February 6-8, 2011
More than 600 leaders and educators at Jewish day schools across the spectrum of Jewish practice opened the North American Jewish Day School Conference in Los Angeles this week. From making special education a priority within the Jewish day school framework, to harnessing technology to enhance and strengthen curricula and classrooms, to maintaining financially sustainable institutions of quality, the conference is addressing issues relevant to a day school movement committed to transmitting knowledge, enhancing practice, ensuring a vibrant future and solidifying its place on the educational landscape.
The conference is a joint initiative of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association, RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, the Institute for University-School Partnership at Yeshiva University, and PARDeS: The Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools. This is the second year that the organizations, representing the arc of Jewish movements and educational approaches, have joined to organize the conference and explore common issues.
The theme of the 2011 conference is The High Performance, High-Tech Jewish Day School of the Very Near Future, underscoring how Jewish educational professionals are transforming their individual institutions - and the day school movement itself - into inclusive venues of educational quality and value utilizing proven, effective and emerging approaches.
The opening session of the first day of the conference focused on the effectiveness of Israel education in Jewish day schools. A presentation by Dr. Alex Pomson, senior researcher at the Melton Centre for Jewish Education at Hebrew University, highlighted challenges faced by educators seeking to reach sometimes skeptical and questioning students who, in the 21st century, have many alternate sources of information.
Gary Rosenblatt of The Jewish Week writes:
"Jewish day schools may soon be making more use of students taking online courses in secular subjects as a means of reducing tuition costs while accessing a wide range of academic topics for students.
In an effort to address the educational and financial concerns among the day schools they help support, the Avi Chai Foundation has endorsed eLearning – taking courses online – as providing increased access, motivation and flexibility for students, as well as developing digital literacy skills required for the 21st century.
Addressing the North American Jewish Day Schools Leadership Conference Sunday night, Rachel Abrahams of Avi Chai, a leading supporter of day schools, also emphasized the financial benefits of an approach being used in more and more schools around the country. Day school students could potentially enroll in charter schools and have parts of their general studies education funded by the government, while their Judaic studies would be offered in a bricks and mortar learning center.
Avi Chai also announced the creation of the Jewish Education Project Online Learning website, developed by the Jewish Education Project and JESNA (Jewish Education Services of North America) which is designed to serve as a portal for Jewish day schools to access information and research about the world of online education.”