The re-examination of the raison d’etre of day schools goes beyond the rewriting of mission statements – it cuts to the core of what day schools are for and why they are invaluable, if not irreplaceable. This process can be both frightening and energizing, and raises many questions. Who should be involved in that process – day school heads, middle management, teachers, students, parents, lay leaders, communal religious leaders? Are the goals identified going to be descriptions of “ideal graduates” with the requisite body of knowledge, skills, beliefs, and behaviors, or a picture of adult members of the Jewish community five, ten, and twenty five years beyond graduation? Will the goals be measurable and demonstrable, or will we have to wait a generation to see if we are successful? This issue of Jewish Educational Leadership is dedicated to re-opening the question of where we are going.
The issue opens with a rich and varied Research section. Jon Levisohn explores an alternate conception of vision for day schools; Shirah Hecht suggests borrowing a model from the world of program assessment; David Harbater examines two schools and their missions from the inside; Yaakov Jaffe reveals results of a survey of halakhah programs in high schools; Sarah Levy explores the role of teachers in determining school mission; and Sara Rosenfeld shares her study of two schools in Australia dealing with a new population. In the Applications section, Eli Kohn presents a model he has used extensively in guiding schools to fulfill their missions; Steve Lorch describes how parent surveys help his school fine tune while Chaye Kohl questions what voice parents should have; Steve Bailey shares a process of examining a school’s goals; Micah Lapidus shares one school’s energizing experience of exploring core values; and Maury Grebenau recounts how a Jewish studies faculty was empowered to re-create its entire program.
Our Features section opens with Jack Bieler’s call to action for long-term evaluation of graduates. It is followed by an exclusive interview with Hanan Alexander who lays out his vision for a new kind of liberal education which embraces religious streams. Levi Cooper’s From the Classics brings to light an obscure story about an educational plan gone awry, with surprising results. The issue closes with Daniel Lehmann's Perspective on Jewish education. As always, the journal is not meant to present the last word on the topic but to open important discussions.