I have Learned More from My Pupils than from All of Them: The Importance of Student-Centered Data

January 28, 2020

Source: eJewish Philanthropy


Educational outcomes are the equalizer. Assessment of changes in behavior, attitudes and subject fluency interrogate the goals of teaching and track the hopes of educators for their students. These are the missing link which accord to all other datasets more discernable meaning. To paraphrase Rabbi Hanina’s wisdom captured in Ta’anit 7a, we learn more from our pupils than from all other sources of information.

Schools and their leadership cannot always control financial factors, and comparisons cannot be drawn with analytical precision. Inputs like tuition and outputs such as number of yearly graduates are oftentimes idiosyncratic figures and can distract from the core questions of day school education. Analogically speaking, this information focuses on the yield of a harvest and the resources used turn the soil. These factors are critically important, but they won’t tell us all that much about the quality of the tomatoes.

Education-minded goals assess the impact on students. Groups of Jewish educators are thinking along these lines. In Chicago, for instance, the Jewish Early Childhood Collaborative, funded by JUF-Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The Collaborative has worked with early childhood centers of various types and affiliations to establish a framework for cooperation and insight around outcomes. Utilizing a shared parent survey and other unified tools to assess educational impact on youngsters, the Collaborative works with each institution to analyze data and produce actionable recommendations to improve performance. By coalescing professional development opportunities to structured outcome-based analysis, the Collaborative’s goal is to transform the landscape of Jewish early childhood education in Chicago. Similar initiatives have been piloted in other communities, as well.

Day schools – like all social initiatives – ought to be judged on how they impact people. Paul Bernstein’s announcement of Prizmah’s forthcoming study of Jewish day schools and yeshivas and how these institutions shape students, families, and communities is exciting. As we argued earlier the challenge will be to establish a framework – broad-ranging and discrete – for our schools to better measure, understand, and act upon its yielded insights.

In the meantime, we look forward to continued discussion from a field committed to building a stronger Jewish future together.

Read the entire post at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Feb. 05, 2020