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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

What Would This Model Look Like in Jewish Day Schools?

There is an article in the NY Post about a Spanish Speaking Chabad principal who is looking to set up a network of tri-lingual (public) schools where 4 teachers facilitate learning in a class of 60 students spanning the grades K-5th. This appears to be a larger and more staffed version than the one-room schoolhouses of old. The teachers will stay with the students from K-5th grade and the hope is that teachers will be able to build more individualized curriculum and build deeper relationships. Additionally, there will be student led learning based on the model used by prep schools like Phillips Exeter Academy. The principal of this school is collaberating on this project.

I find the idea of a one-room school house intriguing, and I have to wonder that even with a low teacher: student ratio of 1:15 (corrected, sorry about that) if the model has hidden efficiencies. Perhaps a classroom where teachers are able to work with the same students for many years to come would help cut down on administration and resource room expenses? Perhaps it would cut back on behavior issues, which often require more staffing and expense to deal with? Perhaps a school that is already small, but has extremely low teacher: student ratios would really be able to benefit from such a model because the the current model of single-grade classrooms requires excess staffing?

Of course, where a particular teacher and student/parent do not gel, the model could be a nightmare, but I find the idea of a large classroom where teachers can work with students for many years on end to have a certain appeal. I also think that frum schools could benefit from teachers who specialize in different subjects (kodesh v'chol) working together under one roof, supporting each other, and ensuring common goals are met. I think the benefit of older students helping younger students is obvious. Perhaps behavior would improve where older students are expected to take a role of responsibility.

Add your thoughts and please indicate your interest as a "consumer" of education.


Orthonomics said...

Hat Tip to VIN:

Anonymous said...

SL: Where did you get the ration of 1:4? The article refers to 60 students with 4 teachers. There could be greater efficiencies with classes of 1 teacher with 20 or 25 kids each. I'm also not sure how this would reduce resource room use if you are referring to the term "resource room" as used in the special ed world where there are very tiny classes that provide for one or one or one on three to four work with special ed kids. Many special ed kids and kids with learning disabilities need very small classes because they cannot deal with all the distractions and frustrations of larger classes.

I think that team teaching and larger classes can work across two, or sometimes 3 grades, but I am skeptical when it comes to 6 age/grade levels for an entire day.

Orthonomics said...

Anon-I made the correction. I have no idea what happened in converting the 4:60 ratio. Really none.

Sima said...

I don't see this working well. The level of distraction is just too high; once you have so many children in one room you will spend so much time managing them that there isn't as much time to teach. Also, having several teachers working together at a time can present problems, because often their styles don't mesh, not to mention if their personalities don't or their attitudes towards methodology. In my view, it would be a miracle to end up with a combination that worked. I've seen so many co-teacher arrangements that failed!
In terms of "looping" -- that's the word for one teacher going with the same class for several years -- it's not a new idea. My father's Hebrew school in Milan had that in the 1950's. It actually works very nicely, especially for first through third grade, or K - 2. However, as you point out, if your child doesn't work well with that particular teacher you can have a problem. In my father's case, he switched to a parallel class in second grade to a better teacher. And he still has nightmares about the first one!

alpidarkomama said...

I can't imagine having all 60 in one room! But I can imagine sticking with the same teacher for several years. I think that part is a wonderful idea, especially at the elementary level. A public school my nephew went to did this. He had the same teacher for 1st/2nd/3rd then moved on to a different teacher for 4th/5th. From what my sister said, the parents were all very happy with this arrangement. As a former classroom music teacher, I was thrilled to start a child in preschool music, take them through elementary music classes, and many of them I continued to teach privately until the left for college. Watching the same student develop over 15 years of their life was supremely precious. And we never ran out of things to study, learn, or talk about! :) As always, thank you for posting such interesting material. You're my #1 blog!!

Anonymous said...


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Orthonomics said...

alpidarkomama-I don't know if you have heard the radio commercial with Donny Osman (?) about the most influential teacher being the music teacher. Your comment made me think of the teacher. The band director is the only teacher I can think of for which every student had the same instructor for multiple years in a tow, unless the teacher retired or something. I did have the same English teacher for 11th and 12th, and I think I might have had the same PE teacher 2 years in a row. But the only teacher I had for 4 years in a row was my HS band instructor (and 3 years in a row for my MS band instructor). It was a treat to have these instructors for years on end. They really were able to push us, and I don't think they would have achieved a similar result had we switched teachers every year.

Anon-Thanks. Will do.

Anonymous said...

My children's mamlachti-dati elementary school has, for years, kept teachers with the same class for a 2 year period. Typically the classes stay together with the same teacher for 1-2, 3-4, 5-6.

From all that i've heard the teachers appreciate this as much or more than parents/kids since it saves a lot of 'getting to know you time', especially in the younger grade


jake@israel said...

practice shows then education is mostly effective in small groups, its also better for concentration of attention

ProfK said...

This model could not translate directly to a yeshiva model. It would require that there be 8 teachers, not 4, because assuming that each teacher would be capable of teaching both limudei kodesh and secular studies and do so well is a bad assumption given the population that we would have to choose from.

Many yeshiva classrooms already have that 1:15 ratio and some a bit smaller. There are already assistants in those classrooms, bringing down the ratio even lower. Is the educational opportunity significantly better for the students in those classrooms? Not if you listen to the parents.

While small groups can significantly help students in achieving more, having six such groups in one room, with the distraction of 50 others doing their own thing, might negate any possible benefits.

This is one case where I'd wait and see what the results are after a long period of observation before I'd jump on the bandwagon.

tdr said...

I loved this article. Out of the box thinking is what's needed in education and I'm proud that a frum Yid has made such accomplishments in NYC schools.

I'm curious where is the research that supports this model? There must be some reason why they think this would work.

Don't teachers move up with the students in Montessori schools (ideally)?

I agree that 60 kids in one classroom is potentially hugely distracting, but the rooms sound quite large and with enough carpeting/acoustical tiling maybe the noise level would be workable for most kids.

I look forward to the follow-up article describing the students and teachers experience with this.

tdr said...

Background on this principle

Just came across this. What an interesting guy! I wonder what he thinks of the state of Jewish education. I wonder where his kids go to school!