Education policies claiming to promote ‘excellence’ aim to improve outcomes in various quantitative measures of specific standards. However, excellence can also mean individual self-improvement. We analyse Israeli policies at the national, local, and school levels. We structure our argument based on sensemaking theory by applying qualitative content analysis to the texts of Director General Circulars of the Ministry of Education, local educational authority regulations, and local school-based programmes and procedures. We also conduct inductive and thematic analyses of interviews with senior actors at the three levels. We show that national policies mainly support outcomes-based forms of excellence, while local authorities and school principals play a prominent role in sensemaking and interpretation of these national policies by determining which of the outcomes-based or self-improvement notions of ‘excellence’ their schools will promote. This is specifically important in schools serving low socio-economic populations, where customisation of excellence promoting policies is vital.
- excellence education policy
- student performance
- students’ quantitative outcomes
- students’ self-improvement