The Education Ministry has begun work on a plan to overhaul the way it administers an important set of standardized tests, with the goal of emphasizing evaluation over performance.
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The tests, known collective as the Meitzav, are given every year to more than 100,000 students, mostly in the fifth and eighth grades. The ministry’s plan would reduce the number of schools and students that take the tests, focusing on a small representative sample of the education system. Officials hope the new approach would reduce some of the negative effects the current tests have had on school management.
The proposed changes to the Meitzav come in the wake of another ministry initiative to reform Israel’s high school matriculation exams, part of which has been made public in recent days.
Together, these changes reflect a significant change in the ministry’s philosophy. While the previous education minister, Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), and previous Education Ministry director general, Shimshon Shoshani, emphasized measuring and evaluating students’ achievements, new Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron (Yesh Atid) is focused on improving the curriculum.
"Our message is less exam-taking and more learning," said a senior Education Ministry source.
Meitzav tests, administered to students in the fifth and eighth grades annually since 2007, have evaluated four subject areas: mother tongue (meaning Hebrew or Arabic), arithmetic, English and the sciences. For mother tongue studies, the exam is also administered in the second grade. The plan being formulated would reduce the number of schools taking the tests to a fluctuating number around several dozen. Further, schools would be given short notice of their participation in the tests to discourage preparation.
By testing a small representative sample, the Education Ministry will also render the High Court of Justice’s ruling two months ago that it must publish test results at the school level largely meaningless.
Over the years, the primary goal of the Meitzav exams – to show the extent to which elementary and middle school students were meeting curricular demands – was pushed to the margins. The growing influence of the philosophy of indicator-based performance management transformed the tests into a way to affect changes in education methods, sometimes by threatening teachers and school principals.