The advanced level mathematics track in high school is known to be challenging – a track which many students drop out of during the course of their studies. The difficulty in persevering with advanced level mathematics is felt even more strongly among the socio-economic periphery of Israel. In these areas, it is more likely to find students with a weaker mathematics background, lower self-esteem and confidence, and a limited parental economic ability to supplement the school day with private tutoring. In some cases schools will hesitate to even offer the advanced track, and teachers will be only partly convinced of their students’ ability to face such demanding studies.Tovanot B’Hinuch is a new nonprofit association, founded by the well-known entrepreneur, Yossi Vardi, in order to support some of the most disadvantaged schools in Israel’s social periphery and elevate their performance. Tovanot B’Hinuch recruits volunteers and donations, and creates steering committees for these schools, in order to provide the school principal with a network of support. Its activity touches on many issues that principals identify as important, ranging from building a cafeteria, sports and laboratory facilities, providing extracurricular enrichment activity, and supporting in-school classroom-based pedagogy. The organization is run by Ms. Karen Tal, former principal of the acclaimed Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, and the voluntary chair of the Trump Master Teacher Award selection committee.
In discussions between Vardi, Tal and the foundation’s team, we shared our ambition that Tovanot B’Hinuch will join the effort to increase excellence among teachers and students in science and mathematics. Initially, it seemed farfetched and unrealistic to set this goal in such needy schools and Tal asked to put our offer on hold until the more basic elements in their program were in place. Only after a couple of years, Tal returned with an initial plan to be pilot-tested in two of their schools, in which students will be provided with additional academic and emotional support which aims to decrease dropout rates in the advanced mathematics track.
The Herzog and Atidim High Schools in Holon are the two schools proposed byTovanot B’Hinuch to participate in this program. In both schools there is a significant dropout rate of students from the five unit of mathematics track in 10th grade, leading to a significantly smaller number of students graduating at the end of 12th grade. For example, in Atidim High School, of the 20 students in the mathematics class, only seven took the matriculation exams in 2013. In Herzog High School in the same year, just seven students of an initial class of 44 took the exams.
The three-year program aims to empower the teachers and provide extra support and smaller learning groups for students. In-school professional development of mathematics teachers will be guided on a volunteer basis by Yoel Geva, the founder of Israel’s leading private school for psychometric and matriculation exams. His team will meet the teachers on a weekly basis, observe their lessons, provide personalized feedback, support the planning and teaching of the syllabus, and review the teaching material. Students will be split into smaller study groups with an extra teacher, in order to deepen their subject knowledge and reinforce their motivation. Supplemental tutoring hours will be provided by volunteers from the elite IDF unit 8200 and hi-tech company SCKipio.
It is hoped that 80% of students beginning their studies in five unit mathematics in 2013 will complete their course of studies and successfully pass the matriculation examinations of 2014 and 2015, and by doing so the students successfully matriculating 5-unit mathematics in each school will be doubled.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 103