Since I wrote a rather critical post about one of Leonard Saxe’s studies, I wanted to positively highlight a recent piece of his: The Jews We Leave Behind
Read it.
As I have also written, while there are many great things about day schools, any education system that focuses primarily on them is leaving a huge number of children behind. His additional plea for more, better, and openly accessible data is wonderful. It could benefit many education modalities with relatively modest costs. Dr. Saxe is involved in the development of JData. It is an aggregator of basic Jewish school information like costs/student. I’m a bit underwhelmed with the types of questions that can currently be asked there, but that’s partially due to the limited number of schools that have submitted information. If we want to see what’s possible, encourage any schools with which you’re connected to submit their information.
In any survey, there’s a balance between asking so many questions that people don’t answer any, but I wish they had a few more. The existing questions focus on size/budget/denomination issues rather than teaching formats & hours of education. How those interact will tell us a lot more about what is or is not cost effective. Anyone have thoughts on other information that schools could easily submit that would be helpful?
By only major critique of the piece is that he assumes that more engaged families with the most highly motivated children chose day school and discussions about other education options are discussions about less engaged families. I don’t think this is accurate. In my own community, there is only a modest connection between Judaic engagement and whether they send their children to a Jewish day school or elsewhere. When I talk about my Jewish aftercare creation efforts with families who have children in synagogue supplemental schools, many are very engaged and want more Jewish education for their children. My program isn’t right for all of them and they didn’t chose day schools (or day schools didn’t chose them) for a wide variety of reasons. As a commenter on his post, Ruth, notes, “…Jewish teens attending supplementary Jewish high schools… are some of the most dedicated, enthusiastic, and academically talented young people I encounter on a regular basis.” Conversely, there are some Jewish day school families where most of their commitment to Jewish practice ends at the classroom door.
The relationship between education choices and engagement is complex. Education programs can also alter engagement in positive and negative ways. We need to seriously figure out what does or does not work and share the information beyond the world of academic journals. We need more data and I strongly support Dr. Saxe’s sentiments in this regard.