The lower secondary level plays a connecting role between elementary school and the general or vocational upper secondary level (or directly entering the job market). Nevertheless, important questions have yet to be answered clearly and conclusively due to the lack of appropriate data. This pertains, for example, to the type of school chosen, to switches to another type of school, or to grade repetition, but also to the central issue of paths through lower secondary level and the transition into upper secondary level.
In this study by the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS), representatively selected students who attend regular or special schools and are willing to participate are questioned and tested in different in annual waves of studies. For students of the starting cohort of fifth graders, the first survey was carried out in fall/winter 2010, the second survey in winter 2011/12. It is generally intended to sample students in regular and in special schools and to follow them through the originally selected institutions until they leave school or the general school system altogether. After leaving school, these students will be further questioned and tested individually outside the educational institution. The testing and questioning of individuals requiring special education is a challenge because only rudimentary experiences with such measures have been made so far. In addition to the questioning and testing of students, the questioning of context persons such as parents, teachers, and school principals is planned. Competence tests cover several domains: language (spelling, reading, and listening comprehension in German, knowledge of first language and English in students with migration background), mathematics, sciences, and metacompetencies (ICT competence and cognitive problem-solving ability).
Key questions of this study include the development of students’ competences, conditions, and prerequisites of educational processes, as well as possible personal consequences on the success and on the future course of education and the integration of students into social networks. The teaching staff and school principals' questionnaires in the participating schools address, for example, data on class size, the composition of the student body, and the school equipment but also questions about lessons in general.