State to Withhold Publication of School Test Scores Amid Labor Dispute

After a report revealed that school principals tried to skew results to artificially boost scores the Teachers Union claims the exams are 'foiling the ability of the education staff to work'

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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FILE Photo: Junior high students outside their school in Herzliya, Israel.
FILE Photo: Junior high students outside their school in Herzliya, Israel. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The Education Ministry announced on Monday that it would not release the scores of last year’s Meitzav achievement tests by school, and would be examining a new model for releasing the scores and conducting the national standardized examinations. Test scores by community will be published as usual.

The ministry’s decision comes after the Teachers Union, representing some 100,000 elementary and junior high school teachers, declared a labor dispute over the ministry’s insistence on conducting the tests in the same format and publishing the results. It also comes after a report in TheMarker that many school principals tried to skew the results to artificially boost the scores of their fifth-graders in English and in math.

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“The existence of the Meitzav examinations and the decision to publish the results increase the pressure on principals and teachers and harm them,” the work dispute declaration said.

“Instead of being used as a tool to assist the educational staff, the Meitzav exams are foiling the ability of the educational staff to work.”

The Teachers Union welcomed the ministry’s decision, calling it “a first and necessary step toward totally eliminating the Meitzav examinations.”

The decision to publish the schools’ Meitzav results was not the ministry’s idea; it was forced to begin doing so in the wake of a petition to the High Court of Justice in 2012 by a group representing parents in poor neighborhoods and development towns and the Freedom of Information Movement. The ministry wanted to continue the policy of informing only the principal of the school results so they could be used to determine any improvements the school needed to make. But the court didn’t accept the ministry’s arguments and instructed the ministry to make the schools’ results public.

The ministry’s decision to stop publishing the school results was made in coordination with Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri, with the ministry committing to conduct an in-depth study of how to publish the results from now on. The ministry explained that since the High Court ruling, “There has been harm done to the teaching and learning process, harm to the pupils and teachers and serious harm done to the credibility of the tests given to fifth-graders during the 2017-18 school year in math and in English.”

Meitzav is a Hebrew acronym for “school development and effectiveness index.” The Meitzav examinations are administered each year to children in the fifth and eighth grades by the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation in Education, the Education Ministry’s research arm.

The Meitzav examinations came to wider public attention in January, after TheMarker reported that the Education Ministry would not release the results of the fifth-graders’ math and English tests, after suspicions emerged that elementary school principals tried to skew the results by submitting inflated lists of pupils who had serious learning disabilities.

Under the ministry’s rules, the results of these pupils are not included in the school’s average scores. Thus, by labeling weaker pupils as having learning disabilities, the principals were able to improve their school’s overall score.