The city of Ra’anana is located in the center of the country with a population of over 70,000. The city’s secondary schools are divided into nine middle schools and seven high schools, which serve some 6,000 students. Ra’anana is known as a city that offers its residents a high level of education and provides them with considerable resources, with an emphasis on special needs students, new immigrants, gifted students, and school sports. However, in discussion between the foundation staff, Mayor Ze’ev Bielsky and his staff, it was made apparent that when it comes to excellence in the study of mathematics and the sciences, performance is far from satisfying.The city’s education department presented the following trends:
a. Despite the fact a rather high percentage of students in the city’s secular schools study five-unit mathematics (26%) compared to the national average of about 18%, the rate is much lower among students in state religious schools (only 11%);
b. The average dropout rate of students from five-unit mathematics courses between tenth grade and twelfth grade is around 40%, higher than the 30% national average.
In recent years the municipality had taken several steps to confront these trends, including increasing the number of study hours (by 2 hours a week), holding preparatory summer courses for students entering high school, arranging accelerated groups at the end of eleventh grade, and encouraging parents to send their children to private tutors. However, these efforts seem to be insufficient, and the municipality believes that it needs to launch a concerted effort to support teachers and their teaching. In discussion with the foundation staff it was emphasized that student-centered teaching, which focuses on diagnosing student learning and thinking, and then adapting the pedagogic response as needed, may help tackle the high dropout rate.
To address this issue, the municipality proposes a program for its mathematics and science teachers with the goal of reducing the dropout rate of five-unit mathematics students to 15% within three years and to raise the number of graduates with advanced-level scientific matriculation (five units in mathematics, English, and a science major) to 30%. The program will include the following elements:
- Fifteen outstanding teachers will be chosen to undergo training in order to serve as instructional coaches for 50 mathematics and science teachers;, they will undergo professional training focusing on how students think and learn and how to adapt teaching in diverse learning styles;
- City-wide professional communities for five-unit mathematics and science teachers will be formed and will meet once or twice a month to analyze student learning and offer instructional practices for improved performance;
- School-based communities of practice will be formed, led by department heads, developing personalized learning plans for each student and focusing on monitoring individual student progress;
- Enrichment activities for students will be expanded by using the Khan Academy database of mathematics videos and holding special research programs and gala events.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 155