In 2014, the Department of Preschool Education at the Ministry of Education, JDC-Ashalim and the Bernard van Leer Foundation developed a unique program for improving the quality of education in kindergartens belonging to the Arab education system in Israel (hereafter, Program). The program implemented a community working model, practices, and modes of operation. The program operated for six years in ten municipalities countrywide, representing different groups in Arab society in Israel. Its overarching objective was to advance preschoolers in the Arab population and narrow developmental gaps between them and children in the general population. The program’s interim objectives were to enhance the quality of the educational environment; improve the quality of preschool teaching and learning by improving the quality of the professional development of the pedagogic professionals (superintendents, educational supervisors, kindergarten teachers and assistants); enhance the quality of kindergarten interactions; and facilitate parental partnerships. The program encompassed 153 kindergartens (15-18 classes in each community), including fifty in the Bedouin municipalities in the Negev, and 102 in central and northern Israel. The Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute followed the program, conducting a formative and summative assessment study in 2016-2020.
Provide the program’s developers and operators with ongoing information about the challenges and successes in implementing the program, and assess its outcomes form a variety of aspects.
All parties involved in operating the program over its six-year lifespan – from the 2014/15 to the 2019/20 schoolyear: kindergarten teachers and assistants in the 153 participating kindergartens and the 45 kindergartens in the comparison group; preschoolers and their parents in the participating kindergartens; educational supervisors and superintendents employed by the program; program representatives in the municipalities and representatives of the program’s partner organizations – the Ministry of Education, JDC-Ashalim, and the Bernard van Leer Foundation; and regional directors .
The research design combined quantitative and qualitative approaches.
(1) The CLASS observation instrument) Classroom Assessment Scoring System; Pianta et al., 2008) was used for two observation rounds. In November 2017-March 2018, we observed eighty kindergartens: 46 included in the program and 34 kindergartens from the comparison group. In June 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we observed thirty kindergartens (18 and 12, respectively), but only in communities in northern Israel where studies continued regularly.
(2) The “Perspectives” survey was developed by the Department of Preschool Education in the Ministry of Education. The teachers in all participating kindergartens and in the kindergartens in the communities in the comparison group had completed the survey prior to implementation, providing data on 332 children in the program communities and 180 in the comparison communities. The survey was readministered in all those kindergartens prior to the end of the program. Forty-nine teachers (35 from the program kindergartens) completed the survey on 140 and 60 children in the program and comparison groups, respectively.
(3) A questionnaire for educational supervisors was completed by eleven supervisors who participated in the program at its early stage, and by ten towards its end.
(4) A teacher questionnaire was completed towards the end of the program by 125 out of the 153 participating kindergarten teachers.
(5) A superintendent questionnaire was completed towards the end of the program by the ten superintendents.
(6) A parent questionnaire was completed towards the end of the program by 256 parents from the ten program communities.
(7) Administrative information forms were compiled by the research and program teams. They were filled out twice (in 2018 and 2019) by the regional directors together with the community program teams.
(8) A kindergarten mapping form was administered by the program team to all participating kindergarten both at the start of the program in 2016 and in 2018. The research team analyzed the data and presented them to the program operators.
(9) Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with senior officials in the preschool education system of each community. Interviews were conducted each year, for a total of fifty.
Progress was achieved in the program’s four core areas. First, the program improved the educational environment in the kindergartens, including the designing of classes, courtyards and play areas, to better match the children’s various educational needs. Second, the program contributed to improving the quality of teaching and learning by supporting the professional development of the pedagogical professionals (superintendents, educational supervisors, teachers and assistants) by providing training and ongoing support, addressing both the content areas of quality education and management and supervision skills. Third, the program improved interactions in the kindergartens. The participating kindergartens increased average score in the three CLASS areas: emotional support, kindergarten organization and management, and learning support. Finally, the program strengthened parental partnership and involvement in educational practice in the kindergarten and in the community in general. One of the major processes in this regard was the establishment or reinforcement of an engaged parental leadership or an active PTA committee within the kindergarten, and the election of parent representatives for regular participation in the meetings of the community forum on preschool education.
- The Ministry of Education should adopt the program’s content areas in the process of developing the pedagogic professionals.
- The educational supervisors and kindergarten superintendents should use the CLASS instrument in their ongoing work to assess the quality of kindergarten interactions.
- Municipal authorities should continue leading the work on preschool education in the communities. It is essential for each community to have a leading team (including a kindergarten superintendent, supervisor, leading teacher, counsellor, community coordinator and the education department director) to promote preschool work and community collaborations.
Citing suggestion: Nijim-Ektelat, F. & Sorek, Y. (2022). The Program for Improving the Quality of Education in Arab Kindergartens: Formative and Summative Assessment Study. RR-879-22. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)