Joint CET-Trump Foundation Team to Incubate Innovative Programs in Middle School Mathematics and Science Studies
The team will work to achieve the mutual goal - raising the bar in mathematics and science studies in middle school
The ecosystem around middle schools in Israel is very different from that of high schools. Middle schools are directly controlled by the Ministry of Education, whereas high schools are directed by local authorities and school networks. Tests in middle schools are administered by the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation (RAMA), in contrast to high schools where they are commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Teaching and learning materials in middle school are developed in alignment with the national curriculum, while in high school they are derived from and strive towards the final matriculation exams.
One very significant player in middle schools is the Center for Educational Technology (CET). Established in 1974, CET currently employs 600 staff members and is probably Israel’s largest leading educational R&D institute. 80% of Israel’s middle schools are using CET’s textbooks and 70% adopted its web portal, which includes learning material, teaching aids, diagnostic assessments and a Learning Management System. CET’s measurement unit is RAMA’s arm in running the national MEITZAV tests and the international PISA examinations. They also operate an incubator for EdTech innovations (MindCET) and run groundbreaking experiments in personalized and adaptive learning.
CET served as a design partner for the Trump Foundation in its early years, with the development of the Virtual High School (VHS). VHS is currently fully funded by the Ministry of Education and teaches approximately 1,000 students in five units of mathematics and physics. Students in the VHS come from schools where there is still no teacher for the five-unit track, and today these are mainly small schools from the remote periphery, Arab, Bedouin, Jewish religious and Ultra-Orthodox communities. Therefore, we thought it would be important to turn to CET once again and discuss with them our new roadmap for middle schools.
Since CET is so dominant in middle schools, we decided not to suffice with contracting them project by project. Instead, we approached their leadership to hold deeper discussions with regards to strategy. The brilliant CEO of CET, Gila Ben-Har, has recently retired, and was replaced by General (Res.) Yossi Baidatz, former Head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Analysis Division. In these talks we have learned that CET is seriously considering to define middle schools as a primary priority for its work in the coming years. Therefore, we together envisioned to join hands in this effort.
The proposal is to establish a joint team to work on our mutual goal of raising the bar in mathematics and science studies in middle schools. Preliminary planning has already pointed to four possible areas of work:
- Operating a Virtual Middle School (VMS) which will invite capable and willing students to engage in advanced mathematics studies, combined with scientific applications;
- Developing diagnostic tools, such as to identify strengths and difficulties in 7th grade, to assess advanced literacy in 8th grade and to evaluate student readiness at the end of 9th grade to take five units in high school;
- Preparing challenging learning materials for excellence learning tracks in middle school, which will rely on advanced levels of mathematical knowledge and understanding.
- Designing technological platforms to introduce personalized learning plans for teachers, parents and students in middle school excellence tracks. A modest grant to learn this topic with teachers has been approved by the foundation, and is currently underway with matching funding from CET.
The joint team will be co-managed by a team-leader from CET and a program officer from the foundation. It will comprise four members, bringing in expertise in educational technology, curriculum development, testing and operations. In the coming 15 months they will work 4 days a week at CET and one day at the foundation. CET’s management will give the team full access to its systems and resources, and its task will be to harness the different professional departments at CET in order to create innovative programs and integrate between them.