The Israel Center for Educational Innovation (ICEI) uses a proven, systematic program to bring about whole school reform and to advance the educational achievements of Ethiopian-Israeli elementary school students and their non-Ethiopian classmates. This approach improves the teaching and management skills of school faculties, greatly increases the quantity and quality of literacy instruction, and helps parents learn how to support their children’s education.
The program uses a five-pronged approach:
- Balanced Literacy using the Workshop Model of Instruction –Intensive reading and writing instruction takes place for 10 - 15 hours each week, and teaches children to be independent learners. Whole class 10-minute mini-lessons break down instruction into focused, easily digestible units. Students spend a half hour every day independently reading books of their own choosing in class. Three to five times a week students also devote half an hour to independent writing. Teachers use the independent reading and writing time to conduct individualized and small group instruction in the classroom. The model enables teachers to differentiate and individualize instruction, addressing the specific needs of all students in classes with great variability in reading and writing levels. In addition to reading in class every day, students are required to take books home and encouraged to read at home daily for an additional 30 minutes.
- Teacher training – ICEI is the only program in Israel that brings teacher training into the classroom in real time. ICEI has introduced a new position, the Literacy Coach, into Israeli schools. Each new school is assigned a full-time Literacy Coach, who conducts professional development with teachers in the classroom five days a week, greatly improving teaching effectiveness. To maximize the coaching support, teachers also benefit from regular sessions with the Literacy Coach for feedback and assistance in planning lessons.
- In-class libraries and furniture - Because Israeli classrooms are devoid of books, ICEI equips each participating classroom with its own library of 600 - 1,000 books arranged by reading level. Each child chooses books at his or her “just right” reading level and according to his or her interests. Children are regularly assessed and are encouraged to advance to the next reading level as soon as they are ready. ICEI also provides special furniture to display books and support its instructional model.
Only ICEI has Literacy Coaches who conduct teacher training in the classroom in real time.
- Expert mentoring for principals -- Experience shows that in order for change to take root, principals must lead any significant process of change in their schools. Outstanding retired principals, who are expert in our instructional model and our overall initiative, serve as mentors to the principals of all schools participating in ICEI initiatives. These mentors help principals refocus from being crisis managers to becoming the instructional leaders of their schools. Mentors also help principals enhance their management abilities and transform the learning culture of their schools to a culture of success and high expectations.
- Empowering Ethiopian parents – Many Ethiopian parents are not sufficiently involved in their children’s schools, and often do not know how to help their children get what they need from the educational system. ICEI places a full-time Ethiopian Community Liaison in each school to serve as the central address for Ethiopian parents, and to enable them to become active participants in their children’s education. The Liaison teaches parents techniques to support their children’s learning of reading even if they are illiterate themselves. The Liaison also promotes their empowerment by encouraging their active involvement in classroom and school-wide Parents Committees, organizes celebrations of Ethiopian culture, and holds leadership training and enrichment activities ( such as Hebrew and computer classes) to serve the parents’ needs.
- Data driven instruction – ICEI regularly assesses students’ reading and writing levels, and tracks progress throughout the year. ICEI boasts a full time Assessment and Research Department, and an on-line data collection and processing web-site. Teachers learn to collect and interpret data in order to have their fingers on the pulse of their students’ progress. Principals, literacy coaches and teachers receive the processed and analyzed data on a timely basis in order to use it to drive instruction.