Overview of the last year 2020-2021

This past year, our teams traced the whereabouts of over 2000 children who participated in the longitudinal study and graduated from kindergarten to elementary school – a formidable task because pre-schools and elementary schools in Israel are entirely separate institutions. Gan-hova (compulsory kindergarten for children aged 5-6) is the final year of the 3-year pre-school system. After kindergarten, children who do not remain in kindergarten for another year graduate to elementary school (1st-6th grade), where formal reading instruction begins in 1st grade.

Our team successfully traced all 1082 Hebrew-speaking children, of whom 71 children were not available to continue in the study for various reasons (retained for another year in kindergarten, moved to another part of the country, parental refusal to continue participating, or children who transferred to schools outside the scope of the present study, including ultra-Orthodox or special education). We began collecting data in January 2020, until the outbreak of COVID-19 and the closure of schools on March 9. At that point, we had data for 798 children (716 with complete data), spread across 92 schools and 167 different homeroom classes. In addition, a self-perception of reading abilities questionnaire was administered to a randomly sampled subset of 200 children.

In the Arabic-speaking sample, 1127 of the 1197 children tested in kindergarten were available for testing in 1st grade (70 were lost owing to retention, relocation, parental refusal, non-compliance, or enrolling in non-mainstream schools). We were able to complete the testing of 855 children, and obtained incomplete data for another 117, by the time of the school closure. These 972 children were distributed across 82 schools (168 classrooms) located in 20 towns and villages in the Arab (Muslim, Christian), Druze, and Bedouin sectors. The following are the measures that were individually administered in 1st grade. All the data have now been coded at the item level.

Individual Measures

Setting-level data (home and school)

For the Hebrew-speaking sample, a teacher questionnaire on beginning reading instruction was completed by 38 teachers. In the Arabic-speaking sample, 162 teacher questionnaires were returned. We now have demographic and home literacy data (obtained via a parent questionnaire) for 637 Hebrew-speaking children and 727 Arabic-speaking children.

The way ahead

With the recent completion of coding for the 1st grade data (delayed owing to COVID-19), we are now beginning our analysis of these data, alongside preparation for our final (and crucial) testing phase at the end of 2nd grade.

The following set of research summaries present an overview of the rich and diverse range of studies now emerging (or soon to emerge) from the Safra longitudinal project. Some of these summaries include preparatory or preliminary findings and analyses (some already published or submitted for publication), but most outline analyses that are currently underway now that the mid-year 1st grade data have finally been coded.