The School Performance and Community Empowerment (SPACE) scholastic and socio-emotional assistance program has been implemented by the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) since 2005 and examined in an evaluation by Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute in all years of its implementation since then. The program is offered to Ethiopian-Israeli students and other Israelis in junior-high and high schools and is aimed at improving their achievements in matriculation exams by providing scholastic assistance and addressing emotional and social difficulties. Every year to date, between 12% and 25% of Ethiopian-Israeli twelfth-grade students have participated in the program. The current evaluation focuses on the 2017/18 academic year, in which 25% of all Ethiopian-Israeli twelfth-grade students participated.
In 2016/17, there was a change in the program’s operating strategy, in light of the 2016 government policy to integrate Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society (a New Way), which aimed to reduce the extent of programs provided exclusively to Ethiopian-Israelis. Since then, the SPACE program has included non-Ethiopian-Israeli students in a ratio of 80% Ethiopian-Israelis to 20% non-Ethiopian-Israelis.
The goal of the evaluation was to examine the achievements of the Ethiopian-Israeli and non-Ethiopian-Israeli twelfth-grade students participating in the SPACE program in 2017/18 as reflected in their matriculation exam achievements, and to assess the impact of the program on the achievements of the Ethiopian-Israeli twelfth-grade program participants. This is a continuation of the examination of the program impact on these students that has been conducted throughout the program years as the basis for introducing improvements into the program. An additional goal of the current evaluation was to learn about the perception of the directors of the education departments in the various localities regarding the implementation and contribution of the SPACE program.
The evaluation was based on an analysis of data from the matriculation results files that appear in the Ministry of Education’s virtual research room. The virtual research room is the means by which the Ministry makes databases, including files on institutions, students, matriculation results and GEMS (Growth and Effective Measures for Schools) test scores, accessible to researchers. For the non-Ethiopian-Israelis, who participated in the program for the first or second time that year, we used raw data only. For the Ethiopian-Israelis, we used data accumulated over the years examining the changes in the gap between their achievements and those of all students in Jewish education. We also examined the program impact on the achievements of the Ethiopian-Israeli participants using the nearest neighbor analysis method to compare the achievements of program participants with those of students with similar personal characteristics who did not participate in the program at schools with similar characteristics, and with similar previous achievements. In addition, we collected information from five directors of education departments and the director of an educational social service department in localities where the program was implemented, through telephone interviews. The interviews were analyzed by content category according to the evaluation questions.
As in previous years, the findings for 2018 indicate a high level of scholastic achievements among the program participants. In 2018, the program had a marked positive impact on the percentage of students who achieved a matriculation certificate meeting university prerequisites. A comparison of the students’ characteristics found that all program participants – Ethiopian-Israelis and non-Ethiopian-Israelis alike – had a similar scholastic background, relatively weaker than total students in Jewish education, but the Ethiopian-Israeli students had a lower socioeconomic background.
Analysis of the administrative data on the matriculation exam results of program participants revealed the following:
- In 2018, the percentage of all program participants (Ethiopian-Israelis and non-Ethiopian-Israelis) eligible for a matriculation certificate was higher than among total students in Jewish education. This achievement is particularly noteworthy when taking the participants’ weak personal and scholastic backgrounds into account.
- Since 2009, there has been an increase in the percentage of Ethiopian-Israeli participants eligible for a matriculation certificate in general, and in particular those eligible for a certificate meeting university prerequisites. In 2018, the percentage of Ethiopian-Israeli students eligible for a matriculation certificate was higher than that for all students in Jewish education – owing to the high achievements of the girls. However, the gap in the eligibility rate for a certificate meeting university prerequisites and the rate of students taking the exam in 4-5 study units, not only in English but also in mathematics, remains in favor of the total students in Jewish education, although the gap has narrowed over the years.
- In the nearest neighbor comparison with groups of similar students not participating in the program, the program was found not to have an effect on the rate of total students eligible for matriculation certificates, but it was found to have a statistically significant impact leading to an increase in the percentage of Ethiopian-Israeli participants eligible for a certificate meeting university prerequisites. This positive impact helped to reduce the gap between them and all students in Jewish education. However, as noted, the gap has not been completely eliminated and efforts should continue to promote the achievements of the Israeli-Ethiopian students and examine additional ways to strengthen them.
- An examination of the program’s impact on various population groups found that in the achievement of matriculation certifications meeting university prerequisites, the program had an unmistakable impact on students at schools where the program has been running for at least three consecutive years. Thus, it can be concluded that long-term exposure to the program is advantageous. This conclusion strengthens the approach that it is important to maintain a continuum of services in the school over time to enable the Ethiopian-Israeli students to participate in the program throughout their high-school studies.
In interview, the directors of education departments reported on the benefits of the program for the participants: They get scholastic assistance, their matriculation achievements improve, the weaker students are advanced, scholastic gaps are reduced, and outstanding students also receive support. The social programs promote enrichment and empowerment, which strengthens social cohesion, motivation and a sense of belonging. Along with their high satisfaction with the program, the directors noted the need for additional resources to make it possible to add more scholastic and social inputs and expand the groups of participating students. They also noted the difficulty in recruiting students who are in need of the program’s inputs but choose not to participate in it.