Study Finds Bat Yam Educational Program Doesn't Help the Students

The "personal education" program in Bat Yam - implemented in the city in recent years and adopted by other cities as a model - has not resulted in improvements in the academic performance of pupils, according to an internal study by the Education Ministry. The study showed that in some cases students in the program actually regressed.

The ministry had promoted the program as a response to educational problems, especially in junior high schools, and was instrumental in applying it nationally.

The report states that after a two-year follow up, and on the basis of a number of variables having to do with the social and educational environment of schools in Bat Yam, "there is no evidence of real change."

Yet subjectively, it appears that the program has met with success: Most principals, teachers and parents have expressed satisfaction with the program and would like to see it continue.

The "Personal Education Bat Yam" program began four years ago in a number of junior high schools in the city, but was soon applied to all age groups in elementary schools and junior high schools.

The program is a joint development of the municipality, the Education Ministry, The Institute for Democratic Education, and the Rashi Fund, which contributed financially to the program.

In recent years the program was also implemented, fully or partially, in other cities, including Be'er Sheva, Herzliya, Nes Tziona, Hadera, Tiberias and Acre.

Moreover, the Education Ministry adopted the fundamental principles of the program and applied them on a national level in its policy on junior high schools.

The program includes the start of every school day with a group meeting in which the teachers and the pupils discuss informally their personal goals, in education but also socially. The meeting is held in a classroom split in two, and each group is led by a trainee teacher.

Parent-teacher contact

Other elements of the program include regular contact between the parents and the home room teacher, including visits to the pupils' homes at least once a year, as well as the development of a "personal contract" between each pupil, the school and the mayor.

One of the main aims of the program was the improvement in the academic achievement of the pupils in Bat Yam. However, the ministry report shows that the results of fifth graders in the sample exams, which include Hebrew, English, Math, Science and Technology, were lower than the national average and had not changed substantially between 2004-2008.

As for the 8th graders' result, which were lower than the national average, there was a stabilizing trend, except in English, where the marks were clearly dropping.

The report recommends the re-evaluation "of the basic assumptions regarding the link between personal education and academic performance," and "whether the aspiration to improve results requires the diversion of educational and material resources toward more studying."

Another aim of the program was the improvement of the social atmosphere in school, as well as improving the morale and motivation of the pupils in Bat Yam.

The report concludes that in a 2008-2009 evaluation, "there have not been noteworthy changes in most variables, neither in elementary or junior high schools."

For example, the overall attitude of pupils toward the school was no different in Bat Yam than other schools in Israel.

Similar results were found on violence and the sense of city pride. In one variable there was a significant change: during the two year period evaluated, there was a drop from 12 to six percent in the number of junior high school pupils who reported they had been involved in a violent incident.

Bat Yam junior high school pupils were also apparently late to school more than in any other similar cities: In Bat Yam 58 percent reported they were late to some class, and 53 percent were late to the first class, while in other cities the figures were 44 percent and 34 percent respectively.