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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Costs Are Only Variable in a Conventional World

Rabbi Adlerstein's column A New, Ugly Wrinkle in the Tuition Crisis has generated a lot of commentary.  There isn't anything particularly new about the growing resentment between different "classes" in the Orthodox world.  He concentrated on klei kodesh vs. baalabatim, a mistake in my opinion.  But no one can deny that there is "class warfare" that runs deep as small families look askance at large families, savers look askance at spenders, those who entered the workforce promptly look askance at those who entered much later, working parents/super-full timers look askance at stay-at-home parents/part timers (and perhaps some look askance at secondary income earners who actually cost a family money by working).  I guess what is new was that the comments heard for at least the last decade and a half were put out into cyberspace via Cross-Currents.  But more regarding the original column at a later hour.  Let's take a look at one of the newest responses, What a Wonderful World!

In this column, the author makes the case (as have other commentators participating in the growing commentaries) that the children of klei kodesh don't really cost the school and he gives an economics 101 lesson regarding fixed and variable costs which is, well, basic.

Unless I am seriously underestimating the current US economic environment and overestimating wealth destruction, I don't believe that the situation on the ground where every child is accommodated "regardless of cost" can continue much longer.  Should my gloom and doom be well-founded, there is little purpose in arguing which children are "fixed" and which are "variable" because schools will need to shrink their budgets--and even tuitions--so that full and almost full tuition paying parents can continue to pay tuition and keep the lights on.  The loss a dozen full paying families to an alternative and the "variable" students will find themselves "fixed."  [Note from my re-reading. . . .no pun intended!]

Moving into logistics and the 300 and 400 series of economics, we might ask, what is the most efficient model to run the school at $X,000 tuition (an amount deemed affordable for the average tuition paying family with children entering into the elementary grades now. .. families often carrying a different financial burden than those who came before)?

When you function into a "conventional" environment--conventional in urban areas only since about the mid-1800's/early 1900's and only more recently "conventional" in small town America--your (frum) K-8 school looks exactly like the author describes:

In a K-8 elementary school where boys and girls are in separate classes, it will be necessary to create at least 18 classes to serve the community. The class size before a second class will be formed is approximately 25 – 30. Assuming equal class size per grade – which is frequently not the case but is presented for illustration purposes – a school with an enrollment from 1 to 450 – 540 students will require a full complement of staff and have a physical plant adequate to provide the necessary classrooms and adjunct facilities. The fixed costs will typically be in the 90 – 95% range of the budget owing to the fact that staff salaries comprise 70 – 80% of operational expenses and plant maintenance including utilities run in the 10 – 15% span. The variable costs that are dependent on level of enrollment thus amount to at most 10% of the entire budget.

If you are interested in creating efficiency in Jewish education because you think the collective "we" is in serious trouble, you might have to break out of the "conventional" box and ask why does the K-8 school need 18 classes?  Are all of the fixed costs actually etched in stone (larger building for a larger student body, teachers' aides)?  Are there more efficient models educational models that other areas are moving towards as school budgets shrink?  What do those models look like?

Recently I discovered that the conventional model of single-grade education dates back to 1848 and was instituted not for educational reasons, but for economic reasons.  The factory model of education is efficient in large urban areas.   But what of rural areas, small school districts, or shrinking suburban school districts?

Is it necessary to have single grade classrooms (and many of us insist on single grade, single gender classrooms) at every age from 2-year old pre-school on up?  Rural areas have always had one-room school house models.  Schools with shrinking populations are moving to multi-grade classrooms and it is interesting to hear teacher observations on the benefits and challenges.  Is it necessary to have every student on the same school schedule?  There are public schools with morning kindergartens and afternoon kindergartens.  Would block scheduling and tracked, year round schooling using smaller facilities be possible?  So many schools are constantly expanding their facilities, leaving the community with high fixed costs--particularly dangerous should the student population contract at some point.

I don't want to delve into the subject too much longer, so take the comments in whatever direction they may.


Akiva said...

Schools are closing and have closed. Some parents have turned to home schooling (together with some limited online options) for financial reasons as well.

We can't afford to do it the way we have been - but it doesn't seem people are ready to change until it hits an emergency situation in their community.

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with alternative models, but yeshivas have a hard enough time executing conventional models. If my kid were in a multi-grade classroom, I'd at least want a teacher with experience or training in such a classroom. And most yeshiva teachers aren't certified at all. (You can't count on your child being placed in a classroom with the rare naturally gifted teacher who would succeed without any training at all).

At some point people will realize there is an imperfect, but established, regulated and free educational system within a few miles of their homes. Why are people twisting themselves into pretzels to avoid availing themselves of this option?

Miami Al said...

School district north of us set up a Montessori School... The deal was so bad the papers reported on the Grand Jury investigating school board corruption named it as such a bad deal. It wasn't a charter (which received 95% of the funding + has to pay rent), it was organized as a magnet, which gets the same or better funding plus a district provided building.

All the politicians that had their kids in public school moved their kids there before word of the school got out, etc.

At any rate, in their Montessori approach, they added a Pre-school, and have 3,4,5 year olds (PK3,PK,K) and 6,7,8 year olds (1,2,3) in the same room. The idea was that in a Montessori "village" the kids learn in a cooperative manner, and the younger children learn from the older children who enhance their learning by teaching the younger children. I believe grades 4,5 were combined officially, and unofficially with 6 (in Florida, K-5 is elementary school, 6-8 is middle school, so the K-8 combo schools have to play games to fit that model), and after that they moved to more of the standard subject model.

As pointed out on the post, the grade based assembly line (later with "pull outs" for special needs, either at the top or the bottom) was designed for economic efficiency, not educational excellence.

Organizations teaching basic skills, likes Scouts, would NEVER use that model. And higher education certainly would NEVER use that model. It is a cost effective way to move students through the system --- teachers are cheap and interchangeable, costs are controlled.

Is education expensive? Absolutely, but not from the student:teacher:classroom model, that's cheap. It's the army of administration and support personnel that run up the price, not the teacher in a room of 25 students.

tesyaa said...

Al, when you describe a Montessori public school you're talking about certified teachers, most likely with Montessori training, and you're describing a sweetheart deal with plenty of public funding. Please tell me you really believe a typical yeshiva could emulate that setup.

JS said...

The schools around me can barely provide a decent education with the "standard" model. I don't see how in the world they could teach using a different model. I also don't trust the yeshivas to implement any type of cost savings or efficiencies in their educational model. The entire approach is based on inefficiency: teachers teaching half a day and being considered full-time.

At this point at least, hashkafa is more important than costs for those on the right. For those on the left the comparable comparison is to class size. It's the same situation in both though: those who want this system are either not paying for it due to scholarships or are sponsoring it through donations and, to a lesser extent, paying increasing full tuition.

The system is propped up by donations and fundraising. There seems to be enough wealth currently. The question I have is how much longer will that last? Is there a new generation of "machers" who have the cash and want to give it over to yeshivas? If the current big donors spend all their money supporting their kids and other institutions, are we creating enough new donors to replace them? Frankly, I don't see that happening. How much more then can you squeeze the upper middle class through tuition increases?

This isn't about fixed vs variable costs or a different model. It's about the underlying principle of universal yeshiva education - and, more so, the same education for all, regardless of ability to pay.

LifeAct said...

A couple of quick points:

1) There is another class of expenses besides "fixed" and "variable". It might be called "step costs". A class of 20 might have the same level of fixed costs as a class of 21, 22, 23, and 24, but suddenly when #25 enters the class the fixed expenses need to go up.

If you recognize step costs in the equation, you realize that there can be such thing as a "marginal" child, but not dozens of marginal children. This is the problem with the argument about accepting unlimited rabbeim's children and other low-to-no-tuition children.

2) Economies of Scale: I've been saying this since forever. In a normal business it makes sense to expand when there are economies of scale, i.e. when expanding causes the cost "per unit" to go down. If there are diseconomies of scale then the business should stop expanding.

This does not happen in our schools (or in public schools for that matter, but leave that aside). In our schools, enrollment is ever increasing despite the obvious fact that tuition per child is increasing at the same time (due to extra administrators, building projects, safety issues, whiny parents, etc). It would make much more sense if our schools would do analysis to see what the optimal number of students is based on their current operating costs and limit enrollment to that number. Overflow should go to another school, or a new school, which would benefit from economies of scale.

For obvious reasons, this is hard to make practical. We aren't building widgets, and parents want to send their kids to the successful/popular school regardless of economics. It is unfortunately very natural for enrollment to rocket right past the most efficient number of students.

Mark SoFla said...

JS - The schools around me can barely provide a decent education with the "standard" model. I don't see how in the world they could teach using a different model.

Maybe they would perform better with the different model? There's no way to know that a different model would necessarily be worse.

Maybe the older kids in the class could accomplish more with the younger kids than the teachers can?

JS said...


Could be. But, the yeshivas hire young adults to be teachers and tend to push the older teachers to retire since they're too expensive. The yeshivas I went to now have websites featuring their teachers. Looking at the pictures makes me feel I'm looking at a college yearbook. The number of teachers and rabbis over 35 is minimal.

I don't think these "kids" who generally don't have any education background would be able to handle a new model (which would necessitate far larger class sizes and lesson plans covering multiple ages).

I think the problem with young teachers is more pronounced on the Judaics side. I think a young teacher with a math background has enough knowledge to teach the basic skills of mathematics (even if not the theory). But, a young rabbi (at least in the MO world) is often an ignoramus, for lack of a better word. Our shul often gets YU rabbis-in-training to come by for a Shabbos and it's generally a parade of dumb and dumbers who give canned speeches and fumble over even the simplest of questions that take them slightly off script. I guess it's a question on YU on what in the world they are (or, rather are not) teaching these men.

All that aside, you think any parents are going to go for this? As I mentioned before, you have tons of parents on scholarship who don't bear the true cost, so why would they want what would be initially perceived as worse quality for the same cost?

Miami Al said...

tesyaa said...

"Al, when you describe a Montessori public school you're talking about certified teachers, most likely with Montessori training, and you're describing a sweetheart deal with plenty of public funding."

We went to the open house a few years back, despite being out of district, was curious what all the fuss was about. All the teachers were certified by the county as teacher, half were certified by some Montessori organization, others were getting certified.

"Please tell me you really believe a typical yeshiva could emulate that setup."

Not sure what the typical Yeshiva is. I have no idea what they could or could not emulate. I'm just stating that this well school was doing this.

As far as sweetheart deal, Broward's per-student funding seems to be around $6k for a "normal" student ($5800 for a high school student on the low end, $34k for a special needs high end case)... Even if the magnet "game" got them $6600/student, that's still not a HUGE sum of money.

Typical Yeshiva Tuition here is around $14k with a 50% collect rate, but per-student spending is around $10k or so?

In terms of funding, could they do it? Sure, the money is there. But not if the school of 600 needs 4 Principals, an early childhood director, a head of school, a "Seminary" counselor position, and who knows what else. That all costs money.

But multiple grades in one classroom is not CRAZY.

Anonymous said...

If there is another significant economic downturn in the US, things will change fast in the day school / yeshiva system.

JS said...

"If there is another significant economic downturn in the US, things will change fast in the day school / yeshiva system."

They said the same thing for the current downturn. The only change I've seen is fairly flat tuition to modest increases as opposed 6%+ "traditional" increases. I haven't really seen any other major changes. At the same time as the schools all tout all the cost-saving measures they've implemented, they send out notices about new admin hires and giving teachers raises.

I think this is going to be a long, drawn out process. It will take a long while for the money to be completely sucked out the community. Even when that happens, you'll still have yeshivas of some form since there are those that will never send their kids to anything else. In the end we'll have a combination of the various solutions we already know about but it will be more "acceptable": existing yeshivas, cheap yeshivas, public school+after school limudei kodesh, home schooling, charters, etc. We'll just be a lot poorer as a community since it will take a while to get to that point.

By the way, to SephardiLady (and I hate to be "that guy"), but "askance" is an adverb not a noun. It modifies the verb "look" so you "look askance" you don't look "with askance."

AztecQueen2000 said...

Another problem is that we're hardly creating a universal model. I don't know the situation in other communities, but here in Brooklyn, school identification has become a means of hashkafic pigeonholing. Kids are rejected because they're the wrong "type." It adds another wrinkle to any question of community funding, because why would any sane parent subsidize a school that would ultimately reject their children?

Anonymous said...

YNJ recently published their finances for the first time in what they say will be an annual report, it's on their website:

It shows a lot about the way the school is run, I think. It is also the lowest priced school in the teaneck area.

JS said...

In reference to RYNJ's report, I made the following comment on YeshivaSanity's blog with reference to an Islamic school which also published its financial data and was the subject of that blog's post:

There's a lot of interesting stuff here, especially when comparing the revenues/expenses of the two schools. Most interesting is that salary and benefits at the two schools represent nearly the same percentage of the budget: 83.7% at Annur, 86.8% at RYNJ.

What I think this indicates is that yeshivas are simply more expensive all around - it's not the percentage of the budget going to salary, it's the fact that every single number is inflated.

In other words everything at a yeshiva is "bigger" or "nicer" - so tuition is larger, teacher compensation is larger, the building is nicer, the facility is larger, etc.

The takeaway, I think, is this: trimming the budget here and there is only going to produce marginal gains. The only way to really reduce tuition is to simply apply an x% haircut across the board to every single expense line.

RYNJ is spending $13,111,839 on 986 students (2010/2011). That's $13,298/student.
Annur is spending $556,637 on about 142 students (2010/2011). That's $3,919/student.

I think that says about everything you need to know about why tuition is high.

ProfK said...

Old saying: those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. The beginnings and history of that old-time one-room school house would point out that we should stop romanticizing multi-aged children all learning in one room together. Initially that education was only for boys and only until they hit 13-14 years of age--high school was not mandatory then. The teachers in those schools were not required to have any credentials. The areas where those schools were located did not have sufficient students to justify anything other than a one-room school.

And then there is this--what was being taught then was miniscule in amount compared to what is considered necessary today. Back then it was elementary reading, writing (and to the males only initially) and basic arithmetic. There was a tiny bit of history and geography (if the teacher knew any and it didn't conflict with the teacher's/school's religious philosophy)) and that was it. Science was not a subject that was taught. Certainly computers did not exist. Foreign languages were not taught. Reasoning skills were not taught. Most of the students finishing these schools were barely educated when they left, if that.

In short, what makes people so sure that a model that only worked so-so back then would be a good model today?

Mark SoFla said...

ProfK - And then there is this--what was being taught then was miniscule in amount compared to what is considered necessary today.

I think the quality and quantity of what was taught varied. Just as it does today.

Here's an example of a high school exam from 1856 that I found rather interesting -

The exam appears to be testing a wide swath of knowledge, English, math, science, and including apparently another language - Latin. And this school was apparently for working-class boys, not the high class wealthy kids.

I wonder how well our kids would do on this exam, substitute the Latin with Hebrew if you like.

Orthonomics said...

ProfK--I know you are a big supporter of "conventional" education, but one could argue the opposite case. Look at some of the early thinkers, founders, presidents, etc. All were masters of classical education, not one was educated "conventionally."

From everything I've read, there are certain benefits to multi-grade classes including social skills development, opportunities to cement the skills learned through teaching others, ability to work at a level outside the box where necessary.

I'm not advocating one method over another, but I don't think multi-grade education is what you are making it out to be.

phonon said...

Mark--I hate to break it to you, but that is not an especially challenging exam...

I'll gloss over the Latin, but Hebrew exams I had back then seem similar in apparent difficulty.

The algebra questions are at current 9th grade level (note they all seem corrupted (a bad OCR from a scan I think)).

The geometry questions are pretty standard--the major difference being how the questions are phrased, in a very formal, stilted manner (like they were studying directly from Euclid perhaps). The concepts themselves are fairly basic.

The Natural Philosophy and Physiology questions are at a 6th to 8th grade level.

ProfK said...

Sorry SL, but at least as regards our founders and early presidents, they were educated conventionally according to the convention of their time. Most were home schooled for the early grades, not products of the one-room school. Of the first 7 presidents, 5 had college degrees from recognized institutions of higher learning. Washington did not finish a regular degree because of the death of his father but did recieve a surveyor's degree from the College of William and Mary. So yes, they were educated "conventionally." The same goes for a number of our earlier great thinkers and doers.

Truly mixing apples and kumquats to be comparing the systems of way back when to the systems of now.

Avi Greengart said...

JS wrote,

"They said the same thing for the current downturn. The only change I've seen is fairly flat tuition to modest increases as opposed 6%+ "traditional" increases. I haven't really seen any other major changes."

Here in Teaneck, a new low cost school is being launched and a Hebrew Charter nearly launched twice. That's fairly significant change (or attempted change) in my book. Plus, a handful of parents began sending kids to Staten Island for lower tuition and, anecdotally, the number of kids from Torah observant homes in public schools has risen as well.

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Mike S. said...

JS: I don't know anything about the two schools you mentioned other than the reports I could find online. But the Annur school seems to have a little over 20 teachers, most of who seem to be full-time. That would give them an expense for salaries and benefits of a little under $25K/FTE. The yeshiva has 216 staff "many of whom" are part-time. Couldn't tell how many FTE, but if it is something like 175 FTE (that is, 80 of those 216 working half time) their cost for salaries and benefits is about $60K/FTE.

I don't know what is reasonable for a teacher in NJ, but I do know that I have salary and benefits costs of about $115K for an engineer who just finished a BS, with a fully loaded cost of a little over $150K. An inexperienced secretary will cost me in excess of $60K salary and benefits.

So it would seem that at least the teachers in the Islamic school are subsidizing tuition by taking near poverty wages. Or their community finds other ways to support them off the school's books. And the yeshiva teachers don't seem to be getting very high salaries either.

Mr. Cohen said...

Chas VeShalom that we save lots of money by placing 7-year-old boys and 7-year-old girls in the same classroom.

I attended that type of yeshivah elementary school, and there was never a problem because of it.

Mark SoFla said...

Mike S - The yeshiva has 216 staff "many of whom" are part-time. Couldn't tell how many FTE, but if it is something like 175 FTE (that is, 80 of those 216 working half time) their cost for salaries and benefits is about $60K/FTE.

What if the top 16 employees are paid $2M (salary+benefits) leaving $8.5M for the remaining 200, or $42,500 (salary+benefits) each? That's also pretty close to starvation wages in the orthodox Jewish community.

I have salary and benefits costs of about $115K for an engineer who just finished a BS, with a fully loaded cost of a little over $150K.

This seems a little high to me. Starting salaries for new Electrical Engineers in NJ is $65-75k, benefits are $20-30k. What else are you adding to get to fully loaded cost? Social Security, unemployment taxes, what else? Are you also including the average cost of office space, etc?

JS said...


Yeshivat He'Atid is definitely something new. Not sure if it's accurate to say the schools are doing it since it's a new one. Hopefully it's low cost is actually sustainable. The other options are being done by individuals. I was only referring to steps the schools have taken in the economic downturn.

Mike & Mark,

I'm not sure how Annur does it. My point was simply that the salary+benefits as a percentage of expenses is likely OK, but total expenses are just so much higher. So, you won't find much savings cutting here and there - you need across the board cuts. I think Mark pointed out a major problem - too many administrators making far too much money. The other problem is just too many staff members with too few being actually full-time. The final problem is a "living wage" in the MO community is deemed to be astronomical so the salaries are commensurate with that (even if the perception is that they are underpaid relative to their neighbors).

Miami Al said...

Annur does it the same way Day Schools did it 60 years ago and Catholic schools did it 80 years ago, cheap immigrant labor.

The MO JDS movement expects to employ MO Jews to teach. Well, MO is rich man's Judaism, with luxurious private schools from PreK through college.

Think about what you want for Judaic teaching, only MO Rabbis means:

1. YU, someone with a undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree
2. Men only, and men from a culturally conservative subculture and therefore expected to be breadwinners
3. Live in an acceptably MO Town, and therefore priced for doctors and lawyers, and expensive -- I've seen references on other blogs to "Rabbis from Passaic" so in order to be a MO Rebbe, you have to live in an expensive MO town
4. Send their children to MO JDS (otherwise, we have Passaic Rabbis again)

So of course MO JDS are REALLY EXPENSIVE. When Yeshivot were growing rapidly in post-WW2 NYC, you had a flood of people from eastern Europe with no education and no English skills, so they worked in Yeshivot and were paid poorly because they couldn't do anything else.

Just like Catholic schools USED to rely on cheap immigrant Priests/Nuns for their schools.

The biggest difference that I see is that the Catholic education world has accepted a three fold model:
1. Upper Middle Class/Rich Catholics can opt for an Independent Catholic school that competes with private secular schools, receives no funding from the church
2. Poor Catholics can live in impoverished areas and attend Catholic Diocese schools that are subsidized by the money from middle class, upper middle class, and Rich Catholics
3. Middle Class Catholics have three choices: public school + catechism class, stretch for independent catholic schools, or suffer with diocese schools.

Nobody screams that their kids won't be Catholic if they choose a non-standard option. And nobody runs Catholics out of church (and their donations) if they choose to send their kids to a public school even if they could afford otherwise.

Remember, a BIG chunk of the push for public schooling was straight anti-Catholic bigotry, the reason for prayer in schools, etc., wasn't much about Jews, and mostly using the power of the purse to make defacto Protestant Schools and keep Catholics in their own schools. The Church ran schools, congregationalist Protestants did not, they had church on Sundays. Orthodox Jewry adopted the Protestant funding model and the Catholic education model and hasn't adapted the way the Catholic church has.

Note: I've seen Passaic signs from the highway, I don't actually know anything about the town. I've read references to "Passaic Rabbis" as being a problem for MO schools. I don't know why, if you live in Passaic and have Semicha, please accept my apologies, I'm using a phrase from the blogs, I'm sure you're actually a wonderful person and not a danger to the delicate Teaneck snowflakes that can't be exposed to anyone slightly different than them.

Mike S. said...

JS--My Salary and benefits number does include FICA and unemployment.

The loaded number adds a proportionate share of not directly billable expenses-- office and lab space, janitors, accounting, and so on.

I don't know how the yeshiva's payroll is split among administrators and teachers or whether a half-time teacher costs more or less than half a full-time teacher. But the overall payroll expenses are hardly extravagant. The average cost per FTE seems to be less than I spend for an inexperienced secretary. Even allowing for the fact that the secretary works 6 additional weeks a year, it isn't extravagant.


Let's say your right about what the top 16 make, although I have no idea. Let's further stipulate what you seem to be implying, that that is unreasonable. If you halved what they are making without giving anyone else a raise you have saved $1M. Not chump change by any means, but only about 8% of the total budget. Even if you are right about the administrators and most senior teachers being overpaid, which I am not sure about, that isn't the cause of the so-called tuition crisis. There may be efficiencies to be had at the 10-20% level, but Miami Al has it right. If we insist on every kid having a private school education to standards that are attractive for upper middle class professionals, that's what it costs. If you want to make a serious difference in the cost you need to broaden the range of options. I went to public school and Talmud Torah; perhaps some of my classmates returned to Torah and mitzvot after their college years, but otherwise probably fewer than 10% remained observant. I am not sure how to separate the fact that many came from families for whom making it in America was at least as important as Yiddishkeit from the inherent deficits in the format, both were factors in the results, I am sure. The movement toward day schools did not come from nowhere, nor from self-interested educators; it came from the failure of the Talmud Torah model at educating Orthodox Jews. Perhaps modern tweaks to the model will make it more successful; perhaps the social differences between now and the 1950's/early 1960's will make a difference. I don't know. People seem to be experimenting and time will tell.

JS said...


It's definitely a multitude of factors that lead to the current "crisis." I don't think fixing any one in particular will result in the salvation everyone seems to be looking for. Further, I think fixing all of them would result in a system very few would want to participate in.

If current tuition is $15k/kid, you can't just take that down to $9k/kid without significant changes and a lot of donations. This is what he'atid is trying to do, but it remains to be seen if they're successful in the long-term. It's also doubtful the model is replicable if based on a high level of giving. Either way, it's certainly not a solution for everybody.

Some parents would be happy paying $5k/kid for a lousy (but Jewish) education. Others want (what they perceive to be) the best possibly education regardless of cost. The problem is we have a one size fits all model which caters, by necessity, to the poorest (due to numbers) and the wealthiest (due to donation). So, it's no surprise things are screwy and that every in the middle feels unhappy and financially pinched.

Mike S. said...

JS--I agree with you that people feel stressed in part because they feel they have no choice but to participate in a system over which they have little control and which may not be well suited to their needs. And it does seem to me that people are sensibly reacting by trying other models: home schooling, cooperative schools, Hebrew language charters with Talmud torah and probably other things I haven't heard of yet. Those will probably work for some people but they also will have their stresses. I know no one has yet found a way to raise Orthodox Jews which is stress free, and I am pretty sure that is true of raising children in general. There is a reason the rabbis speak of "tza'ar gidul banim", "the pain of raising children".

If people feel trapped in a "one size fits all" system, it is only because they are unwilling to do something different from their neighbors. People can home school, send children to public school, get together with other families to start a cooperative schooling program or get together with other families to hire a teacher for their children. All these things would cost lest cash than a day school, although they would require the parents to take a more active role and more time.

Our family budget was very tight for a long time because of tuition payments; we lived without vacations and with beat up old cars for many years (including a used taxi I bought for $400 with 250K miles on which I nursed a couple of years out of.) It wasn't always fun, but we thought it was important for our kids. But we also knew there were other possibilities, and at multiple times considered some of them seriously.

Anonymous said...

One of my daughters went to a day school that combined the 2nd and 3rd grades. She was in 3rd grade at the time. The next year, as a 4th grader, she was combined, with the 3rd graders. When I discovered that the teacher was doing a full unit on picture books, (when my daughter was a 4th grader,) we were done. The next year my daughter was in a different school...In theory, yes combining the grades has a few advantages, but practically speaking, our local public school would have given a better secular education...If I am paying tuition, I want my child to get a GOOD education.

Orthonomics said...

Practically speaking, it sounds like the teacher was in the same class as my one of my public school teachers who thought teaching letters, numbers, and colors was appropriate curriculum for 1st graders, most of whom were readers!

Anonymous said...

"When I discovered that the teacher was doing a full unit on picture books, (when my daughter was a 4th grader,) we were done."

That would have been equally problematic if your daughter was a 3rd grader or a 2nd grader... borderline for 1st grade, probably appropriate for K.

The problem is not inherent in the combined classes approach (see my Montessori Magnet example, they are an A rated school with combined grades), but rather poorly run schools.

Now, could a Yeshiva adopt a combined grade Montessori approach with some success? Maybe. Could a failing school merge classes and become a success, no, they are a failing school and likely to remain a failing school without a major upheaval.