Study: School Reforms Have Not Made Teaching Profession More Attractive

Number of teachers leaving schools increased despite higher salaries.

The Ofek Hadash ‏(“New Horizon”‏) reforms in elementary schools and some junior-high schools have failed in bringing more teachers and keeping them from leaving the educational system, despite higher salaries.

The first study of its kind on the program, conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics, examined whether the higher salaries increased the supply of new students studying to be teachers and whether the quality of those students was higher, as well as whether attrition rates for teachers had declined.

In addition, David Maagan from the statistics bureau examined whether the additional individual tutoring hours added for students under Ofek Hadash had improved their academic achievement and reduced gaps.

The results of the study were presented at a conference of the Israeli Economic Association. They show the reforms have failed in reaching a number of their main goals: They have not led more education students to specialize in teaching a specific subject. There has been no increase in the number of students choosing teaching as a profession, and the number of both new and experienced teachers from leaving the education system has actually increased.

As to the quality of new, first-year students in teacher-training programs, while the psychometric examination scores for Arab students has risen those of their Jewish counterparts have declined.

There are some bright points to the reform, the study’s authors noted: There seems to be a link between Ofek Hadash and rising math scores, but no relationship was found between the increased individual tutoring hours in the sciences, added as part of the reforms, and student achievement. It is likely that this is because the reform was instituted in schools where the achievement gaps between stronger and weaker students were smaller in the first place, the researchers suggested.

The reforms only started in 2008 and therefore the results mostly relate to the trends of the first three years of Ofek Hadash. Teachers saw their work weeks extended to a full 36 hour week as part of the reforms, including 26 hours of traditional classroom teaching, five hours for activities such as meetings, including meetings with students and parents, making lesson plans and correcting homework; and an additional five hours of individual or small-group instruction ‏(up to five students at a time‏).

The four main goals of the program, according to the Education Ministry, were to improve the status of teachers and raise their salaries; provide equal opportunities for all students and raise their achievement levels; improve the atmosphere in the schools; and strengthen and expand the powers and authority of school principals.

But the study showed the teaching profession has become no more attractive to prospective teachers. The number of undergraduates choosing to go into teaching did not increase significantly in the first two years of the reforms. However, this was no worse than before the reforms started, as from 2002 through 2010 there was no clear trend of improvement in the number of teachers entering the profession; though this measure is certainly affected by many other factors such as the overall job market which are not related to the reforms.

The number of new teachers who left the educational system after only one year is worrying. Not only did this figure not go down, in all school systems − general, religious and Arab − the number of teachers leaving after one year rose. For example, in 2009 the number of teachers who left the system after a year rose from 21 percent to 23 percent in the nonreligious school track and in the state religious schools the figure rose from 20 percent to 25 percent. In the Arab schools the figures were a rise from 13 percent to almost 20 percent.

The study also found a correlation between the reforms and math scores, but these were relatively low and their statistical significance was not high. There was no connection found between student achievement and science or English scores.

The Education Ministry said the CBS presentation was not shown to the ministry but it would be happy to comment after studying the information. The Israel Teachers Union said it was unable to comment because it had not received the study but would issue a response within a few days, after studying the matter.

Tomer Appelbaum