From the Executive Director

Education Initiative and Our Day of Learning

By Chip Edelsberg on April 11th, 2013

It has been a long time since I updated readers on the progress being made on the Jim Joseph Foundation-funded Education Initiative.  The Initiative consists of three major grants of $15 million each to support graduate programs of education at Hebrew Union College (HUC), Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), and Yeshiva University (YU).  The implementation period for these grants is 2009-2016.

Let me start with the numbers:

  • 528 students who have received Jewish education degrees or certification since Spring 2010
  • 419 students currently enrolled in degree and graduate programs of certification
  • 13 new degree and certification programs have been established

Before one jumps to any conclusion about supply and demand equations of Jewish educators, it is important to note that 225 (54%) students participating in these programs are currently employed as Jewish educators.

One feature of the Education Initiative grants included as part of each $15 million award is a “set-aside” of $1 million for inter-institutional collaboration – among HUC, JTS, and YU faculty and administrators; for course and program offerings and for inter-institutional faculty development.

In the summer of 2012, HUC and JTS launched the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI). JECELI is a 12- month in-service training program for new Directors of Early Childhood Education Centers or educators working towards a leadership position in a Jewish Early Childhood Education institution.  It is a unique partnership between JTS and HUC with academic support from Bankstreet College.  Over the course of the program, the JECELI cohort learns together during three in-person seminars, including intensive academic study with faculty from JTS, HUC and Bankstreet. Additionally, there is one-on-one mentoring throughout the program, including work participants do at their host institution. (Jim Joseph Foundation Senior Program Officer Dawne Bear Novicoff will discuss JECELI and other Jewish Early Childhood Education initiatives in an upcoming blog.)

This month the three institutions are launching an inter-institutional eLearning Faculty Fellowship to support the design and implementation of education technology projects in the three partner institutions. Eighteen faculty members (approximately six from each of the three institutions) will participate in the first cohort.  Of special note is that the 10-month Fellowship is taught by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) at Columbia University.

In February, 42 personnel from HUC, JTS, and YU – including the three college presidents – joined Jim Joseph Foundation representatives and evaluators from the American Institutes for Research as well as the president and CEO of Noel-Levitz (the leading college enrollment management firm in the industry) for a full day of inter-institutional learning.

The day of learning was a microcosm of the Initiative.  Deans and faculty from each institution conversed with one another about implementing strategies to effectively engage current students and to reach new ones.  When the Noel-Levitz college enrollment expert offered suggestions about recruitment, his comments instigated a conversation among the institutions on when, where, and how they recruit.  The participants at the day of learning explored opportunities to collaborate to more effectively attract, recruit and retain students.

The initial evaluation of the Education Initiative and forthcoming report on the survey on employer results provide convincing evidence that these grants are mostly achieving and, in some cases, exceeding intended outcomes.  There is as well clear indication that each of the institutions is enhancing the capacities of its graduate schools of education in ways that are sustainable.

The ability of the participating institutions to continue the most successful of their new programs will help the initiative reach its full potential. The data thus far on the number of students and new certificate programs is promising, as are the collaborative efforts of the grantees. HUC, JTS, and YU are intent on implementing new approaches to effective graduate school Jewish education to provide learning opportunities. We are beginning to see the positive results of their diligent work, and the Foundation encourages others to learn about their noteworthy successes.

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The Jim Joseph Foundation invests in promising Jewish education grant initiatives. We partner with effective organizations that seek to inspire young people to discover the joy of living vibrant Jewish lives.