Complementary Jewish education, the learning venue for most Jewish children in the 21st century has been critiqued for its lack of focus on Jewish values, leaving students with little ability to see connections between what they are learning in supplementary school and their everyday lives. ShalomLearning (SL) was designed to make supplementary Jewish education an attractive, relevant, engaging, and content-rich experience for Jewish students, their families, and teachers. SL combines a values-based, spiral curriculum for grades two through seven, with a “blended education” approach, harnessing technology to Jewish education. The blended learning capacity of SL enables teachers to reach students through virtual classrooms and access to online resources and activities. Schools can utilize the SL curriculum exclusively in their classroom, exclusively online, or in combination. SL was launched in 2011, and in the 2016-17 academic year, reached students at over 40 congregational schools in the United States and Canada. SL continues to grow and, in the 2017-18 school year, served students at 80 congregational schools.
The goal of the research was to yield a rich body of systematic data that SL can use as a basis for decision making and strategizing for maximum program effectiveness.
This report describes a two-year evaluation study of SL conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies (CMJS). The research addressed a broad array of questions about the implementation, outcomes, and impacts of SL for students and teachers in synagogue schools.
To better understand the use of SL in participating schools and its impact on students, the research team utilized qualitative and quantitative strategies. The research methods included surveys, focus groups, and interviews with teachers, Education Directors (EDs), and students during the 2016-17 school year.
The current research provides a one-year snapshot of SL’s substantial strides toward developing an effective, creative, and accessible approach to supplementary education. The spiral nature of the SL values curriculum, with students encountering the same seven core values across grade levels, suggests that future research should focus on the longitudinal impact of the program.