In the summer of 1998, the Division of Research on Primary Education was commissioned by the Berlin Senate Administration for Education, Youth, and Sports to provide professional monitoring of the statewide school experiment on reliable half-day elementary schools as part of the 2000 elementary school reform initiative. The program was a broad-based four-year school development project that involved the participation of 45 elementary schools in the city of Berlin, starting in the 1999/2000 school year. The elementary school reform project called for the following changes in school content and structures:
· Introduction of reliable half-day elementary schools,
· Reorganization of the initial phase of schooling,
· Establishing profiles and enhanced differentiation in Grades 5 and 6,
· Offering the first foreign language starting in Grade 3,
· Computers in the schools, and
· The development of an educational concept for schools in socially disadvantaged areas.
The project was designed with an open structure overall because the schools themselves are in charge of determining the paths their reforms will take.
The tasks involved in the professional monitoring of the program followed multiple steps with respect to both content and methodology. The Division of Research on Primary Education observed and documented the processes of change at the schools by conducting interviews and participatory observation sessions and by preparing and analyzing questionnaires. In addition, the professional monitoring structure captured and interpreted data on the self-perceptions of those involved in the development process in order to arrive at possible explanations for the success or failure of particular steps in the reform programs.
Finally, the Division of Research on Primary Education offered support during the processes of self-development and self-evaluation by providing intensive monitoring and consulting services for individual schools.