The B'Yadenu Project: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners in Jewish Day Schools: A Whole School Approach
Over the past several years, Greater Boston’s Jewish day schools have sought to accommodate an ever-increasing range of learners. While students with diverse special learning needs have historically been an underserved population in day schools and other Jewish educational institutions, many Jewish day schools (both in Boston and nationwide) are now more invested in and committed to serving these students than ever before. As a result, there has been a heightened interest in a more systematic school-wide approach to serving diverse learners.
What is B'Yadenu?
A collaboration between Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership and select Boston schools (with funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Ruderman Family Foundation), B’Yadenu (“in our hands”) is a project designed to shift a “whole” school – meaning all staff, administrators, leaders, and other stakeholders – to cohesively and collaboratively work to better serve all learners. The ultimate goal of the project is to create an effective, sustainable, and adaptable model for delivering Jewish day school education to an increased number and range of students with special learning needs through school-based professional development in the Boston area, and to document and disseminate the model for adaptation in other communities.
In the current day school landscape, students with special needs are generally the responsibility of special education staff and a limited number of school administrators. As the B’Yadenu model is implemented and each participating school’s entire school administration and teaching staff become engaged in professional development and learning about addressing and accommodating all students, we expect a new cultural norm to develop. We anticipate that this new norm will have as its hallmark an expectation of shared responsibility among all administrators and educators for all students regardless of educator background and student educational profiles. Additionally, we believe the strategies and approach developed by the schools through this project will be transferable to other “whole school initiatives” in the future.
The B’Yadenu model is being implemented over three years through a cycle of creating, planning, executing, reflecting and revising. The second year of the project is currently under way in Boston, with the first cohort of schools beginning to implement their professional development plans, and the second cohort of schools (who began the project in fall 2013) completing the final stages of the planning phase.
The project model involves a unique hybrid of school based and regional approaches. To deliver the professional development programs that will lead to each school’s universal practice improvement, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education, a regional Jewish education agency, is building its capacity to provide specific school-based and cross school professional development offerings.
The goals for each Boston demonstration school over three years include:
- Development of a cohesive school-wide approach to address the learning needs of all students. This will be an opportunity for each school to coordinate and integrate the many initiatives the school may have in place while expanding and adding to their practice.
- Integration of new pedagogical strategies in teachers’ daily practice and consistent reflection by teachers on the impact of these strategies in order to meet the diverse learning needs of all students and, in particular, the least confident learners.
- Increased retention of students with special learning needs and higher satisfaction among parents of students with special learning needs
A key objective of the project is the documentation and dissemination of the B’Yadenu model for adaptation in other communities. Two communities will be invited to participate in the second phase of the project, beginning with a national convening in December 2014, and will receive tools and guidance for adapting the project model for their own community and schools. Selected communities will benefit from:
- Participation in two national institutes which will include intensive learning with coaches and hands-on work with Boston demonstration schools
- Consultation with B’Yadenu project staff following the national institutes
- Access to protocols and tools to guide schools through the process of school change and build a whole school professional development plan that will create an ongoing professional learning community dedicated to improving teachers’ ability to serve a wider range of learners
Communities may apply (by invitation) to participate in the project. The application process will occur July-September 2014.
For additional information, please feel free to contact the B’Yadenu Project Team:
- Alan Oliff, Director of the Initiative of Day School Excellence, CJP
- Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, Director of Capacity Building, YU Institute for University-School Partnership
- Beth Crastnopol, Director of Professional development, Gateways: Access to Jewish Education