Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in October 2000, Sderot has been under constant rocket fire. It is difficult for children to concentrate on schoolwork or carry out daily routines; they experience anxiety symptoms, which can include sleeping difficulties, nightmares, sweating, development regressions, wetting beds, and fear of the outside. In addition, residents no longer wear seatbelts in the car because when the alarm sounds people have to leave the car and find shelter; businesses have closed because customers can’t go out to shop and as businesses close, no one has money to buy anything anyway.
It’s the uncertainty, the never knowing, that takes a toll. Occasionally, almost a whole day will pass without a Kassam. Other days, 30 or even 40 will hit. In March 2008, the mayor said the population had declined by 10%-15% as families left the city.
IVN began working in Sderot as part of its Education Initiative in 2005. As part of the initiative, IVN introduced data driven decision making through municipal intervention in order to improve student achievement. Simply put – IVN's Information, Measurement & Evaluation Unit, coordinated by Ms. Keren Shaizaf, showed them how to collect process and use data to make informed decisions on all levels. This may not sound revolutionary, but it is rarely done systematically within the municipalities or school systems in Israel.
This data includes student performance, student attendance, teacher feedback, etc. Having this information available at their fingertips allowed for a very quick response time on the part of the school staff and provided the municipality useful guidelines regarding how to efficiently distribute educational resources. This new method of working led to very noticeable improvement in student performance.
Despite the academic improvement, IVN's Integrator in Sderot, Ms. Adi Sand, was approached by school principals who felt that due to Sderot's daily reality, the data only showed half of the picture. At their request, IVN, together with a forum of principals and the Ministry of Education District Inspector, Ms. Aliza Kalfon, expanded the management tool to include an emotional element; based on data and feedback from school counselors, advisors, etc. The widened tool now responds to the students needs on a more holistic level. "This is exactly what I need," said Principal Etti Azran of the Gil Rabin elementary school.
Ms. Miriam Sassi, Head of Education at the Sderot municipality feels that this tool has empowered people within the local education system. "This intervention has strengthened and empowered us. We now have the information to determine our needs, giving us a great deal more confidence when making our case to the mayor's office or when dealing with other ministries or external organizations," stated Ms. Sassi.
"Implementing the Education Initiative in Sderot has been an amazing experience." said Ms. Sand. "The process started three years ago when IVN had to convince the municipality and principals of the benefits of data driven decision making. This was not an easy task. We met with a lot of resistance. Three years later we are approached by those same people and asked to expand the tool – this is real success!"
When the expanded tool was presented at Sderot's principal forum and IVN's intention to run a pilot in one school was announced, several of the principals came forward asking that the pilot be expanded.
"I want to take this amazing tool to other areas that I work in," said Ms. Kalfon the District Inspector. "To be able to respond to student's needs on all levels makes us better managers, principals and teachers. IVN's tool makes it possible."