A “blended” effort at solving the affordability crisis

For nearly three years GAJE has highlighted efforts from diverse communities in North America to make Jewish education more affordable. A great deal more about these efforts is being written and shared today than it was some three years ago when GAJE was formed. That is not surprising because a great deal more is being done today than three years ago to solve the unaffordability crisis.

Some communities are trying to reimagine the delivery of Jewish education itself in a manner that is less expensive but not less effective.

In a story written for JTA this week, E.J. Kessler wrote about one such newly designed method of delivering education called “blended learning” at Westchester Torah Academy in New Rochelle, New York.

The school has adopted a new model of instruction “that uses computer technology to customize student lessons and blends that with small-group teacher instruction.”

Kessler writes that proponents of blended learning for enabling it to diagnose individual learning weaknesses and strengths and then customize lessons that respond to the needs of the individual student.

They also point out how much less expensive a “blended” learning experience than the conventional one.

“At Westchester Torah Academy, an Orthodox school of 148 students from preschool to fifth grade, tuition is below $11,000 – about 50 percent less than at nearby Jewish day schools,” Kessler notes.”

Three other Jewish day schools in the U.S. currently use an all-blended teaching system. Kessler also adds “scores of traditional Jewish day schools are also using some degree of blended learning programs.”

The point of bringing a blended learning model to our readers’ attention is not to tout it above other teaching models. Rather, it is simply to point out that the status quo within the day school system is failing. And different communities of parents, teachers and administrators are trying new and different approaches to bring down the cost of Jewish education – such as blended learning – that suit their particular set of circumstances.

It is indeed imperative to implement cost efficiencies in every school, whether an “old-time” school or highly digitalized new one. But cost efficiencies alone cannot make tuitions affordable. We must not neglect looking for and finding new approaches to funding our schools too so that the excellence of the education they deliver is never impaired.

Good luck to everyone trying to bring Jewish education within reach of the Jewish families who wish it for their children. We applaud and cheer them.

The full Kessler article can be found at: https://www.jta.org/2018/03/14/news-opinion/embraced-low-tuition-jewish-schools-blended-learning-now-catching-widely

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Shabbat Shalom.

GAJE

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