The Effect of Middle Schools Establishment on Socioeconomic Mobility
- Middle schools have been established in Israel since the beginning of the 1970s. As part of a broad reform, new schools
- were established, integrating students from several elementary school-zones in the 7th grade. Middle schools were designed to bring together students from varied backgrounds and to improve students’ achievements, particularly those from a weaker socioeconomic background.
- The current research examined the effect of middle schools establishment on seventh-graders in the Jewish education system in the 1970s, and did not find that the availability of middle schools had a long term impact on schooling, employment, and wages of the students. In addition, no effect was found on marriage patterns (including inter-ethnic marriages), childbirth patterns, and religiosity.
- · These findings are also valid among students from a weaker socioeconomic background.
In the first decades following the founding of the State, average academic achievements of students from Asian-African origin were considerably lower than those of Europe-US origin (and native Israelis). The concerns regarding the persistence of the ethnic and class gap led, in the beginning of the 1970s, to the implementation of the largest reform in the history of the Israeli education system: middle schools were established and the existing two-stage schooling structure, which included 8-year elementary schools and high schools, was replaced with a three-stage structure of 6-year elementary schools, middle schools for grades 7–9, and secondary (high) schools. Within the framework of the reform, more qualified teachers were hired and curricula had been updated. The establishment of middle schools was concurrent with an increase in the number of compulsory years of schooling, from 8 to 10.
According to the reform-planners, the establishment of middle schools that integrate several elementary school zones, and bring together students from different socioeconomic background (i.e. integrative inter-regional schools) was expected to improve the academic achievements of the students, particularly of those from a weaker socioeconomic background, most of whom were immigrants from Asia-Africa. It was hoped to increase those students' chances of reaching high school, study in lucrative high-school tracks and to achieve a “Bagrut” matriculation diploma.
The research, conducted by Tamar Ramot-Nyska, Yonatan Schoen, Noam Zussman, and Nadav Zvi—all from the Bank of Israel Research Department—examined the impacts of the establishment of middle schools on those who were students in the Jewish education system in 7th grade in the reform's first decade, as reflected by several outcome variables—attainment of schooling, employment and wages, family income, marriage and childbirth patterns and religiosity, as well as the inter-generational effects on their children’s schooling achievements.
The research uses the gradual geographic spread of middle schools in the 1970s to identify the effects of the reform in its first years, as until the beginning of the 1980s, about 300 middle schools in the Jewish education system had been opened gradually in various places across the country and more than two-fifths of seventh-graders studied in them. (Today, the share of students studying in such schools among the Jewish non-ultra-Orthodox education system is about 90 percent.) Using current research methods and a rich historical database, the research compares a range of outcome variables between children in 7th grade for whom a middle school was available in their residential locality and those for whom such a school was not available. The assessments were made while controlling for various socioeconomic-demographic characteristics of the students, their place of residence, and the increase in the number of compulsory schooling years.
The research found that the establishment of middle schools did not contribute to socioeconomic mobility, as reflected by the range of outcome variables examined; students for whom a middle school was available in their residential locality acquired schooling and integrated into the labor market to the same extent as students who were educated in places without an available middle school, and similarly with regard to marriage patterns (including inter-ethnic marriages), childbirth, and religiosity. These findings are also valid among students whose mother’s schooling level is low (which indicates a weak background). As a direct result, differences in their children’s schooling achievements were also not found. This can apparently be attributed to, among other things, the limited integration created by the reform.