According to the radio segment, the success of the school is mostly a result of their teacher training. The school hires young women who are 18 or 19 years old and trains them to teach with excellence. The teachers make $6000 a year and have no formal educational training.
The mastermind behind this is a chasidic woman named Miriam Amsel. She personally trains the teachers and helps them succeed with regular development meetings. During the sessions she helps the teachers grow in their skills and techniques. It is key that the teachers buy into her wisdom and they hang onto her every word. She offers this amazing quote during the radio segment:
“Success is never the result of having all the answers. It is the result of being open for all the questions.”
That is a great lesson. In fact the story on the WNYC website “Questions Lead Way in One School’s Teacher Training”. I am sure she means it as well. But in the ultra-orthodox community this does not seem to be the norm. Some questions are allowed. Other questions are decidedly out of bounds.
I am amazed at the success of this school and I think anyone would be equally impressed with the scores of these girls, especially in English which is their second language.
The article on WNYC’s site highlights two more factors in the school’s success:
Unlike at the city’s public schools, college and career readiness are not the focus at Tiferes Bnos because Hasidic society strongly discourages its members from attending college. Nevertheless, Amsel and her teachers say that for their girls, a good education is important so they can be productive and thoughtful members of the community.
Many elements of success at the private school would not be easy to replicate in a public school: The students, as members of the insular Hasidic community, are mostly sheltered from the distractions, like television and video games, and problems, like single-parent homes, that many low-income students in public schools face. Girls as a group tend to do better academically than boys. And the songs Tiferes Bnos teachers sing to build cohesiveness and raise morale are not likely to catch on in the city’s public schools.
I agree that education is important. But I also think education should not stop when one graduates high school. I also wonder what the science education is like. I also wonder what these young women are doing with their education if they are not continuing on to higher education.
I also agree that distractions are just that, distractions. But I am not convinced that taking away all distractions is good for children in the long run. It may produce better test scores. But does it produce better people? I don’t know.
There is some skepticism over these scores. As a skeptical person, I am very curious how these tests are administered in this school. I am not accusing them of cheating or fixing the scores. But I would be much more confident if the scores could be independently verified. If only just to ease my conscience.
Another thing that bothers me a little bit about the article is its portrayal of the school as catering to low-income families. While it is true that the families in the school are low-income, they are not subject to the same sort of conditions and circumstances as the children of other low-income families and areas. Family life is revered. There is a community safety net. Further, a lot of the families in the community are low-income by choice and they live a more than half decent lifestyle. Parents chip in and the government subsidies are leveraged to the maximum. Other low-income schools and communities do not enjoy such luxuries so perhaps the metric should not be income, rather it should be family stability, crime rates, and comfort of living.
I also fear that this incredible accomplishment will be viewed as vindication for all charedi schools. Clearly, education is not that great in most ultra-orthodox schools. This school is an exception that proves the rule. Just because they can do it somehow does not mean that all schools are capable of pulling off this kind of success, especially with young teachers with no professional degrees. It speaks to the incredible talents of Mrs. Amsel, but there is a reason she is singled out as an exceptions; she is exceptional.
In all, the school is making a great Kiddush Hashem and I am very happy to learn of the great test scores in this school. Kein yirbu.