Shared Measurement Tools for Jewish Education: Could It Happen?

October 14, 2014

Source: Jim Joseph Foundation


At the Jim Joseph Foundation, we have invested time and dollars over recent years exploring the role that we, as a funder, can play in moving the field of Jewish education closer towards the adoption of shared measurement tools. Grants to the Jewish Survey Question Bank, and the Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education have helped key Foundation partners from the research community advance measurement, assessment, and knowledge-sharing across initiatives and varied educational settings. Looking towards the year ahead, we are optimistic that two collaborative projects now in development will take this work to the next level, as key leaders from within the field of Jewish education endeavor to develop shared measurement tools for two important age cohorts—Jewish college students and Jewish teens.


Hillel: Measuring Excellence Pilot

Under the leadership of Hillel’s new CEO, Eric Fingerhut, the entire Hillel system has recently embarked on a multi-year process to define and assess excellence across its network of 500+ Hillels across the globe. Central to this effort has been stewarding a diverse task force that includes funders, volunteer leaders, and professionals from a range of local Hillels. The objective: help everyone involved in Hillel achieve better levels of success, and identify and adapt best practices, through a shared framework of measurement.


Hillel’s work with its Measuring Excellence Task Force began in early 2014 with scoping and goal setting. This was followed by an iterative process of identifying outcomes and indicators to use in assessing local Hillels. In its current phase of the work, Hillel is developing a draft set of qualitative and quantitative measurement tools focused on student attitudes and behaviors, participation numbers, staff satisfaction and financial strength. For the student outcomes part of the work, Hillel has engaged Rosov Consulting to help develop a student survey that incorporates new questions developed by experts in the field, while also building upon previous surveys used with this age cohort.


A diverse group of eighteen local Hillels representing a range of campuses are participating in the process of developing the shared assessment tools and will serve as pilot test sites over the coming year. During this phase, the student survey and other assessment tools will be put into the field and results will be analyzed. Learnings from the pilot will lead to revisions to the tools and how they are used, with the goal of a system-wide roll-out over the coming three years.


The Jewish Education Project: Measuring Teens’ Jewish Growth and Learning

Concurrent to the work happening at Hillel, The Jewish Education Project, under the leadership of Chief Innovation Officer Dr. David Bryfman, has launched a similar effort to develop tools to measure Jewish growth and learning among Jewish teens. They have undertaken this work on behalf of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative a coalition of national and local funders with plans to co-invest in up to ten new community-based teen education initiatives in the United States. The Jewish Education Project will conduct this work in collaboration with American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Rosov Consulting, the team of consultants recently hired to evaluate the collective work of the Funder Collaborative.


For the Funder Collaborative, developing and using shared measurement tools is essential to ensuring that outcomes of individual community-based initiatives can be compared and analyzed together. The group also hopes that the tools being developed and the resulting evaluation findings will be of use beyond the pilot initiatives in select communities. It is for this reason that The Jewish Education Project’s process will incorporate guidance and input from a very broad group of stakeholders: researchers, academics, leaders of major Jewish organizations that serve teens, rabbis, educators, funders, parents of teens and teens themselves. Similar to the work being conducted by Hillel, survey and interview tools will take into account new thinking about how to measure Jewish identity, while also building from previous tools used by others inside and outside the Jewish world.


Especially unique to The Jewish Education Project’s process is the emphasis on incorporating the voices of teens from a range of ages, geographies and Jewish backgrounds. To achieve this objective, they plan to conduct sixteen focus groups in four cities later this year. Pilot testing of new instruments will begin in spring 2015, with refined tools ready for use in fall 2015.


For more see the Jim Joseph Foundation Blog.

Updated: Oct. 22, 2014