ICEI Teaching the Love of Reading and Learning
It’s a breath of fresh air to hear any child say “I love to read at home and love to learn at school.” Well, Yosef a first grader in one of ICEI’s schools wouldn’t be the first or the last child to say it. The Israel Center for Educational innovation is Israel’s leader in improving elementary school instruction and in turning around underperforming low-income elementary schools.
ICEI targets elementary schools that have a concentration of Ethiopian-Israeli students from 20% to more than 90%, most of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite the challenge of working with children who don’t speak the local language, Haviva Lahav, Principle of 14 years explains their students develop a love of books, learn to read form sentences and express themselves.
Founded in 2009 ICEI programmes now operate in 27 schools in 4 municipalities, serving more than 7,500 students. ICEI programmes assign a full-time Literacy Coach in each school to support classroom instruction and provide mentoring to principals. What’s possibly more unique is their capacity to introduce comprehensive user-friendly data tracking systems in each school. The goal of these systems is to promote data-driven instruction and enable teachers to differentiate and individualise their teaching. “The entries made by teachers are reviewed three times a year,” says Don Futterman, Executive Director.
Programmes with such a personal touch make it clear why ICEI have become so successful, but there is still more. Three main programmes feature in any ICEI school; ‘It’s Elemetary!’ strengthens literacy fundamentals with a focus on school leadership, classroom management and constant evaluation of their methods. ‘Springboard to Success’ is geared towards first and second graders rapid acquisition of basic reading, writing and speaking skills. ‘Atzmaut Plus’ supports the empowerment of more than 120 Ethiopian-Israeli families whose children study in ICEI participating schools.
As part of the Atzmaut Plus programme each school has a liaison to Ethiopian community. Mrs Lahav tells parents, many of which are illiterate themselves, “We cannot succeed without you.” Indeed, many parents respond in kind, Minivel Kasia a father of a first grader speaks of his happiness that his child is learning how to read, “It’s even becoming easy for her.”
An aspect of their success can be attributed to in-class libraries. Each ICEI classroom is equipped with a library of 600-1000 books that are clearly displayed according to reading level. Each child chooses a book according to his or her interest at a “just right” reading level, with special furniture displaying the books. To encourage further reading the ‘Pajama Library’ initiative, a collaborative effort with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, allows first graders and their parents a new book to take home every month.
All programmes are under the auspices of the Ministry of Education in Israel and funded by over 15 organisations in Israel and abroad. Yuval, a fourth grade tells us he, “loves to learn and grow,” and it’s no wonder when their Principles and Executive directors say “In our schools, no child can’t succeed.”