Everyone is able
We assume, and we also believe, that, except for a very small portion (a tiny percentage) of students, everyone can succeed in school and produce impressive achievements. Every child who is not (organically) mentally retarded can attain impressive results. Some children need more help than others, need a different approach, or operate at a different rhythm; however, one way or the other, every student is capable of scholastic success. These assumptions are the basis of the plans of such experts as, for instance, Sizer (1993) and Henry-Levine (1984). We assume that the cognitive ability required for scholastic achievement is within every student’s grasp. In our approach, we assume that human beings in general and students in particular utilize only a small fraction of their cognitive potential; thus, learning activities that increase the level of utilization of cognitive potential and which are accompanied by motivational processes can lead to significant scholastic achievements.
The Development of learning gaps
Every September, thousands of students begin their schooling in grade one. The students and their parents and siblings are highly motivated and very excited, and their excitement is accompanied by certain expectations from the school and by an anticipation of success in scholastic achievements, acquisition of knowledge, self-realization and the paving of the route to future success through hoped-for scholastic excellence. However, for some students, the dream and the hope vanish after a few short weeks or months! Some of the students begin to “wobble” and to accumulate “scholastic failures,” which are, for the most part, “public” and daily and are expressed in tests and quizzes in a number of subjects; in some cases, these failures are documented and conceptualized into grades or written assessments, as well as being presented in evaluation documents submitted to their parents, who, only a short while before, had been full of hope. Nonetheless, students who do not know how to read or write and who lack basic scholastic skills will be promoted to grade two, grade three, and so forth, with some of them continuing to accumulate failures with varying levels of consistency. The school system tends to brand these students “under-achievers” or “weak students,” or assigns them some other alternative label. Because of the string of continual failures, these students develop the false, mistaken idea that they have a low capacity for scholastic excellence. This false subjective idea of constant, unavoidable failure develops as a process over the years, during which time the students accumulate failure after failure, and it is reinforced with each new “failure.” The “false self-awareness” of the “unsuccessful students” is transmitted to an ever-widening public: first to classmates and peers, then to the parents, the teaching team, the school’s administration, and so forth. Thus, an interactive, symbolic process develops. The underachievers have no control over this process, which becomes a vicious circle that is reinforced with each additional “failure” and which leads to low motivation and ever-increasing despair among the students, their parents and their teachers. In most cases, in the wake of these developments, the students are channeled into low-achiever classroom groups in junior high school (at times, the channeling is informal and begins as early as elementary school) and into low-achievement-oriented learning programs (in secondary schools), where the curriculum lacks any future relevant continuity-promoting orientation and “broadcasts” a low level of expectations and where the teaching is “minimal.” As a result, and because of an increasing lack of motivation, the learning gap between the “low-achievers” and the “achievers” steadily grows until it reaches proportions that are almost impossible to narrow, even technically, except with unique, complex methods. Thus, as experience teaches us, the learning gap in grade 8 between the students in two classroom groups in Mathematics (level-A and level-C respectively) will usually be at least one entire scholastic year and, in many cases, much more.
Schools and school learning teams can narrow learning gaps
We at the Tafnit program believe that it is possible, through an unconventional approach, to narrow these learning gaps and to significantly reduce the reverberations of the chain of failure experienced by some students. Our method, which involves the accelerated narrowing of these gaps and the appropriate application of the Tafnit program in different forms among various student population groups consisting of thousands of students, has demonstrated that both schools and teachers can reduce such learning gaps and that students who have previously failed according to all the relevant criteria can be led to produce stunning achievements by any universal standard.