Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project

The Jewish Theological Seminary's Melton Research Center for Jewish Education launched the Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project in 2003, with generous funding from AVI CHAI. The project is designed to help schools adopt a standards-based approach for the teaching of TaNaKH and in turn support schools in establishing the requisite capacity for maintaining and sustaining change. The project has been guided in part by the work of Dr. Douglas Reeves, who has developed educational practices, based on a standards approach, that have proven track records of success in improving instruction and learning. Foreword by Dr. Douglas Reeves »

The project provides participating schools with a yearlong professional development program rooted in the effective application of TaNaKH standards and benchmarks during the curriculum-planning process to maximize student achievement.

A second aspect of the project includes training the schools' key Judaic studies leaders to support their faculties' professional learning and strategize best practices for sustaining the project in their schools beyond the first year of training. Judaic studies leaders are supported in the program with three intensive instructional leadership institutes and the yearlong mentoring of one of our TaNaKH educator consultants. This combination of services is a key instrument for working effectively with faculty and improving the quality of the teaching and learning of TaNaKH in their schools.

Karen Sitnik, a teacher at Associated Hebrew Schools, commented:

“I feel honored to be in the presence of such experienced and inspirational educators. It is a true motivation for me to continue to help others engage and grow in their Tanakh learning and teaching as a whole.”

A standards-based approach is vital to creating powerful learning. First, establishing clearly defined standards helps schools create a coherent vision of curriculum and focus on overarching goals. Second, standards set clear expectations for achievement in students so that there are well-defined criteria for mastering TaNaKH content. Third, standards help parents and the community understand the ultimate goals of the schools' TaNaKH program. Lastly, teachers who work together with shared goals and a common professional language foster a collaborative and collegial atmosphere among faculty.

Dr. Barbara Neufeld, the project's evaluator, commented:

“ . . . The TaNaKH Standards and Benchmarks Project . . . has led to remarkable changes in the schools regarding the teaching and learning of TaNaKH. It has begun the professionalization of teaching in this important area of Jewish Day schools. It has demonstrated to the schools that, with support, they can identify significant learning goals for their students and work toward achieving them.”

The Jewish Day School Standards and Benchmarks Project, currently in its sixth year, counts more than thirty-five Conservative, Reform, and community day schools as participants in this intensive professional development program.

For a preview of the standards or an example unit, view the overview of TaNaKH Standards and Benchmarks.

If you are interested in your day school becoming a participant in this project, you may fill out the application. For further information contact Project Director Charlotte Abramson at chabramson@jtsa.edu.