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“Needless to say, mere education “reform” is not going to get teachers out from between the rock and the hard place I have described. The very word is insulting. First, it implies that schools were once “formed” properly—presumably in the 1950s—and just need some tinkering to be “reformed.” Second, the term has a punitive overtone—as if the goal of improvement were to send teachers and students to “reform(ed)” schools! But far worse, the term “education reform” trivializes the problem. We don’t need to reform our schools; we must “reinvent” the entire system, and that is a very different problem and one that educators cannot solve by themselves.” Tony Wagner 2001

The above video is a recent entertaining, yet powerful, summary of the call for change of our educational system. The above quote is over fifteen years old. Both say the same thing. Both are important. In fact, calls for change of our educational system are as old as the system itself. In the early 20th century, John Dewey, famous philosopher and progressive educator is quoted as saying, “the world is moving at a tremendous rate. No one knows where. We must prepare our children not for the world of the past; not for our world, but for their world; the world of the future.” So, why are we still calling for change? Simply, and it is so far from simple, we have spent decades focused on reform when we truly need transformation, a herculean task. That is why before we went on break I asked a group of innovative creative minds to take on this massive undertaking. That group was my students.

I showed them the video above, and we had a very engaging and thoughtful discussion. My students got it right away and started throwing out solutions for making school better. They also reflected on the many ways they see Valley Torah leading the way regarding educational transformation. Their assignment is due next week, and I look forward to seeing and sharing what these bright students come up with.

There is no question in my mind that we must engage our students in rethinking education as they are the most invested stakeholders. We must also engage other educators which I have spent many years doing and have been working closely with my amazing staff since I began here at Valley Torah. Schools must rethink their practice, and just as important, share it out so we can all learn from each other. We must be in this together. Recently, the Jewish Education Innovation Challenge (JEIC), an organization dedicated to making Jewish education better, responded to the call for change and engaged a group of educators to reimagine Jewish education and share it with the field. I am proud to be one of them.

You can read the full press release from JEIC here and more about the program here. After an extensive process, I was chosen to be part of a team of ten educators from around the world who “will develop 3-6 new models for Jewish learning to be implemented in school environments that have expressed interest in rethinking their present school models.” I am excited to be among a group of such thoughtful and innovative educators including colleagues and friends like my co-founder of the I.D.E.A. Schools Network, Tikvah Wiener, Noah Weisman from Shalhevet and Jeff Kiderman of the Affordable Jewish Education Project to name a few (click here for the full team). I am especially grateful to the Mayberg Foundation and Joshua Venture Group for investing in Jewish education and look forward, like my students, to redesigning education.

I want to welcome all my students and families back to school. I hope you all had a meaningful Chag. I want to wish you all a great Shabbos and ask if you have a minute, email me back with ways you would redesign education. As I told my students, the assignment is not just a way for me to engage them in innovative thinking. I will review all the ideas and integrate the ones that we are able as we continue to grow and transform.

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