Amit is a long-established school network chiefly active in Israel’s national-religious sector. It operates some 100 educational institutions, including 50 secondary schools. Currently, the network is preparing to launch a new pedagogic center (called ‘Gogia’) that will provide schools in the network with support to develop their own coherent instructional system compatible with their individual needs and goals.In 2012, the Foundation approved a grant to the Amit network for 2.25 million NIS over three years to test a school-based model for increasing the number of five-unit graduates in mathematics and physics. The network studied a model developed and successfully tested in the US by Prof. Anthony Bryk, and adapted it to the Israeli reality. The program aimed to increase the number of students choosing to study advanced mathematics and science by 40% and to lower the drop-out rate from these courses by 20%, resulting in an overall increase of around 15% in the number of graduates. The goal was to formulate an economic model showing an operating cost of NIS 100,000 per school, a reasonable amount that public resources could bear by themselves.
Six schools took part in the pilot and after two years of operation, they saw an increase of 50% in the number of students studying advanced mathematics and physics, and the dropout rate from these courses was reduced from 50% to 20%. During the trial, a number of lessons relating to on-the-ground Israeli reality in general were learned, worth mentioning are:
a. School principals found out that they need a pedagogic vice principal to support them in this effort. Since the majority of school principals in religious schools do not come with a mathematical or scientific background, many of them replaced their current deputy with a leading mathematics or science teacher;
b. Many teachers expressed their initial disbelief at the prospect of more of their students succeeding in the advanced level matriculation tracks. The program therefore sent such students to external evaluation tests, which proved to the teachers that they are intellectually capable. As a result the teachers asked to receive assistance with how to diagnose, adapt and personalize their teaching and feedback praxis accordingly.
Although Amit did not develop a self-sustained scale-up plan for the program, as envisioned in the pilot stage, they have now approached the foundation to help them expand the program to 45 of their high schools. Amit has set a very ambitious goal for the program: to double the number of students matriculating five-unit mathematics and physics within three years. The network reports that today 11% of its students study five units in these subjects; their goal is to see one in every five students graduate with five units of mathematics and physics (with an intermediate goal of 16% within two years), and a decrease in the dropout rate from these courses to 5%.
The program will be based on communities of practice continually operating at different levels, relying on the following professionals:
- Six Network District Pedagogic Advisors (outstanding mathematics and physics teachers) will be chosen and charged with leading implementation of the program in the schools. They will work in conjunction with school department heads to implement clinical instruction;
- Forty-Five Vice Principals of Pedagogy will coordinate between their respective principals and the mathematics and science department heads to bolster excellence.
- One-hundred mathematics and science Department Heads will receive instructional coaching from the District Pedagogic Advisors. This will take place both in group frameworks and individual meetings.
* The text above shows the grant as approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors / Grant 153