Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Characteristics of Schools That Work

The following comments are taken verbatim from pages 4 and 5 of Schools That Work: What We Can Learn From Good Jewish Supplementary Schools, written by Jack Wertheimer and published in March 2009 by The Avi Chai Foundation. See the posting on 5/31/09 for a discussion of the "enabling factors" that Wertheimer and his team of researchers define as being necessary for Schools That Work.

Jack Wertheimer, with his team of 9 other researchers, has discovered that there are six Noteworthy Characteristics of the Schools:
  1. Good schools intentionally work to develop a community among their students, staff and parents.... [T]he community fostered by the school not only is warm and hospitable, but also establishes norms explicitly identified as distinctly Jewish.
  2. Good schools place an emphasis on taking Jewish study seriously....[R]egardless of the emphasis, good schools have developed a sophisticated curriculum that goes beyond rote learning, examining Jewish content so that it "sticks."
  3. Moreover, good schools create opportunities for students to engage in experiential Jewish education....This experiential component, in tandem with formal learning, is vital, as it provides students with the opportunity to live their Judaism and not only to learn about it.
  4. Good schools understand the need to align all their efforts with school goals. School directors, clergy and lay leaders often play a critical role in clarifying the school's goals and working with teaching staff to align what goes on in the classroom with the broader objectives of the school.
  5. Good schools value themselves and their students. In most of the schools under study, discipline was achieved primarily by attending closely to the needs of individual children and engaging them with compelling materials.
  6. Good schools regard families as allies and also clients. Involved parents can become important models for their children and will encourage children to take maximal advantage of their Jewish educational experiences.
The work of building an effective supplementary school is not only to actualize each of these aspirations so that they become real, but also to hold them in balance. No single one alone will insure a strong program. It is the combination of traits that forges a strong school.
Plenty of food for thought. Reflections/reactions at the end of this series.

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