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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Another Tuition Event

Guest posters welcome. Wednesday, May 20, 7:30 PM at the Edmond J Safra Synagogue in New York. Join Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, Rabbi Kobrin (Ramaz), and Rabbi Adam Siegel (Ben Gamla Charter School) to discuss the Tuition Crisis and solutions. Moderated by Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week who just wrote an op-ed with his own analysis and proposals to 1) rethink public/charter schooling and 2) push for vouchers, i.e. what I call the "same old, same old."

Here is hoping that one of these tuition events will result in the proposal of some new ideas, perhaps radical ideas, that don't involve the "same old, same old" of more fundraising and getting state governments to pass vouchers (not going to happen).

How about I dedicate my next post to a brainstorm of some radical ideas that don't include sending kids to public schools (although if we sit around chatting about vouchers, rather than taking radical action, that might just be what happens)?

35 comments:

tesyaa said...

I'd love to see what ideas you can come up with, but I don't think the answer is to buy toilet paper and other supplies cooperatively at a discount. Frugality is important, but this is too big to solve by frugality alone.

Anonymous said...

I just heard from my kids schools who are crying poverty. With tuition over $20,000 per year I wonder where the money flows.

Thinking said...

How about this for a radical idea.

Have schools submit to an independant audit. The aggregated findings of the audit could identify best practices that could be shared with all schools. The individual audits could help schools reign in their budgets.

I have seen a handful of schools got through this. Unfortunately, they only agreed when the only other solution was closing down. The results have been incredible! The schools found huge opportunities for savings. Did some administrators have to get cut? (even family members)Yes. Did some teachers have to be let go? Yes. Were services cut? Yes. The bottom line is the schools are still around and thriving. The parent body was extremely supportive and while it was painful in the short term, the long-term benefit was tremendous.

Oh, but most schools will never allow for independant audits? Well than I guess there is no solution.

gavra@work said...

Institute a "pay as you are religious" system, where the people who would consider going to public school pay less, and the children of Kollel & Rebbes pay more, since they can't homeschool their children (wife works / large # of children), they will have no choice but to raise the money through collecting, just as those who want to get married in Israel do now.

Anon819 said...

gavra@work - Fantastic comment! Unfortunately right now I feel that it's been the reverse (as a generalization) - the wealthier people at the schools are often the less "frum", and the ones who most insist that the school has to be at a certain level of "frum" are often the ones on scholarships. (By "frum" here, I have in mind that they are concerned that Judaics have to be taught in the morning, or similar specific beliefs, that negate their ability to consider any other school in the area or "out of the box" educational models.)

Julie said...

It seems like one of the problems with public schools are that the hours preclude meaningful Jewish learning--when the kids get out of school they are in no state to attend a Talmud Torah. So here is my out-of the box idea for Queens/Brooklyn/Riverdale/Teaneck: Public or charter schools that teach state-mandated secular curriculum from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm and Talmud Torahs in the morning from 7:30 to 11:30. When I was growing up, my school district had to have two sessions at one of the high schools when there was an electrical problem at another school. School districts might be very open to the idea as a way of increasing their number of students without having overcrowding in the schools. Yes, the charter schools would have to be open to people who do not send their kids to the morning program. Yes, the kids would be attending public schools with all that entails. But this would be a way for kids to learn limudei kodesh in the mornings when they are likely to be more focused. And it seems like a way to get the state to pay for secular studies.

Lion of Zion said...

JULIE:

i think a half-day charter school might be the most realistic option. the idea has been proposed.

but it won't happen unless there is some type of support from communal leaders (lay or rabbinic). so far this has not been forthcoming. to the contrary, only opposition.

Dave said...

Would a half-day charter fly with a school board? I'm not sure they'd go with weaker secular academics to make room for more religious education.

(As an aside, the education theorists I recall said that teenagers learned better later in the day, and early class hours had less of an impact because of it)

tesyaa said...

I don't think the secular academics would fly out the window with a 5 hour school day. In my public HS (one of the best in the state), we had a 7 hour day that included lunch AND a study period for many kids. In addition to gym, there were kids who took periods of chorus, tech, etc. I was too busy taking 5 APs and being yearbook editor in my lunch period for any of these extras, but for most kids a shorter day would mean fewer frills (which I'm not saying are worthless), rather than fewer academics.

Dave said...

Seven hours, six class periods, seems about standard.

Going from 6 periods to 5 periods is a 17% drop in the number of classes a student could take.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

DAVE:

i see no reason even to consider that 1/2 day means compromising on secular studies. after all, most of us on this forum only had 1/2 day and we've probably accomplished a lot more professionally than many people with a "full" day (which isn't really full anyway, as tesyaa points out)

"would a school board approve it? that"

i guess that depends largely on how much demand there is and how much ortho clout there is in the particular locale.

Dave said...

I think that dropping the available classes by 17% is compromising on secular studies.

That doesn't mean that it is an insurmountable issue, and it doesn't mean that people can't succeed with fewer secular studies options.

Lion of Zion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lion of Zion said...

DAVE:

dropping it even 1% is a compromise. the question is what's a compromise we can live with.

but i don't understand the question anyway. our kids are already in a situation where their secular studies are "compromised" with a shorter day, so what's so controversial about a 1/2 day charter program?

Lion of Zion said...

DAVE:

and to clarify, i am not convinced that shortening secular studies is comprosing in any case. some people are arguing for a charter school with minimal jewish education. maybe we should explore cutting back on secular studies before we go bare bones on the jewish studies?

Al said...

Just a thought, foreign language, including Hebrew, so you are one hour of "Judaic" ahead,

Dave said...

I meant from the perspective of the School Boards or other government agencies that approve Charter School applications.

Anonymous said...

Dave - I meant from the perspective of the School Boards or other government agencies that approve Charter School applications.This is what I understood from your comment. There are also other issues with this idea of "afternoon charter school" - many of the teachers are unionized and in some places there are undoubtedly union rules regarding working hours that might preclude the whole idea in the first place.

But we can propose something similar. How about the following schedule:

Sunday 8am - 1pm Tefillah + Limudei Kodesh
Monday through Friday 8am - 2pm Secular Studies
Monday through Thursday 3pm - 6pm Mincha + Limudei Kodesh
Wednesday 6pm - 8pm Mishmar (older grades)
Shabbat 2pm - 5pm Limudei Kodesh

This results in 21 hours a week of limudei kodesh which is similar to what I did in High School at MTA if you include night seder.

Mark

Al said...

I think it would be helpful if people looked at Yeshiva education as something designed to impart knowledge, not indoctrinate children.

Quite frankly, "dual curriculum" or "half and half" just shows that your process isn't thought through. If a school day has 8 periods, dividing it 4/4 every year just shows that you aren't thinking of a curriculum, just going through the motions.

When I was in 8th grade, we did sample schedules for 4 years to figure out what we needed to do to graduate, go to state school, or go to elite private schools. The state didn't require a foreign language, state schools required 2 years, and elite private schools 3... depending on what you wanted to do, you scheduled accordingly. If you were science heavy, you doubled up two of the years and took two sciences if you wanted to take everything at the AP level. Basically, you scheduled it based upon what courses you wanted to cover.

An intelligence Yeshiva system designed to impart knowledge would offer the appropriate classes, instead of being designed to use half the day. Some grades it would be more than half, others, less than half. One could have less Judaics during junior year of high school when college applications or solidified, and more senior year when applications are in. Sixth and seventh grade could focus on practical halacha (given that at the Bar Mitzvah they are liable for their actions), with more theoretical subjects starting the next year.

If we weren't obsessed with silly and petty things that somehow got warped into halacha (gotta be half the day and in the morning), we could make major changes.

Want to cut costs dramatically?

For K-12 schools, a single non-Academic head, a headmaster of the school, responsible for finance, fund raising, etc. A single "Rabbi" that is the halachic authority of the school and for overseeing the Judaic "program" all the way through.

Upper and Lower School principals (7-12 grade, k-6) to split it pretty evenly. I see 4 semi-executive level positions, most schools would have 5-7 to do this. Elementary school kids have 1 teacher at a time... pair secular/judaic with two classes, teachers switch midday...

Split by gender at the appropriate age, if you are splitting for both religion and secular, then boys do religion in the morning, girls in the afternoon, but all teachers are full time.

If you split for religion, but are co-ed for secular, then your classes should be subject matter for middle/high school, and people should all be full time. The appropriate religious classes are scheduled as needed, and it's throughout the day.

Cut back dramatically on the Rabbis you hire... everyone has to be full time, and the Rabbis days are filled with courses that REQUIRE a Rabbi.

But stop with the part time expensive teachers, it blows up the budget.

Anonymous said...

in flatbush the day starts at 8 am with davening and goes to 530 three days a week with 12 periods of 42 minutes each. in the religuius honor class you had 15 periods of gemara a week. on wednesady you had 10 periodss till 4 pm and fridays was 4 pm in the longer seasons.

we managed to get lunch, gym 2/week and plenty of aps and limudei kodesh including jewish history jewish phlipsohy, nach and chumash.
its certainly doable, and without mishmar or sundays.

rachel in israel said...

Al: When I worked in a school the part time teachers didn't get any benefits, so it was a lot cheaper for the school and they did everything in their power to prevent teachers from being full time.

Lion of Zion said...

ANON:

". in the religuius honor class you had 15 periods of gemara a week."

when did you graduate? when i was there, the religious classes (honors and non-honors) had 10 periods a week.

AL:

"courses that REQUIRE a Rabbi"

this is a pet peeve of mine. there is no course that *requires* a rabbi. when i went to school i had plenty of teachers who went by morah, geveret, mar or doctor. now even first graders in some MO schools need a rebbe. similar with administrators. i had a menahel. now there is a rosh yeshivah. i get a good laugh at the adminsitrators (not referring to anyone in specific) who get a quickie smicha and show up one day with the title rabbi. what's the point?

Anon819 said...

What about day schools offering a half-day attendance option (for the Judaics half). Instead of a seperate "Talmud Torah", have the option that kids could attend the Judaic part of the day for half the price, if their families were making arrangements for homeschool or other options for the secular studies.

Also, what if shuls encouraged chldren above a certain age to come to shul with their fathers during the week, rather than spending school time on davening?

Anonymous said...

LOZ - what's the point?The point is that the Boards of Directors want their Head of School (and Menahel and Principals) to also be Rabbis. I have a close relative (who is already a Doctor) getting smicha as well partially for this purpose.

Anon - Also, what if shuls encouraged chldren above a certain age to come to shul with their fathers during the week, rather than spending school time on davening?Not at all practical. Between work schedules, school schedules, and minyan schedules, this would be very difficult to impossible for most people. It could work if the school is very close to home and shul, but if the kid has to commute 30-40 minutes to school, it is simply not practical. What about kids who don't have fathers in the house, or whose fathers don't go to minyan everyday (like me)? What about kids from non-frum homes? What about girls who are very unlikely to go to minyan with their father? Should they daven at home (maybe)?

Mark

Al said...

LOZ, "what's the point?"

Because CAJE guidelines treat Semicha as a doctorate for salary purposes... so the guy with the quickie Semicha gets paid better than someone with a masters in mathematics teaching high school math.

That's a chunk of the explosion in costs.

Offwinger said...

Sunday 8am - 1pm Tefillah + Limudei Kodesh
Monday through Friday 8am - 2pm Secular Studies
Monday through Thursday 3pm - 6pm Mincha + Limudei Kodesh
Wednesday 6pm - 8pm Mishmar (older grades)
Shabbat 2pm - 5pm Limudei Kodesh


What about kids spending time with:
parents? grandparents? extended family? friends? Sunday school punishes parents & families. There is a reason that a top complaint from people who make aliyah is the lack of Sunday.

What about kids getting a chance: to play? to unwind? to be creative outside of a school or scheduled structure? to be outside? to engage in healthy physical activity?

In addition, the shabbat 2-5 PM session doesn't even exist. I've taught "supplemental" limudei kodesh on shabbat before & I've seen other shabbat youth programs. Anything that starts before 2:30 PM puts a stress on the lunch seudah. If walking distances are significant, anything before 3 PM is unrealistic. And for the most part, 5 PM is overly "optimistic" as an ending time. Shabbat is over at 5 PM during the dead of winter, and for the bulk of Nov-March, mincha starts somewhere between 4 & 5:15 PM.

Lion of Zion said...

OFFWINGER:

"Anything that starts before 2:30 PM puts a stress on the lunch seudah."

you eat until lunch 2:30? when do you take a shabbos nap?

Anonymous said...

Offwinger - What about kids spending time with:
parents? grandparents? extended family? friends? Sunday school punishes parents & families. There is a reason that a top complaint from people who make aliyah is the lack of Sunday.
[space]

There is all of Sunday afternoon off. There are plenty of days off, all the chagim plus chol hamoed, and there is the entire summer.

I went to MTA and dormed. We had school on Sunday. Every other day we woke at 7:15 (well, the dorm counselors tried to wake us anyway :-) for davening, then breakfast. Classes started at 9. Classes ended at 6:15. Then some homework, dinner, and night seder started at 7:30, ended at 8:30, davened maariv. Did homework from 9 until lights out at 11 or so. Sometimes listened to Mystery Theater on the radio after lights out.

We managed fine and received a pretty good education. And I bet we saw our grandparents a lot more than the kids today do. They are too busy (read "overscheduled") with tons of weekend and afterschool activities to have any time for family anyway.

LOZ - you eat until lunch 2:30? when do you take a shabbos nap?[space]

I daven at hashkama (7:30, but I come late) and usually take a nap at 12:30 or 1:00 unless we have, or are, guests.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Even if a good arrangement can be made whereby a kid goes to a public school and gets limudei kodesh via some delivery system, the concern I still have is the type of negative values and exposures that public school imparts mostly due to the broad range of children attending public schools. How would we deal with that? Mind you, I am speaking from an open- MO worldview, but still have these concerns.

Offwinger said...

LOZ: "you eat until lunch 2:30? when do you take a shabbos nap?"

Lunch *starting* times vary greatly, based on where you daven. Davening hashkama or even at a minyan that begins at 8:30 is different than davening at a standard YI shul minyan starting at 9. Meals shared with other people tend to start based on the latest attended minyan of the group. On a "longer" davening week, even without a major simcha or kiddush, lunch won't even start until at least 12:30 or 1.

Beyond that, shabbat meal "pace" varies a lot too. Some people move from one course to the next or limit the number of courses. Other meals schlepppppppppppppp.

I've seen what happens when someone needs to leave to make something at 2:30 (myself included), and either that person winds up benching by themselves or it rushes everyone else to finish up faster or often both.

The worst experience is when I'd be a guest & the host would know I had to leave, but would keep telling me not to bench yet, because we were ALL going to be benching in just a minute. Yes, I prefer to wait for a mezumin too. But it was NEVER just a minute.

I don't always nap on shabbat, but that doesn't mean I want to be staying at lunch until mincha either. Personally, I think it's rude for a host to assume that people plan to linger at a shabbat meal for hours. I like to move the meal along, while making it clear to guests that they are both free to leave or to stay AFTER benching.

Mark:

I had Sunday school for the 1/2 day for part of my education, though not during high school. It was extremely disruptive. Relatives don't always live in your neighborhood. When you take into account travel, Sunday afternoon traffic, and the need to get things organized for school/workt the next day, it killed a lot of the day.

It was also very difficult for the school to distinguish between legitimate sunday absences & the kind it wanted to discourage. Treatment for missing was far from uniform.

Sundays were a day to see relatives (who did not live in walking distance & were not always observant), friends (same), toss a ball around with Dad, bike ride together, go to a museum or a concert (gasp!) or take care of errands (new clothing or shoe shopping, etc.).

Chagim are not available for this. And most parents worked during the summer (as well as chol hamoed).

I agree that kids are overscheduled. The fact that kids today might be too overscheduled doesn't justify making sure that the overscheduling occurs entirely within the school day.

On top of that, when thinking about what's reasonable, it's important to distinguish between children in younger grades or middle school and those in high school.

Last, your comment that what MTA did worked just fine for you reminds me a lot of doctors trying to justify the long hours/sleep deprivation mandated from medical students & residents. They did it and turned into good doctors, so everyone should keep doing it.

Anonymous said...

Offwinger - I had Sunday school for the 1/2 day for part of my education, though not during high school. It was extremely disruptive. Relatives don't always live in your neighborhood. When you take into account travel, Sunday afternoon traffic, and the need to get things organized for school/work the next day, it killed a lot of the day.[space]

I also hated school on Sunday, and in my case, it really did kill the whole day (and night). To make matters worse, my grandparents had just moved out of Washington Heights a few years before I started high school there.

Unfortunately, a serious dual curriculum requires quite a few compromises in life. Apparently Sundays off is one of those compromises. There are only a limited number of hours in a week available for in-class schoolwork.

Last, your comment that what MTA did worked just fine for you reminds me a lot of doctors trying to justify the long hours/sleep deprivation mandated from medical students & residents. They did it and turned into good doctors, so everyone should keep doing it.[space]

Yes, that is a good analogy. Do you have an alternate suggestion to accomplish a serious dual curriculum?

Mark

Offwinger said...

Mark:

First, I don't think 6 days a week of schooling is necessary for a serious dual curriculum for any grade K-12. My MO high school had a long enough day & we covered plenty without using Sundays. I still spent many Sundays at school - or on the road - with extra-curricular stuff (both sports & more academic-oriented), but that was by choice.

As for coming up with alternatives, do you mean a suggestion that relies on working in conjunction with the public school system or just anything?

Putting public school aside for now, I've thought how to best to deal with the dual curriculum, and I think we need more integration of secular studies with limudei kodesh, not less.

Like you, I also think I learned a lot & turned out just fine in the schools I went to, but I also think we can figure out what worked & didn't work and go from there. For me, things I would keep are fidelity to language immersion, skills-building on both sides of the curriculum, & introduction of philosophy/theory at age appropriate levels. Things that didn't work for me include: the sheer amount of rote memorization required at ALL grade levels (if I know how to read & understand the inner-workings of a particular meforash, why do I need to memorize what he said?), the curricular choice of breadth over depth in all areas of the curriculum except gemara, & a piecemeal curriculum that did not connect one part to the other - e.g., I had no clue which events in Jewish History were taking place at the same time as the events I learned in World History.

I'm sure I could come up with a far longer list, but this is a good representative sample. What it comes down to is that the stuff that helped me was having the opportunity to learn how to learn & problem solve & being exposed to enough areas to get a sense of what things were. Beyond that, there was just a lot of overkill to make it seem like we were learning more than we were. And there was room to integrate. For example, we could have been asked math problems based on torah or halacha.

I think the best long-term communal solutions require us to stop thinking in terms of the physical space constraints of the 20th century. Think of the web-yeshivah model - using computers for two way audio/video educational transmission - except assume that we are ditching the passive learning model of the classroom as the primary mode of education. It's easier to share resources without high infrastructure costs when you form a curriculum based around individual or group projects instead of lectures. Then add to this or use technology to make up the difference when needed.

I can't say there is one universal model or how this would fit in different places, given the variance in state regulation of private schools & homeschooling. Just that this is the direction we need to start looking.

Anonymous said...

Offwinger - First, I don't think 6 days a week of schooling is necessary for a serious dual curriculum for any grade K-12. My MO high school had a long enough day & we covered plenty without using Sundays. I still spent many Sundays at school - or on the road - with extra-curricular stuff (both sports & more academic-oriented), but that was by choice.[space]

I agree. A MO day school doesn't require a 6 day week. My childrens school has a 5 day week.

As for coming up with alternatives, do you mean a suggestion that relies on working in conjunction with the public school system or just anything?[space]

Yes. We are trying to find a combined solution of some sort. That likely requires 6 days (or maybe 7 as I suggested above).

I also disagree strongly with memorization of all sorts. I think it is not educational (doesn't teach "thinking") and I think it is counterproductive in most cases (as it was for me).

Good ideas! I am not sure if they would work for younger children, but might for older ones. Well, at least for motivated older ones.

Mark

Al said...

Combined studies are key to developing a 21st Century Approach to learning. I think that the dual curriculum is an albatross, because it forces a limited view of education, and keeps things distinct.

Instead of an hour of history and an hour of Jewish history (as an example), turn history into a 90 minute subject, cover world history and Jewish history in tandem. You'd spend less time on the Jewish aspect AND teach more if it was taught in context as to what was going on.

The expulsion of Jews from Spain was a critical Jewish event, but in the context of Spain's expulsion of the Moors, unification of the Catholic Kingdoms, expansion of the New World, and the Inquisition which in many ways was a way to finance the new throne AND establish the new Catholic Kingdom makes way more sense. If you understand the surrounding context, children will get a MUCH stronger understanding of the Jewish events in less time, because it falls into the context of what was going on. Similarly, ancient Jewish history should be taught in the context of world history, with events in the Asian and later Roman Empires. By teaching it in a vacuum, you spend more time for less knowledge.

Similarly, approaches to literature could be made far stronger if you chose more Jewish themed works inside of the confines of teaching literature and reading comprehension.

Merging some of the Jewish concepts inside of the secular coursework would probably result in less than a "dual" curriculum, but with a single stronger curriculum that would cut back on time in the day or allow a strengthening of the curriculum.

Studying "history" as "here is what the white European Christians did" instead of "here is what was going on in the European gentile world, Asian gentile world, and Jewish world" would give a more concrete foundation, and make history seem more relevant.

How many Yeshiva graduates know that the Confederate States of America had a Jewish cabinet officer, the roles of Jews on both sides of the Civil War, or the Jewish Senators (Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana, or David Levy Yulee of Florida)?

These types of facts can make American history more interesting to Jewish students, making it less the history of "the other" and more integrated.