Assessment shows improvement in Israeli primary schools

Despite the advances, large gaps remain across socio-economic sectors and between Hebrew and Arabic-speaking pupils.

November 15, 2016 12:31
3 minute read.
Edication Minister Naftali Bennett at the release of the Meitzav elementary school assessment exam

Edication Minister Naftali Bennett at the release of the Meitzav elementary school assessment exam. (photo credit: GPO)

Pupils across the country are improving in basic subjects, though large gaps remain across socioeconomic levels and among Arabic-speaking pupils, according to the results of the Meitzav elementary school assessment exam released on Tuesday.

“The results show that we were able to minimize gaps,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said at a press conference at the Education Ministry offices in Tel Aviv. “Our strong focus on mathematics and English, especially in the periphery is evident.”

The Meitzav achievement exam, administered to fifth and eighth graders at schools around the country, tests language, math and science skills.

Fifth graders are tested in three disciplines – mathematics, English and in their mother- tongue language, either Hebrew or Arabic.

Eighth graders are tested in four disciplines – mathematics, English, Hebrew/Arabic and science.

The 2015/16 results saw improvements in pupils’ test scores nearly across the board, and while there were still large gaps between pupils of different socioeconomic backgrounds, there were also minimizations of gaps in certain subjects.

Among fifth grade pupils there was an increase of 18 points in English scores, a ninepoint increase in mathematics, and a 13-point increase in Arabic when compared to the previous year. In Hebrew, there was no change.

Among eighth grade pupils there was an increase of 18 points in Hebrew and an increase of 21 points in Arabic compared to the previous year. In science and technology there was also an increase of 12 points. Test scores in mathematics and English remained along the same levels as the previous year.

At the press conference the education ministry noted that this year marked the first time that there was a significant minimization of gaps among pupils from low socioeconomic standing.

Despite the improvements and the narrowing of gaps, marked differences between these pupils remained.

For example, eighth graders from high socioeconomic backgrounds in Hebrew-speaking schools scored 579 points in mathematics, compared to 530 points among pupils of middle socioeconomic status and 489 points among low socioeconomic status pupils. This shows a 90 point gap between rich and poor pupils – though this marks a 15-point decrease from the previous year when the gap stood at 105 points.

Similarly, in the sciences, there was a 74-point gap between eighth graders of high and low socioeconomic levels – an improvement of 25 points from the previous year.

In English there was a gap of 66 points between rich and poor pupils – a nine point improvement from the previous year.

In addition to socioeconomic gaps, the results showed that Hebrew-speaking pupils, in both fifth and eighth grades, performed significantly better in English, mathematics and the sciences than Arabic-speaking pupils.

In mathematics, fifth grade Hebrew speaking children scored 566 while Arabic-speaking pupils scored 524 – a 42-point gap. In English, while the previous year found a 22-point gap between pupils, Arabic pupils were able to minimize the gap to only six points – a score of 544 among Hebrew-speaking pupils compared to 538 among Arabic-speaking pupils.

Among eighth grade pupils, the gaps were more pronounced.

In mathematics there was a 53 point gap, 549 among Hebrew speaking pupils and 496 among Arabic speaking pupils while in English there was a 64-point gap – 537 among Hebrew speaking pupils and 473 among Arabic-speaking pupils.

In the sciences, however, Arab pupils were able to significantly minimize the gaps by 17 points from the previous year, scoring 543 points compared to 573 among Hebrew-speaking pupils.

Bennett called this a “dramatic” step toward the integration of the Arab sector into the Israeli economy by significantly minimizing the test scores in the subjects of English (among fifth graders) and the sciences (among eighth graders).

The 2015/16 exam took place between March and May 2016 among 799 schools, 2,415 classes and 62,406 pupils in fifth and eighth grades.

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