Israel's High Court Rules Haredi Schools Must Give Standardized Tests

Court debates Reform movement’s petition to revoke budget of schools that do not administer the Mitzav achievement tests; Education Ministry has 100 days to come up with a plan to give the standardized exams in ultra-Orthodox schools.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

The High Court of Justice has given the Education Ministry 100 days to prepare a plan for including the Haredi schools in the Mitzav standardized achievement test, which all public schools in Israel must administer. The test is given to elementary and middle school students around the country.

The hearing took place in the presence of Supreme Court President Justice Asher Grunis. He discussed the petition from the Reform Movement, which asked that the High Court of Justice instruct the ministry to have the schools administer the tests and revoke the budget of any school that refused. The panel of judges also included Judges Daphne Barak-Erez and Uzi Vogelman.

In 2010, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice against the Education Ministry, the Haredi school system and the Haredi schools that are exempt from teaching the core curriculum. The petition demanded an immediate increase in the supervision of Haredi schools which claim that they teach the core curriculum. Further, it asked the High Court of Justice to rule on the establishment of an effective agency that would supervise the Haredi schools, their program of study, their textbooks, their teacher training and the conditions of study, and make binding regulations regarding the character of such supervision. In addition, it asked that the Haredi schools be obligated to administer the Mitzav standardized achievement test and that a mechanism be put in place to revoke the budget of any school that refused to do so.

“The Education Ministry must make it clear that if there is no change, there will be no alternative to imposing sanctions," Justice Grunis said during the hearing. "I suggest that the lawyers tell their clients to take the matter seriously.”

After the petition was submitted, the Education Ministry increased the number of supervisors at Haredi schools. In light of this, a partial ruling was handed down in March 2012 that the court would not intervene regarding the number of supervisors.

The Education Ministry sent the High Court of Justice an update in 2011, notifying it that it had reached an agreement with Shas’s school system, Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani, that it would administer the Mitzav tests. The agreement included a provision that the test would include adaptations, such as providing clarification for questions, to make it appropriate to the Haredi community. But the Supreme Court issued an injunction regarding holding the Mitzav tests in the Haredi school system. The hearing that took place this morning was the first since the injunction was issued.

Haredi boys at a school in Jerusalem's Meah She'arim neighborhood.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
A Haredi girls school.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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