The Branco Weiss School network was founded 15 years ago to focus on weaker socio-economic populations. Today, it is a small, periphery-based network of 8 fully-owned schools with 7,364 students, and another 4 schools for which they provide pedagogical instruction. Last year 878 students graduated 12th grade, of which 95 (approximately 11%) took the 5-unit mathematics matriculation exams, and 7% took 5-units physics.
In the past decade, the network concentrated its efforts on ensuring more of its students reached the standard of a matriculation diploma. They did so by using Branco-Weiss’s core strengths in literacy and basic skills. Recently, they have decided to turn their focus to cultivating excellence in mathematics and the sciences, with a focus on chemistry and physics. As a first step, they provided supplementary teaching hours for students in an attempt to improve their grades, but as this has not led to the results they expected, they have now decided to invest in high- quality teaching.
The Branco Weiss School Network has high hopes for the planned endeavor, as it set for itself very ambitious goals for the coming three years: to double the number of graduates of the 5-unit track in mathematics to 22% of the 12th grade cohort by the 2017-2018 school year and increasing to 14% of the graduates who would matriculate the 5-unit exam in physics. They are encouraged by the fact that due to the Ministry’s campaign, 25% of their 10th grade student cohort are currently studying in the 5-unit mathematics track.
To do so, Branco Weiss approached the foundation to support a teaching development program, which will focus on mathematics and physics teachers and their schools. The proposed program has three components:
- Ten school-based communities of practice for mathematics, physics and junior-high science teachers. Each community will be led by two leading teachers, who will receive group and individual coaching as part of their training.
- A network learning community for the 21 mathematics teachers of 5-units, which they will outsource to an external operator (e.g. the Weizmann Institute).
- Development of a school-based support system for high quality teaching, involving the principal, counselors, homeroom teachers and teaching staff. The support system will include mapping students and their potential for excellence in each school, personalized learning plans for each student, and management practices to prevent dropouts.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 176