Pardes Achieves Success in Training and Retaining Judaic Studies Teachers

A just-released evaluation by the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Israel shows the achievements of its teacher training and retention programs, and demonstrates the importance of an active support system for new Judaic Studies teachers. The study, conducted by Research Success Technologies, details findings from two separate research engagements. One, commissioned by the Jim Joseph Foundation, evaluated the Pardes Educators Alumni Support Program (PEASP), while the other, commissioned by The AVI CHAI Foundation, studied the field’s impression of graduates of the Pardes Educators Program (PEP).

The two-year PEP, which opened in 2000 and is funded by The Avi Chai Foundation, recruits and trains Judaic studies teachers and helps place them in North American day schools. In 2008, the Jim Joseph Foundation provided additional funding to establish the PEASP, providing induction support and professional development to foster retention among PEP graduates.

“I cannot overstate the importance of the support of a cohort of inspiring, dedicated and committed individuals who grapple with text and think deeply about teaching,” says Tamar Rabinowitz, a 2002 PEP graduate and a Judaic Studies Teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco. “The Pardes educators community helped nourish me in my early years of teaching, provided me with great pedagogical ideas and has been a valuable resource that helped me grow and find my voice in this field.”

Pardes places emphasis on participation in a vibrant community of learners as the basis for building knowledge, skills and motivation required for Judaic Studies educators. Pardes refers to this intensive learning environment – which embraces diverse learners, approaches and ideas in the exploration of Jewish texts – as the Open Beit Midrash. The research, conducted from June 2010 through December 2011, recommends that Pardes continue to focus and further develop this core expertise.

Among other key findings, the study notes that:

  • Pardes is achieving its primary goal of placing and retaining talented Judaic Studies teachers in Jewish high schools, day schools and other Jewish educational institutions in North America. Of the six PEP cohorts (at the time of the research in Summer/Fall 2010) whose graduates had completed between three and eight years of day school teaching, 65% were still in day school education.
  • PEP alumni report that the primary role PEASP plays for retention is to preserve the feeling of membership in a supportive and visionary community. The evaluation confirms the importance of the focus on the first three years for retention.
  • Heads of school and experts in the field regard PEP alumni as high quality Judaic Studies teachers and confirm that there remains a need for such educators.

Since it was founded in 2000, PEP has graduated 122 Jewish educators, awarding them each a Certificate of Jewish Studies from Pardes along with a Masters in Jewish Education and a Certificate in Jewish Day School Education from Hebrew College, Pardes’s institutional partner for this program.

The full summary report is available here.