Teachers in Israel's Outskirts Score Lower in Key Standardized Test

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A preparation course for the psychometric exam, February 2017.
A preparation course for the psychometric exam, February 2017. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Teachers who work in the country’s outskirts scored 9 percent lower on Israel’s version of the SAT than their colleagues who teach in the center of the country, the Central Bureau of Statistics said this week.

The gap is 48 points on average for an exam where the scores range from 200 to 800 points.

The average score on the Psychometric Entrance Test among teachers in the north and south is 469 points, compared with 517 for teachers in the center of the country. The average score for all test-takers in 2016 was 545 points.

The gap is matched when broken down by socioeconomic level. Teachers in communities in the top half scored 530 points, compared with 481 points in the bottom half.

Teachers’ scores have been improving in recent years, but the gaps are growing between the center and outlying, poorer areas.

The gaps are also reflected in other segments of Israeli schools. For example, the average psychometric score for teachers in Arab schools is 448 points, compared with 513 points at Jewish state schools and 501 points at state religious schools.

Elementary school teachers also scored significantly lower than their colleagues at high schools – in all types of schools. Elementary school math teachers scored 102 points on average in the test’s quantitative reasoning section, compared with 117 points for high school math teachers.

English teachers in elementary schools averaged 101 points on the English portion of the test, compared with 113 for high school English teachers.

The data are for teachers under 40 who teach from preschool through high school.

Even though the Education Ministry sets national standards for the test for admission to teachers colleges, some institutions in the outskirts have a shortage of applicants. They are thus forced to lower their standards to find enough students and keep their government funding.

“Success in the psychometric exam, which reflects learning skills, doesn’t attest to an education student necessarily becoming a good teacher,” said the president of the Oranim teacher training college, Prof. Yaarah Bar-On. “But one can assume that if exam-takers don’t know how to learn, they won’t know how to teach.”

Research shows that a key factor in reducing inequality in society is the teaching staff in the more deprived regions, “and these data show that the Education Ministry needs to encourage more good teachers to come to weaker areas,” Bar-On said.

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