Israeli Student Exam Results Available Online Following Supreme Court Decision

Contrary to the Education Ministry's position, the public can now view and compare schools' achievements at the click of a button.

The results of all of Israel's elementary and middle schools in the national Meitzav exams - a standardized test measuring Israeli students' achievements in fifth through ninth grades- were released to the public for the first time on Sunday, following last month's Supreme Court decision, which goes against the Education Ministry's position.

The ministry previously released only countrywide results of pupils based on population sectors. Data from individual schools was only available to principals in order to improve the achievement levels of its pupils.

In wake of the controversial decision, the Education Ministry's website now includes a program that enables the public to view details about each institution and its students.  This, for example, makes it is possible to view the Meitzav reports on students' achievements in measured subjects like science, math and language, or their level in relation to other institutions. 

In addition, data is now retrievable on eligibility for matriculation exams by subject, levels of outstanding achievement, data concerning the induction of students to the Israel Defense Forces and comparison with other similar schools.

Data about children with special needs was removed from the tables, accompanied by the  comment: “It should be noted that the data displayed in this diagram does not include new immigrant students or integrated students, but does include students with learning difficulties...For a breakdown of the number of students tested in your school, see Table No. 3 or the parallel table in the section on special needs.” 

In a letter sent this morning to all school principals Dalit Stauber, the ministry's director general, was critical of the move the ministry was required to take.  “The significance of this Supreme Court decision is that the petitioners, like anyone else from now on who seeks the Meitzav results on the school level, can obtain and publish the results as they wish. 

"The Ministry of Education has thus decided to take the initiative and publish the Meitzav results in advance, at an acceptable professional level which provides the widest possible picture of the school.”

The appeal for the release of Meitzav results on a school-by-school basis was filed by Hila – Israel Committee for Equality in Education and the Movement for Freedom of Information.  During the course of the Jerusalem District Court deliberations, the ministry adopted the recommendations of a committee headed by Prof. Michal Beller, director general of the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, for appropriate and systematic publication of Meitzav results.

The ministry's position  was approved by the Jerusalem District Court, sitting as an administrative affairs court, which held that publication of results on a school-by-school basis might make the Meitzav “high-risk,” promoting negative and undesirable implications on the school system and raising concerns about the ability of schools to function.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the petitioners'  appeal of the district court's decision, requiring the Education Ministry to publish the results in full within 30 days.  In a dramatic opinion Justice Eliezer Rivlin, the former deputy president of the High Court, said that public bodies could refrain from disclosing information in its possession  only when concerned of substantial damage to its functioning, but was not permitted to do so on the basis of a paternalistic view that the public would be better off not knowing. 

Disclosure of the results was not likely to increase the gaps between various schools, Justice Rivlin said, because school district were determined on the basis of residence.  Only a very small proportion of the population decides where to live on the basis of Meitzav results, it was held.  And even among this small fragment, publication of school-by-school results might deflate socially accepted stereotypes and disclose that the quality of education in neighborhoods and communities thought to be weak where in fact higher.

“The main concern about the publication of results,” said Stauber, “is the creation of 'league tables' and their publication in local and national newspapers, relating to only once number (grade) for each school as representing that school's quality.”