Deborah Fishman

Dec 152017

Since Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, we wanted to shine a light on some bright spots we are seeing in the Jewish day school field. It is our hope that each day of Chanukah will grow even brighter as you learn about these bright spots and consider your work in a new light.

Shine a Light on: Applying Learning from Outside the Jewish Context

Sometimes it can feel like the Jewish day school environment is completely one-of-a-kind – and it is, in many ways! But it turns out that lessons learned and ideas developed outside of the Jewish context can still be leveraged for the benefit of the Jewish day school system. Let’s learn about two bright spots in the field where this has occurred.

 “The Jewish Community Can Benefit from That”:  Jewish New Teacher Project

That’s Nina Bruder – she’s the head of the Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP). JNTP is the Jewish day school branch of a national secular nonprofit organization that works with teachers in the early stages of their careers in the nation’s public schools. Using a mentoring methodology, the New Teacher Center works to improve new teacher effectiveness and retention.  As Nina explains in the video, “JNTP is unique because of the partnership between the Jewish community funder and the secular provider to create this interplay between the expertise of a much larger, $40 million national organization with a very strong R&D department and research department, and the Jewish community can benefit from that… It really has been very special to be part of a national gold star organization in the secular realm, and to bring the best of their work into the Jewish community.”

This is a clear example of taking a development from outside the Jewish world and bringing that expertise into the day school context – and new teachers who are sticking with careers in their schools due to the mentorship support they are gaining through JNTP are strengthening the field because of it.

The Principals’ Center – Harvard University

Who doesn’t want a Harvard pedigree? In the summer, the Principals’ Center at Harvard offers two one-week institutes for principals and aspiring principals to enhance their ability to improve the quality of their schools. AVI CHAI saw the opportunity to take Jewish day school leaders to benefit from these resources external to our community, but absolutely applicable to improve our schools as well. For 18 years, AVI CHAI has funded Jewish day school leaders to attend these Harvard institutes.

Over time, in addition to simply funding attendance at the institutes, AVI CHAI has developed a year-long program structured around them. This program helps day school leaders work to improve their students’ learning and Jewish experiences and prioritize their own professional growth year-round. It includes some pre-institute work; additional evening sessions during the Institute to apply the day’s learning to the day school context; and follow-up during the following academic year, including executing a significant Jewish mission/vision project at school. Additional sessions and project management support is provided by Educannon Consulting.

Learn more about JNTP here and about Harvard Summer Institutes here.

Dec 142017

Since Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, we wanted to shine a light on some bright spots we are seeing in the Jewish day school field. It is our hope that each day of Chanukah will grow even brighter as you learn about these bright spots and consider your work in a new light.

Shine a Light on: Collaboration: Teachers Working with Teachers

Whereas day school leaders often have access to conferences and peer networks, teachers have less opportunities for outside support and inspiration. One exciting new idea is to break down what at times feel like isolating classroom walls and provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate – within schools and across schools.

 “Improving the overall outcome”: The JDS Collaborative

Tashlich set up at Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago

Tashlich set up at Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago

Suzanne Mishkin, K-4 Director at the Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago, had a challenge. The school had started a new initiative called JSTEAM, which incorporates Jewish learning with STEAM education. But, they weren’t sure about how to make the program more effective and meaningful or how to take it to the next level.

She contacted Alanna Kotler at the JDS Collaborative to see if other schools were grappling with similar issues. Alanna told her about a cross-school Collaborative-managed project with the goal of developing and curating STEAM initiatives about the chagim. It was just what Suzanne was looking for. She joined the project and learned from other educators about things they were trying in their schools. The Heschel School in California, for example, had created a tashlich pool for its whole school to use; first and fifth grade students worked together to create a motor and system for the pool, which recycled its own water. As a result of learning about this from the Heschel teachers, Suzanne adapted it to meet the needs of Chicago Schechter. She developed a whole-school project integrating arts into creating a tashlich pool, designed as a Jewish star using different amounts of water and color. The school used this pool to teach the laws of tashlich. Susanne’s participation in the Collaborative helped her develop new thinking, adapt others’ creative ideas to her school’s context, and ultimately helped her take the JSTEAM initiative school-wide.

If you are a Jewish day school teacher or leader with a burning challenge or a new opportunity related to your school’s Jewish mission, you might consider getting involved with the JDS Collaborative. Utilizing networked techniques, the Collaborative connects at least three schools that share a common set of goals. Then, it provides project management and access to outside expertise to help the team of educators and leaders from those schools see the project through to completion. This way each school can solve its unique challenges, using collective resources.

A project of Prizmah, the Collaborative is managed by Educannon Consulting, which is headed by Jonathan Cannon. As Jonathan explained at a recent meeting about the unique approach and success of the JDS Collaborative, “Groups of teachers who are collaborating on the outcome will increase the efficacy of the outcome.  Teachers don’t have the opportunity to work with teachers from other schools, so there is excitement there and it improves the overall outcome.”

iNfuse: Israel at the Heart of Jewish Day Schools

Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, FL had an “AHA moment” while participating in the iNfuse program, an iCenter program which aligns Israel education across a school’s curriculum and with its mission and goals. Some of the first steps of the iNfuse process include teachers all sharing their curriculum and programs relating to Israel education through staff meetings and other opportunities for dialogue. During this process, teachers and administrators at Donna Klein suddenly recognized that their Israel trip was being planned by the provider in Israel and not according to their educational needs or vision. Moreover, they realized that they were not connecting the children to contemporary Israel, even though it was part of their vision.  As one outcome of these discoveries, the school created a course that focused on the diverse ethnic groups in Israel and used their music, food and other aspects of their culture to introduce the students to the diversity of groups in Israel.

Through such initiatives, the collaborative process to decide how to “iNfuse” Israel education throughout the school creates more coherence and depth across all aspects of school learning. Along the way, participating schools have access to a mentor, as well as other iCenter tools to support teachers to design and implement learning experiences aligned with the vision created during the initial visioning process. In doing so, iNfuse provides a framework to engage students, educators and the greater school community in building personal connections to Israel and to the Israeli people.

Now that’s a way to take us all to our Promised Land!

In what ways does (or could) collaboration happen between teachers at your school?

Learn more about the JDS Collaborative here and about iNfuse here.

Shine a Light on: Cross-School Learning

 Posted by on December 13, 2017 at 1:26 pm  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Dec 132017

Happy Chanukah!

Since Chanukah is the Festival of Lights, we wanted to shine a light on some bright spots we are seeing in the Jewish day school field. It is our hope that each day of Chanukah will grow even brighter as you learn about these bright spots and consider your work in a new light.

Shine a Light on: Cross-School Learning

Let’s start with something that can bring us all together. Learning taking place between educators and leaders at schools from different streams is an important aspect of several exciting developments in the Jewish day school field. Here is a look at two of them.

“Unique and oftentimes historic”: The Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute

Formerly and affectionately known as the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project, The Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute works with schools from diverse streams to promote a standards-based approach to the study of Tanakh and Rabbinics. Operating under the auspices of the Davidson School at JTS, the program launched in 2003 to help day school develop Tanakh curriculum aligned with their school’s vision. More recently, Rabbinics standards and benchmarks were developed through a unique, collaborative process tapping 16 partner schools that committed time, resources and faculty expertise to the writing process. They were joined at two writing workshops by scholars from across the denominations to determine the most important goals for learning rabbinic texts and make those goals accessible through specific benchmarks and performance assessments.

Here is what Rabbi Sheryl Katzman, Leader of the Rabbinics Initiative of the project, said about the experience of cross-denominational learning as part of this process:

“All last year, 2015-2016, we brought together teachers and scholars from across North America, representing schools and institutions of all denominations, serving students K-12 and even beyond.  We gathered three times in New York at JTS to create the standards and benchmarks.  I don’t want to lose sight of what it felt like, the significance of gathering people from this wide spectrum of denominations of the Jewish community to learn and create something together.  It felt unique and oftentimes historic.”

That is a pretty powerful feeling! Luckily for the field, it is happening in other places too, such as…

The Prizmah Conference, and Prizmah in General!

Last February, Prizmah, the new central address for Jewish day schools, staged an impressive gathering of more than 1000 stakeholders in Jewish education. The conference featured constellations of learning that enabled attendees to choose their own learning adventure through an almost overwhelming array of sessions. Beit Midrash sessions enabled learning together on topics including: “Character Traits for a Complex World,” “Approaching Talmud Study: for Beginners and Scholars,” and “Jewish Textual Responses to Healing.”

The creation of Prizmah itself was a historic process bringing together all streams of day schools into one organization serving the entire field. Now, Prizmah offers enticing opportunities such as Reshet networking groups centered around different topics of interest, as well as leadership development, fundraising and governance, and recruitment and retention programs which bring leaders from across denominations to learn and tackle challenges together. With the field working together in this way, new possibilities are unleashed – including in the realm of learning from and with schools with a diversity of perspectives.

Learn more about the Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute here, and Prizmah here.

Jul 122017

This summer, AVI CHAI is once again sponsoring Jewish day school leaders to participate in the Art of Leadership (AOL) and Leadership: An Evolving Vision (LEV) programs of the Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


AOL participants completed the program the week of June 26, and LEV is taking place this week. A total of 36 leaders from across the US and Canada were chosen for the two cohorts.

In addition to learning from educational experts throughthe Harvard program, AVI CHAI participants benefit from being a part of the cohort specifically of Jewish day school leaders. Jonathan Cannon and Alanna Kotler from Educannon Consulting are facilitating evening sessions where leaders process the general learning and its application to the Jewish day school setting, with its particular challenges and opportunities. Each AVI CHAI participant also embarks on a project at his or her day school which will apply Harvard learning to some aspect of the school’s Judaic mission.

In this clip, Lee-Ron Kaye of the Associated Hebrew Schools of Toronto discusses her impressions of her time at the AOL program:

Follow @AVICHAIFDN and @EduCannon on twitter for more updates from the LEV program this week.

Mar 132017

In this previous blog post, I wrote about one trend in day school Jewish mission and vision that I observed at the Prizmah Conference: an emphasis on standards for different aspects of Judaic studies.

In this second post, I will explore a second takeaway from the sessions I attended: It is crucial for school leaders to make the case for and explain the goals of teaching Jewish studies at your school.

This idea came to a point at the session “Hebrew for What? Hebrew at the Heart of the Jewish Day School.” At this session, Dr. Jack Wertheimer and Dr. Alex Pomson reported on the findings from their soon-to-be-released research report (look out for it on the AVI CHAI website soon!). The study investigated why day schools across North America choose to teach Hebrew, what types of Hebrew they prioritize, and whether stakeholders are aligned in their perceptions of what is being achieved in their schools around Hebrew language study. Schools of all affiliations were studied through surveys of parents, educators, and students.

At the session, we looked at how different denominations ranked different reasons: for studying classical Hebrew, including for prayer, text study, appreciation of Jewish culture and tradition, feeling a part of a synagogue; and for studying modern Hebrew, for forming a connection with Israel/Jews around the world, brain development, feeling included in conversations, and more. Amongst other findings, it was brought to light that many schools could improve how they make the case for why it is important to learn Hebrew – and that a considerable minority of parents and students are unpersuaded. The schools where the perception of the success of the Hebrew program was highest were those that articulated clearly and strongly “why Hebrew? “

Though not discussed or covered in this study, I believe the lesson is applicable to other components of Jewish study and life at the school, including tefillah, kashrut policies, and more.

One approach to addressing the need to communicate your goals came from another conference session: “Leveraging Your Jewish Story for School Leadership,” with Jonathan Cannon and Alanna Kotler of Educannon Consulting. This session supported the larger conference theme of “The Power of Story” by suggesting that stories are a tool for leaders and should be built into leadership practice.  Leaders must make the case and galvanize constituents toward the leaders’ goals and storytelling is an effective technique because it is highly engaging, shows rather than tells, and gives a concrete and personal example.

The session explored how and why leaders tell stories through presenting the general motifs shared by the powerful stories that resonate with us. For instance, stories that resonate are those that point to a greater cause, or leave room for different interpretations. It reviewed the dominant story of charismatic and successful leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. (“There can be an interracial society for all”), what questions it elicited (“Can American society be integrated?”) and how it led to specific actions (sit-ins, directed letters to the president, etc.) and beliefs (about the ideals of America).

What if day school leaders could powerfully leverage their Jewish stories for school leadership? What if they could succinctly and effectively convey the “why” behind conducting Jewish studies, teaching Hebrew and living out Jewish life at day schools? Perhaps this could bring consensus and rally school communities around these crucial aspects at the heart of Jewish day schools.

In upcoming blog posts, Jewish day school leaders who attended the Prizmah conference will share their Jewish stories and what sparks made them into the Jewish educators they are today. Stay tuned!

Reminder: Come to Harvard AOL/LEV!

 Posted by on March 8, 2017 at 10:48 am  No Responses »  Tagged with:  Categories:
Mar 082017

Application deadline is next Wednesday, March 15

Time is running out to apply to a structured and proven process for enhancing the quality of your school’s Jewish mission sponsored by AVI CHAI.

The year-long program includes:

  • A week of professional development at Harvard Principals’ Center world-famous Summer Institutes for educational leaders – Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership (AOL) or Leadership: An Evolving Vision (LEV);
  • Nightly facilitated sessions while in Cambridge, applying the day’s lessons to your change project;
  • Project management throughout the year to support you and help you stay on track.

Past participants include Yoni Fein, Assistant Principal of The Moriah School in Englewood, New Jersey, who recently won the Kohelet Prize for Differentiated Instruction for Personalized Talmud Learning, a project that was born through the Harvard experience. Yoni explains the impact that the Harvard experience had on him as follows:

“As a school leader, I have seen firsthand that even the best ideas sometimes fail to reach the desired sustainable results. It was only after my training at Harvard along with the talented consultants from AVI CHAI and fellow cohort members that I truly understood what it means to lead. I was able to reflect on my own practice and explore my own personal growth plan to hone my leadership styles. I walked away with a tremendous amount of resources including professional development ideas, protocols and data management templates, and research-based approaches to my work. Most importantly, I walked away with strong relationships with dozens of talented school leaders from across the country, most of whom I am still in contact with today on a regular basis.

“When I started the program at Harvard, I was at the beginning stages of launching a new approach to teaching Talmud utilizing a personalized learning model. While I understood where I wanted to go with it, and had research to back it up, I wasn’t sure how I would be able to lead such a drastic change from what has been done in the past at our school without negatively affecting our school culture. We are now 6 months into the project and already the initiative has gotten national recognition as a Kohelet Prize winner, and we are only just getting started. I know that without the training at the Harvard/AVI CHAI program that this would not have been nearly as successful.

“I never thought that one week of professional development could transform my understanding and practice of leadership. This program did that for me, and it is the single most important professional development I have ever participated in. I can’t wait for the chance to attend the LEV training in the future.”

Are you inspired to take action? More information, including program dates this summer and how to apply, can be found here.

Additionally, you can contact Nechama Leibowitz with questions at:

Mar 062017

The Prizmah Jewish Day School conference on February 5-7 in Chicago was a strong manifestation of the energy and excitement around the birth of Prizmah, the new central address for Jewish day schools, which staged this impressive gathering of more than 1000 stakeholders in Jewish education. The conference featured innovative shared experiences ranging from interactive improv workshops and custom sketches of Jewish day school life by Second City Works to a keynote lecture by world-renowned game designer and author Jane McGonigal, who encouraged the audience to consider: Why don’t our learning platforms work more like a game? In addition, constellations of learning enabled attendees to choose their own learning adventure through an almost overwhelming array of sessions, built around the running conference theme: the power of story. This personalization was especially accommodating for diverse subsections of conference-goers, such as the substantial group of lay leaders and those from small schools and small communities.

Amidst all of this activity around Jewish day schools as a path to build a strong Jewish future, the question naturally arises: What is the “Jewish” of Jewish day schools, and how are schools working to bring it to life?

One trend I observed is a growing emphasis on standards for different aspects of Judaic studies. I attended sessions on: “Crafting Israel Education Standards” with the iCenter; “Why Jewish Fluency Matters”, where Lisa Exler presented the standards and benchmarks she compiled for fluency in Jewish studies at Beit Rabban Day School in conjunction with Mechon Hadar; and “Tell Me Your Torah: Reading Sacred Texts with Multiple Lenses,” where Charlotte Abramson and Rabbi Sheryl Katzman used protocols from The Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute (formerly Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project) of the Davidson School at JTS.

Israel education, tefillah, Rabbinics and Jewish practice are all areas where using standards is a novel approach. Standards do not mean standardized learning; rather, they describe a way of approaching learning. The term is used in different contexts in different ways. With the Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute project, it is based on an outcomes-based approach to teaching, where first the overarching standards are set, and then benchmarks, instructional methods and performance assessments are selected to meet those standards. To take an example from that project, one of the eight standards about developing “an appreciation for the sacredness of Tanakh as the primary record of the meeting between God and the people of Israel” and another is about “the role of mitzvot in the shaping of the ethical character and religious practices of the individual and the Jewish People.” You can teach any text through the lens of: How does it help students develop an appreciation for the sacredness of Tanakh as the primary record of the meeting between God and the people of Israel and as an essential text through which Jews continue to grapple with theological, spiritual, and existential questions? Or, you could teach it through the lens of: How does this influence our understanding of the mitzvot? Each standard will cause you to focus or emphasize in a different way. (These examples are based on the Tanakh Standards which can be found here.)

On the other hand, the standards compiled by Lisa Exler at Beit Rabban have more to do with what specific content should be covered to achieve fluency than with the process or overarching standards.  These standards offer a road map for content, so students who graduate from day school at 8th grade should be fluent in certain texts, similar to fluency in a language. That will enable them to make connections between the different texts they read and become more independent learners.

At first glance, it may seem challenging enough to create standards within one school, as in the case of Beit Rabban, let alone across schools with different perspectives. But there is much to be said for the collaborative process among schools, as I experienced in the room of the Israel education standards workshop – through which new insights can emerge not only through understanding other approaches, but also about oneself. It remains to be seen how the idea and practice of writing and using standards will revolutionize the field, but much success has been had already, for instance, in the twelve years of the Standards and Benchmarks program.

This is just one example of the rich content that the Prizmah conference brought to life. Stay tuned for additional posts here on the AVI CHAI blog with more about the “Jewish” of Jewish day schools at the Prizmah conference.

Attendees have now returned home energized and armed with new tools, ideas, and connections to continue their important work of securing the Jewish future. We can’t wait to see how the field continues to grow with Prizmah’s support and resources – and to take in those new developments when the next conference comes around.


Mar 012017

Applications are Now Open: Deadline is March 15 

The AVI CHAI Foundation sponsors a structured and proven process for enhancing the quality of your school’s Jewish mission.

The year-long program includes a week of professional development at Harvard Principals’ Center world-famous Summer Institutes for educational leaders – Improving Schools: The Art of Leadership (AOL) or Leadership: An Evolving Vision (LEV); nightly facilitated sessions while in Cambridge, applying the day’s lessons to your change project; and project management throughout the year to support you and help you stay on track.

This program is an amazing opportunity for you to develop your leadership skills and bring improvements to your school. But don’t just take it from us… listen to program participants:

“Throughout my professional life, I have operated always upon the principle that one learns through experience better than sitting in an academic environment absorbing the same ideas. I firmly believed that the more opportunities in which one participates – the more one learns and grows. My summer experience at the Harvard Institute and through the AVI CHAI cohort flipped my appreciation of academic learning on its head.  Being engaged and working in small groups in an intensive academic forum inspired me to make critical changes in both my personal and professional lives.  My new perspective engendered at last summer’s Harvard Institute subsequently created a renewed energy and positive approach to problem solving and staff development.”
Rabbi Levi Solomon
Principal – Emek Hebrew Academy in Sherman Oaks, CA

Stay tuned for more participants’ stories on the AVI CHAI blog – and apply today!

More information, including program dates this summer and how to apply, can be found here. Additionally, you can contact Nechama Leibowitz with questions at:

The Transformative Value of Fieldwide Teacher Collaboration

 Posted by on January 11, 2017 at 10:04 am  No Responses »  Tagged with: ,  Categories:
Jan 112017

This article was first published in HaYidion: The Prizmah Journal in its inaugural issue on Collaboration.

by Deborah Fishman

Last summer, four day schools in the Midwest came together to explore a common challenge: how to differentiate instruction in a Hebrew classroom to meet the needs of students with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Teams of educators and administrators from each school—Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in St. Louis, Akiva School in Nashville, The Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor and Hyman Brand Academy of Kansas City—met at Mirowitz to learn about differentiation from a master general-education instructor, and to discuss among themselves how to apply this learning to a Hebrew classroom.

The educators’ energy and enthusiasm, both in bonding as teams and in meeting and networking with one another, was overwhelming. With multiple teams sporting school shirts, morale was very high; despite the fact that some of these schools resumed sessions the following week, they were nevertheless investing this time in their professional development and forging relationships with other educators. The instructor remarked early in the day how he couldn’t tell which educators had existing relationships and which had become instant best friends with “complete strangers.”

The professional development day is one example of collaborations that are taking place within the JDS Collaborative, with funding from The AVI CHAI Foundation. Where can we find the leverage to strengthen the Jewish mission of schools throughout the day school field? The Collaborative aims to provide one answer: collaboration by teachers and leaders within schools and between schools can allow school change to take place in the most efficient and effective manner through the creation, prototyping and spread of new ideas, forging of new relationships, and sharing of resources. The Collaborative’s unique process connects day school leaders and teachers over long distances; focuses them on challenging aspects of their Jewish mission at their school; and ignites collaborations on projects that they believe will address the challenge, largely through online networking strategies. Additionally, there is some funding to support professional development and travel opportunities.

The Hebrew differentiation project is one of 21 such projects currently underway in the Collaborative. These projects range from designing curricula using game-based learning, to developing Hebrew language activities built around real-life opportunities and experiences, to using educational simulations to explore scenarios school leaders face regarding Judaic teachers and curriculum content and tradition vs. innovation. Below are the implications we have seen from this work so far regarding the features that are most important for achieving impact and success.

First, while school participation depends on the school leaders’ buy-in and investment in the concept and its potential for application at the school, we have found that in many cases it is most effective for the majority of the work to be done by the teachers themselves. School leaders are simply too busy to be as invested in the daily process, and in the end it is the teachers in whose classrooms the resulting projects will be implemented.

Moreover, we have learned that Jewish day school teachers are indeed hungry for opportunities to form relationships with other teachers and to be exposed to resources, ideas and connections outside the four walls of their classrooms. When Cheryl Maayan, head of school at Mirowitz, opened the Hebrew differentiation day by asking the group to share about challenges in Hebrew instruction in a Jewish day school environment, the room exploded with everyone wanting to contribute.

“This is an area of growth for Jewish day schools. There are lots of opportunities in the field for leaders to connect, but we don’t always provide these opportunities for faculty,” said Maayan. She serves on the Collaborative’s Leadership Team along with Rabbi Dr. Gil Perl, head of Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Philadelphia; Dr. Michael Kay, head of Solomon Schechter of Westchester; and Larry Kligman, head of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Los Angeles.

Suzanne Mishkin of the Sager Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, Illinois, which is participating this year in a project about STEAM and the chagim, emphasized the benefits of sharing expertise. “We are interested in the Collaborative because we believe it is important to be able to pool resources. I worked for public school for many years, where there are many schools in a district, so you have access to educators with varied experiences and new ideas. There are great ideas in our building, but to be able to go outside and collaborate is always a positive experience.”

Second, we are finding the Collaborative’s support in project management is an essential resource in order to make sure projects come to fruition. Jonathan Cannon, director of the Collaborative, employs the following steps in the process of forming new projects:

  1. Recruiting potential participants
  2. Eliciting their priorities for improvement of their school’s Jewish vision and practice
  3. Connecting participants who face similar challenges and/or opportunities
  4. Helping them formalize this commonality into projects, around which they can collaborate.

While school leaders and faculty alike are enthusiastic about participating, they have very busy schedules, and the friendly guidance of Alanna Kotler, Collaborative project manager, can make the difference between a successfully implemented project and one that falls by the wayside. Kotler ensures that projects stay on track through managing the team roles and responsibilities and breaking down deliverables, milestones and deadlines.

The Hebrew differentiation project reveals how participants develop their work through collaboration and resource-sharing. In the time since the day of learning, the schools narrowed down their focus to differentiation strategies for second grade Hebrew reading fluency, and together determined the standards they wanted to work on. The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School of Rockville, Maryland, subsequently joined the project, and its Hebrew reading specialist created a webinar that was given to 15 teachers and administrators at Mirowitz and Akiva. After the webinar, teachers worked in their schools to create new benchmarks for reading fluency and share lesson ideas of how to differentiate instruction in light of student assessment. The schools are currently working on furthering the work in their schools to better define assessment and fluency criteria.

The process represents a shift in the way many day schools approach challenges that can seem beyond the ability of the school to address. “The Collaborative is the first opportunity we’ve had to think about a problem from within our school rather than joining an external program that’s been created for us. The impact has been subtle but profound. There hasn’t been any one “aha moment” or one stand out experience but every few weeks we gained more information and pushed forward. Now, a year later, we have come a long way,” said Daniella Pressner, principal at Akiva.

Third, we are unearthing at what stages of this process collaboration is most helpful, and to what end. What is the best model for structuring collaboration among multiple day schools such that it is a value added rather than an obstruction to a successful outcome? What unexpected benefits of collaboration may not have been anticipated?

We are finding that collaboration among different schools is most valued for the learning (professional development) and evaluation phases, whereas collaboration within a school is prioritized during the implementation phase.

One ancillary reported benefit of the Collaborative is that collaboration between teachers teaching the same topic and administrators within each school itself has increased enormously and has been sustained, leading to a culture of cooperation that has the potential to transform relationships between colleagues and positively impact student learning as a result. “Our experience is showing that the sustainability of projects that had collaboration in the schools is greater because of the joint conversation and accountability,” Cannon said.

In conclusion, day school collaboration is critical because it allows schools to share resources, which is not only more efficient, but also leads to the spread of new ideas. “As a Jewish day school field, we need to figure out more effective ways to share resources. I don’t just mean financial resources but that sense of support… the idea that someone has your back,” Pressner said.

If you are interested in learning more about the Collaborative, please contact Jonathan Cannon at