Leadership for Learning: Strengthening Miami Jewish Day Schools & Looking Ahead

Posted on 02/24/2023 @ 05:00 AM

Tags: Jewish Schools & Educational Services

This week CAJE had the opportunity to present our work to the joint Federation/CAJE Day School Committee composed of representatives from all of our funded schools as well as community leaders deeply invested in day school education.
Valerie Mitrani, CAJE’s Director of Day School Professional Development and Julie Lambert, Senior Educational Consultant for CAJE, began by presenting the “CAJE-Miami Model” that underpins the work of the whole department.

According to the Rand Corporation’s research, the most important school-based factor impacting student learning is…  the quality of the teacher.
By working with teachers, CAJE can make the most impact with every school in our community across all denominations, enabling them to impart their content in the most effective ways.
Every school leader understands the importance of teacher professional development but it takes so much time to run a school, that school leaders find it difficult to focus on it.
That’s why CAJE in collaboration with our schools puts the professional development options and programs together for them, matching school requests with the best research-based offerings and creating efficiencies by bringing schools with similar goals and needs together across the entire system.
By deeply understanding our schools and their needs over many years, CAJE has earned the trust of the day school leadership. We are able to leverage resources across the community and attract funders who want to affect an entire community, rather than school by school.
Valerie and Julie traced the beginning of the CAJE-Miami Model to 2007 with Project Day School Excellence, which led to the development of #JBlendMiami in 2014, which enabled four of our ten funded schools to go online virtually overnight during the pandemic because they understood how to utilize technology to personalize student learning.
Much of this work is due to national foundations and generous local donors like Evelyn and Dr. Shmuel Katz as well as Lillian and Moises Tabacinic.

Three of the four schools who went through #JBlendMiami (RASG Hebrew Academy, Lehrman Community Day School and Scheck Hillel Community School) plus the Innovative School of Temple Beth Sholom are now ready to take their learning to the next level and CAJE matched them with MindCET, a “TeacherPreneur” program based in Yerucham, Miami’s partnership community in Israel.
MindCET seeks to immerse teachers in Israel’s entrepreneurial and innovation culture to develop “teacher- preneurs” who will work in partnership with teams in Israel to create technological solutions to challenges in education. These teachers are learning online now and will meet MindCET designers this summer in Israel to further craft ed-tech solutions to identified educational challenges.

Hebrew is an integral part of every Jewish day school. Yet, many schools are unfamiliar with the research on best practices in second language acquisition. So CAJE connected our schools to Hebrew at the Center (HASC), the organization that aims to revolutionize the effectiveness of teaching and learning Hebrew.
Lehrman Community Day School and Rambam (Temple Beth Am) Day School are working with HASC to elevate the quality of Hebrew instruction through assessments, workshops, coaching and professional learning communities around the topic. 

CAJE partners with Better Lesson to offer one-to-one coaching enabling teachers and school leaders to implement flexible models of instruction in their classrooms. Currently RASG Hebrew Academy, Innovative School of Temple Beth Sholom, Scheck Hillel Community School and Yeshiva Toras Emes/Toras Chaim are participating. Since CAJE began to work with Better Lesson, we have impacted 125 teachers and school leaders
Big thanks to the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC) funded by the Mayberg Foundation who is a 50/50 partner in funding for all of our participating Hebrew and Judaic studies teachers.

One of the saddest statistics in all of education is that 50% of new teachers drop out of the profession in the first three years… unless they are supported with mentoring and coaching to help them overcome the challenges of the job.
That’s why CAJE works with the Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP) to leverage the expertise of veteran teachers to serve as school-based mentors who can then accelerate the effectiveness and success of new teachers.
The results? Increased retention of both new and veteran teachers as well as an increased culture of reflection and growth within the school.
Since its inception, CAJE’s work with JNTP has led to the creation of 35 mentor teachers and helped 75 new teachers. Currently, there are teachers participating from RASG Hebrew Academy, Innovative School of Temple Beth Sholom, Scheck Hillel Community School and Yeshiva Toras Chaim. 

Our day school system can be likened to a tree and CAJE provides the water, the nutrients and the soil that helps the tree thrive, enabling it to stay strong and grow thick, hearty roots as well as beautiful, vibrant leaves.
In the same way that watering and feeding isn’t visible after the tree absorbs them, CAJE’s work is not always apparent to those who are not school professionals.
Yet, we know- and our schools know- that the health and vitality of the teaching staff are the very roots of each and every school, as well as our system as a whole.
In sum, CAJE’s work in the area of teacher and administrator professional development plays a major role in supporting the recruitment and retention of teachers in our community schools.