Engineering Enduring Change: Learning What it Will Take to Transform Day School Israel Education from a Study of BASIS

Jun. 05, 2012

Source: AVI CHAI Foundation


Launched in September 2008, at the stimulus of the Jim Joseph Foundation, BASIS—the Bay Area Schools Israel Synergy initiative—has been an ambitious initiative to intensify Israel education in eleven Jewish day schools with a combined enrollment of more than 2000 students. This report studies the BASIS initiative so as to learn what might lead to enduring change elsewhere in the field of day school Israel education and in any Jewish communal effort to produce systemic and sustained change across multiple educational institutions.


From the Executive Summary:

Looking closely at the initiative’s main components—those provided by the San Francisco Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE), the initiative’s lead agency, and those embedded within participating schools—this report identifies program components that promise enduring cultural and structural change in schools; those that have contributed to positive change; and those whose overall impact has been neutral.


The program components that promise enduring change include: a determined effort to develop a school-level vision for Israel education; the appointment of an Israel education coordinator with power and influence in each school; engagement of general studies faculty in the work of Israel education; developing appropriately designed —curricularized and integrated — student trips to Israel; and enhancing school-based capacity for curriculum design.


The program components that have produced positive impacts but that will probably not endure include: a twinning relationship with Israeli schools; taking school leadership teams to Israel for a community-wide four-day seminar; establishing a monthly Community of Practice meeting of BASIS school coordinators; and focusing on arts and culture as vehicles for Israel education.


Mapping existing programs for teaching about Israel within each school did not consistently nor necessarily result in positive or lasting change.


Drawing on what has been learned from looking closely at BASIS and from what is known from other multi-school change initiatives, the report introduces a proposed model of what it will take to transform Israel education in schools, and of what will impede such transformation even when many positive forces are aligned. The suggested model identifies both external drivers and internal levers of change. It also proposes that the readiness of participating schools must be determined before they are recruited to any initiative.


The report finishes by identifying a series of five steps that are critical to the successful implementation of the proposed model:

  • Developing a clear vision of transformed Israel education in North American day schools
  • Identifying an administrative platform from which to lead and coordinate an initiative for change
  • Designing measures of school readiness and student impact
  • Constructing matched cohorts of participating schools
  • Preparing personnel to lead and coordinate Israel education in schools
Updated: Jul. 15, 2012