Lessons Learned from Developing a New Model for Israel Education - BASIS

Published: 
May 17, 2013

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 

 

BASIS – the Bay Area Israel Education Day School project – is designed to integrate Israel Education across a school’s curriculum, so that it is aligned with each school’s mission and goals, and at the core of each school’s community and culture. BASIS provides a framework that supports students, educators and the greater school community in building personal, enduring connections to Israel and the Israeli people.

 

Responding to studies indicating that young American Jewish students were growing more “distant” from Israel than previous generations, the Jim Joseph Foundation funded a pilot project to substantially improve Israel education in eleven Northern California Jewish day schools. The initiative was led and designed by Jewish LearningWorks (the central agency for Jewish education in San Francisco), in collaboration with the Foundation, the iCenter, and with the eleven participating schools. After four years, we learned a great deal about how to develop effective Israel education in day schools.

 

The initiative sought measurable outcomes in student learning, in knowledge and skills of teachers, in the development of formalized Israel curricula in the schools, and in strengthening the communal educational infrastructure supporting Israel education – in this instance in the central agency for Jewish education.

 

The initiative took on its own brand – it was named BASIS (pronounced Bah-sees) – an acronym that worked in both English and Hebrew (Bay Area Schools Israel Synergy and Batei Sefer Yisrael-San Francisco). The effort was systemic and holistic – it addressed Israel education in the context of an over-arching school community, touching several different inter-related academic, social, and structural aspects of the school community. Thus, while the initiative focused on Israel, which is generally situated within a Jewish studies framework, every stakeholder group of the school community became involved in some way, including general studies faculty, administration, the Board, parents, and, of course, students.

 

During the course of the initiative, a model emerged – a framework of essential and symbiotic strategies that other communities can implement. These included:

  • Establish and articulate a vision for Israel education, consistent with the school’s values, that can serve as a foundation for the educational work that follows, and that has “buy-in” from key stakeholder groups;
  • Develop an Israel curriculum based on that vision (in other words, a formalized educational plan for Israel education);
  • Develop teacher knowledge and skills, in both content and pedagogy;
  • Offer a menu of creative, and dynamic educational strategies that empower educators with effective methods and tools to teach Israel – in both formal and informal settings;
  • Create a cohort – a community of schools and educators invested in Israel education – that can support and learn from one another;
  • Invest in a communal infrastructure that can lead such an initiative and provide expertise,

technical support, and cohesion to support and sustain the work in the schools.

The Foundation not only supported the implementation of this effort, but additional work to reflect on and document lessons learned. The investment in that documentation effort, a small percentage of the overall cost of the project, helped to magnify and distribute the program’s impact beyond the schools themselves. And by developing documentation that is accessible to other communities throughout the country, the BASIS model will continue to support long-term outcomes. One can find the documentation on the newly launched BASIS website, in what is, arguably, the most extensively documented initiative of its kind on the Internet.

 

Read the complete post on eJewish Philanthropy

Updated: May. 20, 2013
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