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Photo by: Illustrative photo: Marc Israel Sellem
Israeli principals share education innovation at the White House
By Lidar Gravé-Lazi
11/04/2014
Educators say the meeting with American experts is essential to promote education in Israel.
 
A delegation of eight outstanding Israeli educators met with senior officials this week in the White House, during a week-long tour dedicated to the study of innovation in education.

The educators included principals from AMIT schools throughout the country who have succeeded in implementing innovative learning methods into their schools.

Debbie Isaac, president of AMIT, said that introducing the principals to innovative educational methods in the US was essential to promote education in Israel.

“You cannot teach a child with an Internet smartphone in his pocket in the same manner as 20 or 30 years ago. The educational system must reinvent itself in order to reach the students and connect them to the future,” she said on Tuesday.

As part of their US tour, the principals, along with senior board members of AMIT, attended a special conference in their honor on educational innovation held at the White House on Tuesday.

Matt Nosanchuk, associate director for Jewish Outreach at the White House, welcomed the educators and pointed out the “warm connection” between the AMIT education network and heads of government in Washington.

The delegation heard from Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for Education Policy, who discussed the challenges faced by the administration. Rodriguez outlined the administration’s cohesive plan, Race to the Top, a $4 billion initiative serving 22 million students in some 42,000 schools and representing around 42 percent of all low-income students in the US. The program aims to improve education in the US, through positive enhancement of outstanding teachers and the development of novel methods for underachieving schools.

Danielle Carnival, senior policy advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, discussed the importance of increasing the number of students learning science, technology and mathematics in the US, especially among young girls and outlined government strategies to achieve this goal.
 
Dr. Amnon Eldar, CEO of AMIT said the challenges facing the education system in the US were very similar to Israel, as they are both “progressive modern countries.”

“We believe the most substantial challenge today is leading the innovation field in education. This tour is one step in a long path that outstanding educators have taken in order to make Israeli education more relevant and meaningful,” he said.

At the conference, White House officials also heard from the educators, who outlined their innovative teaching approaches.

Eti Lorado, principal of the AMIT Atidim high school in Or Akiva, discussed how she incorporated the use of smartphones as a study aid in school. Pupils from 7th to 12th grade use them in Arabic, English, geography, Bible and science lessons. During class, they surf the web to answer questions and complete tasks assigned by the teacher.

In this innovative approach, the teachers operate as an aid, going around the classroom and helping different students with their personal learning levels.

Another interesting educational innovation incorporated by delegate Rabbi Itamar Heikin, principal of the AMIT boys school in Modi’in involves bicycle riding to enhance leadership skills. As part of the program, pupils acquire self-confidence, self-control and acknowledgment of personal strengths and weaknesses, all while establishing social interaction between the pupils through fun and physical challenges.

The program includes a community outreach aspect, as the students go out on tandem riding expeditions with blind children.

This creates a deep connection between them and instills a sense of commitment to the community.

The principals visited schools in New York that employ innovative teaching approaches, in an attempt to learn and implement these methods in Israel.

“The meeting with schools leading innovation in the US has opened new paths and ideas for innovation that will lead the education in Israel for the next decade,” said Lorado.

The AMIT school network was founded in 1925 and operates 110 schools, youth villages, surrogate family residences and other programs. It constitutes Israel’s only government- recognized network of religious-Jewish education, incorporating academic and technological studies.
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