Tuesday, August 31

Edutainment in the Churches

We have made much a recently about the "edutainment" phenomenon. Seems like it is hitting the churches as well (and if it has hit the churches, it will certainly hit the synagogues shortly).

Sunday, August 29

The Easiest Way to Raise Test Scores

... Is to make the tests easier and lower standards. It seems to have worked for the State of New York, which gave students a standardized test in which random guessing would produce a passing grade.

Friday, August 27

Bias in Standardized Testing

Studies continually find that standardized tests favor middle class white students. In a new development, The Onion reports that standardized tests show similar bias against students who just don't give a... (warning, vulgar language but very, very funny).

Thursday, August 26

Good News for the Humanities

I recently had a longtalk with a close friend, a medical professional. He commented on how little he uses the cell biology and organic chemistry he studied, and more importantly, he wondered about his own children, some of whom were interested in medicine, but were struggling with science. Turns out, it is possible to get accepted into medical school with a humanities background.

Sunday, August 22

At War With Our Students

Hard to think of a harsher critique of Israel's school system. Hasn't been the experience my kids have had, but that may not be representative.

Thursday, August 19

Can Day Schools Still Grow?

JESNA thinks that they can, and offer guidance for helping your own school expand.

Tuesday, August 17

A history of the "D"

Why do students get "letter grades," and what happened to the "E"? Slate provides way more information than you ever wanted on this absolutely essential educational issue.

Sunday, August 15

Israel's Core Curriculum

A new proposed law will withdraw funding from schools -- mostly Haredi ones -- that do not teach Israel's core curriculum, particularly math and English. According to this story (Hebrew), they had better hurry up, because fewer and fewer Israeli kids receive a basic secular education in school.

Thursday, August 12

Today, Rosh Hodesh Elul, we began reciting LeDavid Hashem Ori (Tehillim 27) which we will say twice a day until Hoshanah Rabbah. It's important that we understand, and teach, what it means. Our friend Rabbi Mark Smilowitz points out the importance of getting the translations right (and the value of Da'at Mikra in helping with that)...

Consider, for example, the twelfth verse of chapter 27 of Tehillim, the Psalm that we recite during the month of Elul. The Psalmist prays for deliverance from eidei sheker veyfayah hamas. A common translation: "False witnesses and those who breathe violence" [Artscroll Siddur] is awkward and obscure. Furthermore, this translation assumes the root of veyfayah is n.p.h., which is unlikely because the dropped nun would have been replaced by a daggesh in the yod. More likely is that the root is y.p.h, which appears nowhere else in Tanakh. Amos Hakham, who wrote the Da'at Mikra commentray on Tehillim, points out that this latter root is common in Ugaritic documents where it refers to witnesses or accusers. Thus he translates the verse as "false witnesses and malicious accusers," maintaining the poetic style and coherence. This is a particularly important example because we recite this Psalm as part of our liturgy, and it is important that our students (and we ourselves) understand what we are saying.

From: Ten Da'at XIII (December 2001), pp. 42-43.

Postmodern Cheating

Cheating in the information age! Many students don't even realize that there is something wrong with submitting a paper that has been largely cut and pasted from the Internet.

Tuesday, August 10

How Many Religious...

Jews are there in Israel? How many secular ones? New information from Israel's Central Bureau of statistics are in (article in Hebrew).

Sunday, August 8

Does technology make us dumber?

That's the conventional wisdom: this is your mind; this is your mind on Twitter.... Well, Steven Pinker says that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong.

Thursday, August 5

Can computers take over?

Amazon.com has a unique way of using computer technology to understand me, what I want, what I need, and what they could sell me. Sounds like a school has tried something similar. The computer learns the student, how she or he learns, what motivates them, and what kind of practices will motivate them. Then, the computer gives them personalized assignments. I wouldn't want to do away with human teachers entirely -- nor does the school -- but it's an intriguing idea.

Tuesday, August 3

Frum Fiction Goes Mainstream

Have Orthodox women writers finally finally hit the mainstream? Jewish Action thinks that they have.

Sunday, August 1

Big, Bad, Bagrut

I'm not a big fan of Israel's bagrut matriculation exam, but at least one person thinks less of them than I do. Perhaps he overstates the extent to which they are a politicized farce in which the wealthy and sly manipulate the system to get high grades without actually learning much of anything. (Warning: Hebrew!)