International Education: On Location in Israel:
School Superintendents Delegation Travels To Israel
As chair of the executive committee of the America-Israel Friendship League, I recently led a delegation to Israel, which included the executive director, Dan Domenech, and superintendents of schools in Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, who are members of the American Association of School Administrators. This provided an opportunity for these educational leaders and members of their families, most of whom are also involved in education, to visit a variety of K-12 schools, colleges and universities, like Bar Ilan University. One school, the ORT Astronomy and Space High School and College at Ma’ale Adumion, which has its own rooftop planetarium, showed how students went directly to the air force academy as well as college in Israel. Because of their defensive needs, graduates do not go directly to college or careers. In this case, in view of their academic capabilities, the students can go to college and the military at the same time.
The delegates also visited an Israeli Arab community, Regional Council of Gilboa, the Multi Cultural School, where a majority of the students passed the Bagrut Exam, a requirement for graduation. In southern Tel Aviv the superintendents visited with the principal of the Bialik Rogozin School, where most of the students are children of immigrants to Israel. In addition, they saw Time To Know, a digital personalized learning program being implemented in mathematics and English as a Second Language for elementary school students. Later the superintendents explored with the principal the positive results of using the program.
They also learned at a meeting with the director general of the Ministry of Education that Israel has fallen in the ranking of the International PISA test results because the religious ultra orthodox students, a growing population, do not study the secular subjects and are not prepared for the exams. These meetings enabled the American visitors to become acquainted with Israel’s diversity of faiths, ethnicities and political views.
In addition, the delegation met government officials, visited Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and the memorial to the Righteous Gentiles who initiated their own safety network for endangered Jews. The superintendents also saw the holy places of the three great monotheistic religions in Israel.
The delegation also met with the participants in the Young Ambassador Student Exchange program, comprised of high school students and their teacher chaperones from New York City, Virginia Beach, Tulsa, Okla., and Tucson, Ariz., who were visiting Israel to live with host families throughout the country. This is in reciprocation for Israeli students having just visited the schools and homes of American hosts.
As a result of their exposure to Israel and its effect on students, the superintendents appreciated the value of supporting delegations from their own communities to be part of future Young Ambassador missions, which encourage global friendship among today’s youth, who will be tomorrow’s leaders. Geography, world history and economics, as well as other studies, come to life for student-travelers as well as for the superintendents.
The Young Ambassador Student Exchange and Superintendents/Educators Missions started more than 25 years ago between New York City and Israel. As the then-executive director of curriculum and instruction for the New York City Public Schools, my colleagues and I developed the curriculum, which included the size and structure of the New York City educational system, the content to be taught, and the requirements for promotion and graduation. This was in addition to getting a sense of how New York City fit into the structure of New York state and the rest of the United States. When the Israeli students of all religions and ethnicities lived with New York City students and families of equally diverse characteristics, they became familiar with Israeli Jewish, Arab, Christian, Bedouin and Druze students who in turn have lived with American Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Asian families.
Strong friendships between the students, their families and educators have grown over the years because of these shared experiences. #
Charlotte K. Frank, Ph.D., is the senior vice president of research & development at McGraw-Hill Education of The McGraw-Hill Companies.