Mathematics and science teachers in Israel teach large, heterogeneous classes. Under these circumstances, diagnosing each individual student’s capabilities and difficulties in real-time and adapting teaching methods accordingly is challenging, even for the most skilled teachers. A consequence of this is that many teachers teach to the average student’s ability, and cannot dedicate the necessary attention to students who excel, nor to those who are struggling.
Based on practices from other professions, which address this challenge by providing the practitioner with para-professional help, the Trump Foundation’s staff began to explore the possibility of enlisting teaching assistants to join teachers in classrooms and help them diagnose student difficulties, teach small groups and give more attention to individual students.
It was soon understood that in order to successfully recruit and integrate teaching assistants into schools, we need to find a facilitating organization which is closely acquainted with school life, so it is capable of not only recruiting and training teaching assistants, but also integrating them into the classrooms and ensuring that they are viewed as an essential part of the teaching team and not just supplementary. This organization must also be able to develop a sustainable operative model that can be implemented at scale, without relying solely on philanthropy.
Shiur Acher was identified as an organization which is sufficiently capable and experienced in some of the above elements, but would need to collaborate with other parties in order to complete the necessary requirements. A non-profit organization established in 2002, Shiur Acher recruits volunteers from leading companies in high-tech and industry to teach supplementary enrichment programs in schools across the country. Shiur Acher works with over 75 companies, including ECI Telecom, Nokia Siemens, DSP Group and Teva Pharmaceuticals. They recruit 2,100 volunteers to teach 6,500 students in 120 schools across the country. While the organization is very successful in recruiting volunteers and bringing them to schools, they are not yet experienced in integrating volunteers into the classroom to work with the teacher in a regular framework and have no specific experience in the teaching of mathematics and the sciences.
Shiur Acher therefore proposes to engage in a three-month planning process in cooperation with the ORT school network, a leading educational network with hundreds of schools specializing in mathematics and science education. ORT brings to the collaboration their experience and expert knowledge of schools and of the subject matters. Together, they will develop a model for the recruitment, training and integration into classrooms of volunteer teaching assistants from the business sector.
Planning will include identifying companies that are interested in providing volunteers for such a program; defining the profile of a typical volunteer and what is required of them and their company; and determining the nature of the mentoring required for these volunteers. In addition, they will develop a pedagogical model for schools to integrate teaching assistants into the teaching staff and classroom team. They will learn from similar successful programs in the world in order to set criteria for what makes a school suitable for participating; and will define which students have the most to gain from working with teaching assistants. Following this research they will formulate a pilot program for the next academic year, including a financing plan for the longer term that will explore options for financing by government, municipalities and the participating companies.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 56