Advancing low-achieving students and students with difficulties adjusting to school is one of the most important objectives of the education system in Israel. This study, which was initiated by the Ministry of Education and the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, examined current practices to advance low-achieving students in elementary and junior high schools and about the needs and difficulties experienced by the schools. It is a follow-up to a 2006 study and is intended to serve as a basis for planning policy and suitable intervention practices to promote low-achievers. The need for up-do-date information is particularly salient in light of the reforms, initiatives and changes in Ministry of Education policy since the data were collected for the first study.
The study was based on a survey of a national sample of school principals and homeroom teachers at Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking elementary and junior high schools in the State and State-Religious streams and a qualitative study in 10 schools. The practices in the schools were examined at four levels:
General preparedness of the schools to work with low-achievers: Screening and identifying low-achievers and building a work plan for them
Implementing a variety of strategies to advance all the students and in particular the low-achievers: Teaching methods suitable for a heterogeneous class, additional classroom staff, change in the composition and size of the class, scholastic assistance in and outside of the classroom, socio-emotional support from professionals, mentoring and work with the parents of the low-achievers
Support system for the teaching staff in the school: Working as a team, support from the therapy staff, training to advance low-achieving students
Contact with agencies outside of the school: Professionals in the community and programs initiated by external organizations.
The study indicates several positive changes that have taken place since the 2006 study: Greater use of practices believed to advance low-achievers (such as paying attention to socio-emotional needs of students and working with their parents); a reduction in some of the gaps between the Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking schools; an increase in the feeling among homeroom teachers that the tools and resources available to them help them to cope efficiently with the needs of the low-achievers; and an increase in the percentage of homeroom teachers who consider that most of the low-achievers are receiving suitable responses for their needs. However, the study indicates difficulties and challenges with implementation of the practices as well as many unmet needs. According to the assessment of the homeroom teachers, a considerable percentage of low-achieving students are not getting suitable assistance for their needs. The findings point to several programmatic directions for further improvement in the school practices to advance low-achieving students, including: Giving all schools and students greater access to the practices and types of assistance; further reducing the gaps between the sectors; providing the assistance more effectively; strengthening the training, professional development and support mechanisms for the school staff; improving the mechanisms for allocating assistance to the students and further strengthening the practices considered desirable.
The study findings are being disseminated extensively and discussed in forums with policymakers and professionals in the field.
The study was initiated by the Ministry of Education and funded with its assistance and with the assistance of a special grant from Annie Sandler of Virginia, USA.