Shfaram is a city in the north of Israel and home to a Druze, Arab and Christian population of more than 40,000 residents. The city has a low ranking on the national socio-economic index. Over the past years, many new residents moved to the city, resulting in a more diverse population. This is reflected in the city’s education system; there are 9 middle and high schools, including two private schools, 6-year schools and independent middle and high schools. In 2017, 49% of the 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate (in comparison to a national average of 68.2%)
From 2014, the city decided to improve mathematics excellence and to elevate the rate of 12th grade students completing 5-unit mathematics, which was 3.4%. They hired four new school principals and recruited new teachers. Gradually, achievement was on the rise and in 2017 almost 7.5% of the students in Shfaram graduated 5-unit mathematics. However, there is still an untapped potential, particularly in the public schools. These schools still do not offer advanced tracks in middle school, and as a result, many families decide to send their children to private schools in and outside the city.
In the public schools some 33% of the students drop down from 5- to 4-units in 11th grade, and only 75% of the remaining students actually take the 5-units exam at the end of 12th grade. The municipality claims that this is happening because of lack of student motivation and drive, poor management practices and teaching quality. They admit that families tend to not trust the education administration in the city, and that they need to commit to a serious change.
To address these issues, the municipality is planning a three-year program, aimed to reduce drop-out of the students throughout high school, and to increase the number of five-unit graduates to 14% by 2021. The municipality will open excellence tracks in four public middle schools and engage the school principals via joint meetings and individual coaching. In addition, the city will organize two conferences annually, add supplementary teaching hours for students, organize workshops for parents and students and launch a local media campaign.
With assistance from the foundation, the municipality proposes to establish three communities of practice; one for the 20 current and potential 5-unit teachers, and one for the city’s 30 middle school teachers. The communities will meet for 60 hours, once every two weeks, and focus on developing mathematical knowledge and clinical tools, to prevent the drop-out of high-school students. A third community, for 18 mathematics department heads from the 9 middle and high schools, will work on creating a smooth transition from middle to high school, and learn to facilitate school based communities which they then will establish in their schools.
A program manager, who will be responsible for promoting mathematics excellence in the city, will lead the program and a steering committee will meet three times a year to guide the program.
* The text presented above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation Board / Grant 296