HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Measuring the Success of a School's "Jewish Mission"
The "Jewish goals" of a school are always stated in an abstract way in the school's mission statement. However, from the mission statement to everyday practice is a long distance that most schools do not successfully travel.
Why is it so difficult to push forward clear standards of success in Jewish education? There are two factors, the first of which has to do with the lack of clear standards for Jewish educators. In secular studies there are nationally recognized tests in math and sciences against which a school can test its performance; and, of course there are the percentage of students accepted to top universities. What are the equivalent measures for success in areas touching on a school's Jewish mission? There is no clear answer to this question.
The second factor mitigating against measuring success in Jewish education has to do with "time". Who has the time to continually collect data, assess progress, discuss, reflect and then institute changes? With the rare exception, teachers and administrative staff are chronically over worked and simply do not have the time that is necessary to systematically tackle the question of success. Yet, given the difficulty in defining standards in Jewish education, without a process of collecting data and thinking in a systematic way, it's unlikely that a school will make substantial progress in its Jewish mission.
The lack of time for thinking about success on key issues such as Jewish identity and education is also a tremendous problem for researchers and consultants who work with organizations. The author of this article is a sociologist who has worked extensively with Jewish institutions on the question of success, and has repeatedly found that reports, which are at first greeted with enthusiasm, are eventually shelved. After initial discussion, the people responsible for instituting change simply don't have the time to properly implement the consultant's recommendations.
While researchers and consultants are uniquely equipped to help educational institutions grapple with questions of success, the product they offer is not useful. The researcher's product is the report, which tends to be large and inaccessible, and always demanding of large investments of time and often money to read and implement. Moreover, even the best reports eventually become obsolete, requiring new data collection and analysis to update them; and, again the demand for additional allocations of time and money.
Even a school that does not hire a consultant will to some extent attempt to gather basic data on its educational work, if only to satisfy and report to its constituents - parents, students, teachers, school boards, accreditation agencies and in many cases, donors. This process is often done haphazardly and at a tremendous cost to staff work hours. Once the required report is put together, it too is shelved and the entire process repeated when the next deadline approaches.
An Israeli high-tech startup named Research Success Technologies has developed an Internet system that will change the way educational institutions grapple with the question of success in general, and on Jewish issues in particular. ReST Office is designed to solve the lack of time that educators have for thinking about their educational goals by creating a comprehensive system which allows for data input as part of everyday work, simple analysis and easy report building. The approach of Research Success Technologies is to empower the school itself to conduct ongoing data collection and analysis through the use of forms that are coded for the goals of the school - including applications, course evaluations, grading forms, event or special program evaluations, and parent and alumni surveys. Basic data having to do with the everyday life of the school enters the system, allowing for analysis focused on the schools goals, quickly and on short notice.
If Jewish educational institutions are going to survive and thrive, they must be able to prove that they are reaching their goals. Yet, the process for measuring success cannot make demands on the time that the school staff have for performing their jobs. Technological solution, like the one offered by Research Success Technologies is one way to move forward.
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