Down the Up Staircase: Tales of Teaching in Jewish Day Schools

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

June 5, 2006, New York, NY

Why do idealistic young teachers leave the Jewish day school? What can be done to get them to stay? Down the Up Staircase: Tales of Teaching in Jewish Day Schools (JTS Press, 2006) answers these questions in the tradition of the best narrative non-fiction.

In the first longitudinal study of Jewish day school teachers, author Carol K. Ingall of The Jewish Theological Seminary follows three aspiring educators over a ten-year period, including their reluctant decisions to leave day school teaching. The book concludes with implications for the field and suggests initiatives on the part of teacher educators, administrators, funders, and policymakers, to retain newcomers to Jewish day school education.

In an era in which Jewish day schools are looked upon as one of the prime guarantors of Jewish survival in North America, this richly documented study uses interviews, letters, and drawings to track the novices as they begin graduate school, accept their first jobs, and gradually acquire more sophisticated understandings of Jewish day schools. Through their narratives, Dr. Ingall constructs vivid depictions of Suzy, Nehama, and Lynn, shedding light on why educators with intense commitments to the future of the Jewish people leave the classroom.

Dr. Ingall addresses challenges that are common to both Jewish and general education. These include: lack of mentoring; few organized programs to induct newcomers to the school community; failure to create a supportive, learning community in the school; and administrators who fail to nurture their teachers' personal and professional lives.

Dr. Bernard Heller Professor of Jewish Education at JTS, Dr. Ingall was the coordinator of the training of day school educators at its William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. She is the author of Metaphors, Maps, and Mirrors: Moral Education in Middle Schools and Transmission and Transformation: A Jewish Perspective on Moral Education, a work which won the National Jewish Book Award in 1999. Dr. Ingall received her EdD from Boston University.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Ingall, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953; or email.

Advance Praise for Down the Up Staircase

"With Down the Up Staircase, Carol Ingall demonstrates that important books can also be enjoyable to read. With enviable craft and in the tradition of the best qualitative research, Ingall tells a story that resonates beyond the specifics of the lives of those she studies. In doing so, she makes a compelling case for how Jewish schools can recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers. — Alex Pomson, Melton Centre for Jewish Education, Hebrew University

"A timely contribution as day schools have proliferated widely. Ingall has provided breakthrough portraits of three beginning teachers and their journeys into the classroom. Grounded firmly in the general research on novice teachers, Ingall has brilliantly exposed key realities in Jewish day schools. A must-read for day school teachers, administrators, those involved in teacher education, funders, policy makers, and all who care about supporting and valuing teachers. — Rabbi Joshua Elkin, Executive Director, The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education

"Carol Ingall's insightful, moving, and at times, disturbing case studies of three promising day school teachers who leave the profession should serve as a wake-up call for teacher educators, funders, and policymakers, lay and professional day school leaders. Equipped with all the characteristics, dispositions, and commitments that presage rewarding teaching careers, these three, as Ingall concludes, "lost heart" and left day school teaching "heartbroken." In her incisive analysis of rich, longitudinal qualitative data, Ingall helps us understand why they left the profession and points us toward hopeful strategies for stemming the tide of attrition." — Ada Beth Cutler, Dean, College of Education and Human Services, Montclair State University

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world-class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

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