In 2013, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston convened a task force of Jewish early childhood professionals to acquire a better understanding of how local families raising Jewish children choose preschools. The task force worked with Professor Mark I. Rosen of Brandeis University to design a study to answer this question. Over 1,400 families completed a comprehensive survey, and the data were analyzed to compare four distinct groups:
• Families that chose a Jewish preschool
• Families that considered but did not choose a Jewish preschool
• Families that did not consider a Jewish preschool
• Families that had not yet made a preschool choice
- Parents consider hours, location, and cost first. Other factors enter into the decision process only after a particular preschool has been found to meet parents’ practical requirements.
- Once parents have identified one or more preschools that meet their practical requirements, the decision factors that they prioritize when making a final choice vary from one family to the next. Among the factors that parents are most likely to give the highest priority to are a warm environment, quality teachers, and a compatible educational philosophy.
- Parents who preferred early drop‐off times and late pick-up times were less likely to choose or consider a Jewish preschool. In most families with these preferences, both parents worked full time.
- Parents who did not live near a Jewish preschool were much less likely to consider one.
- Cost was a decision factor for those at lower income levels. Financial aid provided to these families supported the choice of a Jewish preschool.
- Parents identifying as Orthodox or Conservative, parents who considered Judaism to be very important in their family’s life, and parents whose friends were mostly Jewish were more likely to choose a Jewish preschool.
- Parents learned about preschools primarily through word of mouth. Virtually all parents visited a preschool before enrolling.
- Parents were very pleased with Jewish preschools overall, and most reported that their family’s Jewish practice at home was enhanced. Self-reported enhancement of Jewish practice at home was most pronounced among families identifying as Reform in comparison with those identifying as Conservative or Orthodox.
- Almost all of the responding parents were looking to make new friends. Those who had chosen a Jewish preschool were more likely to indicate they felt part of a local Jewish community.
To better support the needs of families and to foster excellence in early childhood programs, findings were shared with early childhood professionals and lay leadership throughout Greater Boston.
Read the entire study here.