School Tests in Israel Show Gaps Between Rich and Poor, Jews and Arabs

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An illustrative image of Israeli students in a classroom.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

School achievement test scores released Tuesday by the Education Ministry show that the large gaps between students from different socioeconomic levels, as well as between Jewish and Arab students, remain as large as in the past. These differences show up in all the tests and all grades tested — with the exception of the Hebrew and English exams for fifth grade. In all the rest of the tests, known as the Meitzav exams, there has been no narrowing of the gaps — and in some cases they have even grown wider.

In the 2014-2015 school year there was a small drop in the scores of fifth-grade students in Arabic and English tests, compared to the scores from three years ago. But the math and Hebrew language test scores were almost unchanged. Students take the language test for their native language, Hebrew or Arabic. The tests are meant to allow comparisons between schools, using various factors.

The eighth-grade scores were also mixed: A slight increase in math scores, while English and Hebrew-language results were similar to previous years. Students had lower levels of achievement in science exams, and especially in Arabic-language tests.

The large differences in scores between Arab and Jewish eighth-grade students continued last year, as well as for students of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

The average score in Hebrew language for fifth graders was 537 points last year (on a scale of 200 to 800). In Arabic it was 560 points, math was 545 points, and English 524 points.

For eighth-graders the average score in Hebrew language was 540 points, and only 518 in Arabic, while the average math score was 532 points, in science 552 points, and in English 514.

The Education Ministry’s national authority for measurement and evaluation in education (known by its Hebrew acronym, Rama), said: “Looking back over the years, in most subjects and class grades there is no clear trend of reducing inequality” between Jewish and Arab students. The average difference was about 50 points in last year’s tests, and looking over the past four years it seems the gaps have even grown in English, math and science, said Rama.

Two-thirds of primary school students reported a close and caring relationship with their teachers, compared to only 48 percent of junior high school students and 42 percent of high school students. Between a third to a half of students reported having vandalized school property last year, and students also reported an increased number of thefts in school - mostly in junior high and high schools.

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