Jewish youth education comes in many forms

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.

5 thoughts on “Jewish youth education comes in many forms

  1. I agree that the relationship between engagement and education choices is highly complex… but as with many young newly-marrieds, the relationship often founders on questions of money.
    If we could somehow mitigate this factor in the equation and leave it to parents who want to educate their kids Jewishly to work out their highly complex issues about the endeavour without fear of impending bankruptcy… I do not assume that every day school family is necessarily more dedicated to Jewish living. They may be more interested in living with Jews. However, I would love to see the day when dedicated folks, with some investment of their part, can reap the benefits that a day school education offers. A pipe dream, I know…

  2. In many cases, the day school decision is only partially related to money. Some don’t live near a good day school or any day school. Some day schools might teach and model Jewish practice in a way that’s not a good fit for a family. Some day schools can’t support children with special needs even if public schools can support them in regular classrooms. Some people philosophically value participation in the public school system. It’s unclear what the day school enrollment – even among engaged families – would be even with much lower tuition costs, but I suspect it would still be far below 100% (unless you define engagement as wanting to send kids to day school)
    I would love to see the day where many of these engaged families can get some of the benefits of a day school education in other formats. Perhaps even with day schools leading the innovation charge and collecting some revenue to offset tuition for those who do go to day schools.

  3. Wellington, New Zealand; with a total Jewish population of 1,200 people, can barely support Moriah College; a “Special Character School” with an enrollment of 30 students aged five to thirteen, that is mostly funded by the Ministry of Education. The Hebrew Studies department where Torah, Culture, and Hebrew language is taught, is funded by the community, and yet we struggle to fund this area. The school by law can charge $1,200 per student per Annam and ask for an additional amount of $350 but only as a voluntary contribution. These two sums are insignificant in comparison to costs in the USA, yet many of our families do not pay this sum. The two main reasons are that the Israeli’s feel that they should not have to pay, because they don’t pay in Israel. The second group who do not pay feel that they can get away with it. This has resulted in a deficit of over $75,000 in addition to the Ministry’s demand that we have a reserve of $20,000 or they will CLOSE THE SCHOOL.
    It would be of interest to learn what the catchment and demographics are for “a modern Hebrew Day School” is in regard to population and financial ability vis-a-vie the cost of tuition per student.

  4. @Norman,
    This is exactly the type of question jdata.com is supposed to help you answer. I just did a quick query there and the median operating budget per child in the 102 day schools currently in the system is $15,743. 17% of schools spend $6000-9999 per student and another 4% spend less than $6000. Note that these are expenses, not tuition so some of that cost comes from fundraising.
    17% of the day schools in the system have 50 or fewer children enrolled. Possibly due to the small sample size, I can’t see the cost/student of this subset of schools.

  5. For the Jews in the Diaspora, trying to keep their Jewish Identity,I invite them to make their Aliyah to Israel. The only country in the world that will be the safe and secure place to educate your children and conserve your Jewish identity and legacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.