JWeekly.com reports about a nondenominational Jewish high school offering self-paced individual learning and low-cost tuition, The Pre-Collegiate Learning Center, which is expected to open in central New Jersey in September, 2011. The school has been bolstered by a $50,000 grant from the Avi Chai Foundation. Its projected tuition: $5,000 a year. The grant from Avi Chai was given with the promise of more funding if the school commits to meeting certain milestones. The schools founders expect the school to be self-supporting within several years. One of the school’s major lures is its tuition, considerably less than that of other day schools. The school expects to keep costs down through lower expenditures on teaching staff than a typical Jewish day school. Instead, students will be assigned to their own computer portal pages through which they will access computer-based instructional materials, including lectures conducted or prerecorded by off-site instructors. Students’ progress also will be tracked online.
From the school's website:
The PCLC is the next generation of education. Just as Amazon reinvented the experience of shopping for books, we are re-inventing the experience of Jewish secondary education—featuring a novel, more customized learning experience, improved academic quality, and a significantly lower price.
From a small distance the PCLC doesn't look too different from a regular high school: It is a building filled with teenagers taking classes and doing work. There are classrooms, students, teachers, and administrators. But if you look closely, you will notice many differences. Just as Amazon did with the experience of shopping, we have taken every aspect of secondary education and analyzed it, asking in each instance: Can this be done better? Is someone already doing this better? Can this be done better and cheaper? We live in a time when technology has given us many wonderful new ways of doing things; it's our goal to see that education benefits from this bounty.
The core general studies program is as follows:
- English* 4 credits
- History* 4 credits
- Science* 3 credits
- Math* 3 credits
- Language* 2 credits
- Art/Music 1 credit
- Phys. Ed./Health 4 credits
- Practical Arts 1 credit
* Additionally 4 credits must be completed in any starred subject or any AP or advanced level course
These core requirements correspond to the minimum requirements in most states. We expect that many of our students will go beyond our core requirements and will take many advanced-level, college-level, and self-guided courses during their time at the Learning Center.
The PCLC’s Jewish Studies program combines traditional classroom learning with supervised Beit Midrash learning (including small group, chavruta, and, where appropriate, supervised independent study). Most students will take a standard program of four courses each week throughout the year. The four core courses each year will consist of two courses devoted to Tanach and two courses devoted to Rabbinical/Talmudic subjects. The topics each student covers will be individually determined by the Head of Jewish studies based on each student’s ability, experience, and interest.
Each course will be a two-year cycle. For example, the Chumash I course would have both ninth and tenth graders. If, for example, Vayikra was part of Year Two of the cycle in this course, the ninth graders starting in Year Two of the cycle will study Vayikra along with the tenth graders. The following year, Year One of the cycle, the now tenth graders might study Shemot along with the new ninth graders. The new eleventh graders will join the twelfth graders in the upper grades’ two-year cycle. The two-year cycle builds a community of learning, in which common texts are shared and discussed across grades thus reinforcing our values of peer learning and mentoring.
Beyond The Core Stucture
We see this core structure as the first word, not the last. We will use a planning process to encourage interested students to pursue individualized programs of study. Advance planning with the Head of Jewish studies and staff allows students to follow a customized path of learning in one or more courses. The possibilities and scope of individualized learning will expand over the four years of study. The Learning Center's emphasis on staff whose key responsibility is to act as facilitators and coaches supports a culture where students assume ever greater responsibility for their own Jewish education. The presence of educators who understand their role as one of facilitating makes it possible to blend instructional elements like distance learning (for example perhaps a course with an Israel-based teacher) or to align textual study with a particular student's internship or chesed project or service learning.
Our Jewish Studies courses will have assessments, but they are not graded. We believe strongly that these subjects should be pursued for the love of Torah and of knowledge itself.
Finally, it is also important to note that Hebrew language and Jewish history are independently important. The standard history scope and sequence on the general studies side of the curriculum includes two trimester-long courses in Jewish history and Israel history. Similarly, Hebrew language instruction is offered as part of the Learning Center's foreign language program. These courses represent additional opportunities for Jewish learning.