Opening additional excellence classes – insights from the field
Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 7:20-8:20 p.m.
The aim of the new instructional tasks and the well-trained teachers is to enable more students to study at a level of excellence in middle school. Toward realizing this goal, we have been collaborating with the local authorities, the school networks and the education districts so that they open additional excellence classes. The participating schools provide each such class with supplementary weekly hours, dedicated to enhance and enrich the study of mathematics and the sciences.
During this process, we have found out that our partners in schools and local authorities are driven by a motivation to expand their potential for five units. They respond to the growing demand and fear that if they are unable to provide the top performing student with high level of teaching, they would seek to move to regional magnet schools. Therefore, the schools wish to capture these students, promising them a secure track to the five-unit class in high school. They are less concerned whether the focus of learning is on applied mathematics, or how closely it corresponds to PISA.
As a result of COVID-19 and the governmental budget crisis, we are currently noticing that it becomes more difficult for schools and local authorities to dedicate additional teaching hours to the excellence classes. They are coping with frequent school openings and closings and with health and logistics measures. Nevertheless, even under these circumstances, some of them come up with creative ideas for opening new classes and tracks using a range of models – regional, municipal, online and hybrid.
Questions for deliberation
- How do schools accept the new applied tasks? Do they perceive it as merely an external requirement? Else, do they genuinely identify with the need? What sort of dialogue and discourse will ensure their buy in?
- What are the lessons learned from the opening of new excellence classes? What were the steps and resources dedicated, and is there a need for further systemic support?
- How might the barriers of COVID-19 be mitigated? Is it adequate at this point for the foundation to encourage innovative solutions?
Background material for the discussion