The author asks: Is the state of Hebrew teaching and learning in the United States where it should be? Are student outcomes meeting our expectations? Many educators and consumers of Jewish education believe we have a long way to go. Professionalizing Hebrew-language educators is crucial if we are to succeed at raising the bar and improving outcomes. In education, the growth of a field depends on a dynamic interaction between the experiences of researchers and practitioners. This interaction is key to defining and pushing the boundaries of the profession.
Among the points raised in the article:
- There are very few degree-granting graduate programs in the teaching of Hebrew in North America, and the enrollment in these programs is minimal.
- This is indicative of the state of the field: teaching Judaic subjects is lumped together with teaching Hebrew, and the teachers are expected to do both whether or not they have received adequate training.
- There are few experts and little to no research focused on advancing the field of Hebrew teaching and learning, promoting an understanding of the discipline and assisting in the professional growth needs of practitioners.
- Dialogue among and between practitioners and academics is largely absent. There is no forum in which the creators of current curricula can share their insights and interact with researchers and others working in professional development.
- Very few of our Hebrew-language educators are equipped with reliable, standardized and benchmarked student-assessment tools.
"The challenge is to leverage such investment and interest in order to realize the goal of creating, advancing and perpetuating professional field that will, in turn, promote mastery among teachers and spur the highest levels of student performance. The professionalization of Hebrew-language teaching and learning should be characterized by experts convening to question the current status of the discipline; discuss issues of concern; collaborate to advance teacher performance, recruitment and retention; and ensure the highest levels of student proficiency in the Hebrew language."