1.klasse) etc. Current, recommended number of lessons Activity lessons Pre-school Form level 1 Form level 2 Form level 3 Form level 4 Form level 5 Form level 6 Form level 7 Form level 8 Form level 9 0 Note The figure shows the number of lessons in the integrated school day inclusive breaks. The total number of lessons in the chart is based on the current, recommended number of lessons, extra lessons and the new activity lessons. A quality improvement of the Public school: More lessons per school week for more education and more activities Pre- Form Form Form Form Form Form Form Form Form school level 1 level 2 level 3 level 4 level 5 level 6 level 7 level 8 level 9 Number of lessons* per week before improvement Number of lessons* per week after improvement Extra lessons of 60 minutter The extra time should be spent on Additional lessons of 45 minutes** Activity lesson of 45 minutes** *Lessons of 60 minutes calculated inclusive of breaks. The number of lessons per week is calculated based on the recommended number of lessons. ** The extra time for ordinary lessons and activity lessons is calculated as lessons of 45 minutes exclusive of breaks. 7.4

21 In order to renew the public school the government suggests that the majority of the extended, integrated school day is spent on activity lessons. Lessons that differ from the standard, academic lessons, but which supplement the 21 teaching through a number of exciting activities to further the students academic, personal and social competencies and their general well-being.

22 22 1. Improved teaching and more lessons in Danish and Maths Danish and Maths are the two basic subjects taught in the public school. They are the pre-requisite for students performing well in other subjects. And high competence levels in Danish and Maths are crucial for the students ability to later complete an upper secondary education and to do well in the labour market and society in general. More teaching in Danish and Maths In recent years the quality of the teaching in Danish and Maths has been strengthened in the lower form levels, partly due to more lessons being allocated. This has had a significant effect. Now the time has come for strengthening of the teaching in Danish and Maths in the remaining form levels in order to maintain and further develop the achieved results, and by making sure that all students improve. Progress in Danish and Maths in the lower form levels In recent years students in lower primary school have significantly improved their reading skills. Today students in form level 3 read as well as they used to do in form level 4. And their reading results are now much higher than the European average. Danish students in form level 4 are estimated to have improved their skills in Maths equivalent of an entire form level compared to form level 4 in This is the result of the international review TIMSS which is based on assessing the competence levels of form level 4 students in Maths and Natural science in 37 countries and regions. However, when looking into the Danish students academic level in form levels 4 to 6 and 7 to 9, we do not see a similarly positive development. All in all, the Danish students academic level in Danish and Maths when leaving the public school is about average compared to the other OECD countries. This has been the case for the past ten years. The Chairmanship of the School Council writes in its 2011 report that considering the fact that Danish students on average have better educated parents compared to students in the OECD countries in general, then the Danish students perform below the OECD average in reading and Maths. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen the efforts made regarding form levels 4 to 9. Source Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) As a consequence of this, the government suggests that all students in form levels 4-9 get: one extra Danish lesson per week to make a total of 7 lessons a week one extra Maths lesson per week to make a total of 5 lessons a week This means that 60 per cent of the extra time for classroom teaching will be allocated to these two basic subjects. Improved teaching in Danish and Maths Apart from increasing the number of lessons in Danish and Maths, the overall quality of the teaching must be strengthened. It is the government s objective that all children must be able to read, write and use basic arithmetic when they finish form level 2. This academic focus must be clear throughout their schooling. We therefore need more specific academic objectives for which skills, competences and methods the students must acquire in Danish and Maths at each form level. The teaching in Danish and Maths must be improved by offering professional development and qualification programmes to teachers. The objective is that teachers must have main subject qualifications in all the subjects they teach. Students must participate more actively in class. Many students need to get a feel of things, to actually touch things to learn and understand. To improve the quality of the lessons in Danish and Maths, the government plans to allocate resources for a three-year trial period to be spent on a project aimed at developing new teaching methods in Danish and Maths that challenge all children. One of the aims will be to integrate IT in the teaching to a higher degree than is the case today. And by letting the higher form levels use their Maths competences for solving practical tasks, such as private financial management. All for the purpose of making the subjects seem more relevant for the students. We need to develop new tools for mapping student qualifications in Danish and Maths such as tests to identify dyslexia and numlexia. A new team of educational consultants must ensure that the results of the project are continuously communicated to the municipalities and schools.

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