Holon is a large city in the Tel Aviv District with approximately 190,000 residents. The city branded itself as the “Children’s City”, with a children’s museum and numerous cultural activities for kids. The educational system of Holon accommodates more than 37,000 students attending 265 kindergartens, 34 elementary schools, and 19 high schools (of which 11 schools teach potential 5-unit mathematics students). In 2017, 83.2% of twelfth grade students graduated high school with a matriculation certificate, in comparison to the national average of 68.2%.
As per students completing 5-unit mathematics matriculation, their number has been steadily increasing, from 9.8% in 2013 to 16.7% (375 of the 2,245 twelfth grade students) in 2017, above the 14.3% national average. However, the local educational leaders claim that there is still untapped potential, since there is a significant performance gap between the schools and a high drop down rate (18%) from 5- to 4-unit mathematics between 10th and 12th grades.
At present, the city’s teaching cadre consists of 144 mathematics teachers in middle and high school, 36 of which teach 5-unit mathematics. Most of the 5-unit teachers are experienced veteran teachers and many are due to retire within the next three years. In order to cater to the growing number of 5-unit students, the city identified the need to strengthen the professional capacity of its mathematics teachers and to increase the pool of those who are able to teach the 5-unit track and advanced mathematics in middle school.
In order to address this challenge in middle schools, during the previous year 12 mathematics department heads formed a professional learning community. They regularly meet with experts from the Weizmann Institute (assisted by a grant from the Trump Foundation) with an aim to generate school-based communities of practice.
The municipality is now planning to leverage this bottom-up effort and to incorporate it in a comprehensive program. The goal of the citywide program is to improve the quality of teaching in order to prevent the drop down of students and increase the percentage of 5-unit mathematics graduates to 26% (500 students) by 2021. The number of 5-unit teachers will rise from 36 to 50 and a menu of professional development opportunities will be offered to the teachers and principals:
- The 36 five-unit mathematics teachers will participate in a professional learning community and work together on improving clinical teaching skills and on training new 5-unit teachers. An academic institution will guide the process and nurture a small group of teacher leaders who from the second year will also lead the municipal communities.
- A group of 40 teachers who will be identified as potentially capable to teach the 5-unit track, will work as a separate community on improving mathematical knowledge, clinical teaching skills and learn to better adapt to different student needs.
- The mathematics department heads will choose a group of up to 30 middle school teachers who will participate in a course to learn various clinical teaching tools (e.g. diagnostics, simulations, video), which they will then implement in their school-based communities
- 26 middle and high school principals will participate in a forum over 5 annual sessions and a two-day seminar, focusing on how to develop the excellence tracks in mathematics and the sciences in their schools.
In addition, as part of the program but not as part of this grant, an additional 30 teachers will participate in a teaching certification course, funded by the Ministry of Education. The municipality will convene a conference and seminars for the teaching staff. It will also establish a work team consisting of representatives from the municipality and the Ministry of Education, the program manager and the program mathematics coordinator, which will meet 4 times per year in order to identify needs and collect data on each school.
* The text presented above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation Board / Grant 292