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Chaim Y. Botwinick

Yeshiva/Jewish Day School Graduate Profiles: Are They Valuable?

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Unlike a school’s mission or vision statement, a school’s graduate profile is a document that a school creates and uses in order to specify the cognitive and academic as well as the personal attributes and interpersonal skills and competencies that students should have mastered, acquired or exhibit by the time they graduate.

Today, there is a growing pervasive feeling among select yeshiva and Jewish day schools that a high quality mission or vision statement already articulates these characteristics and curricular expectations and that creating Graduate Profiles may be somewhat redundant, time consuming or a duplication of effort.

The fallacy with this belief and practice is that although mission and vision statements include critically important components or dimensions of a school’s academic, cognitive, social, personal student outcome and value proposition, they are not sufficiently comprehensive enough to fully describe the finite intricate expectations which a student is expected to exhibit upon graduation.

When engaging schools in strategic planning processes, I often begin the process and engagement by asking the strategic planning oversight committee (usually comprised of senior professionals, teachers, parents and lay leaders) the following questions in General and Judaic Studies respectively:

By the time your students graduate 12th grade, what are the minimum levels of knowledge and skills in math, science, language arts, and history that you expect them to demonstrate and exhibit; as well as Jewish knowledge, attitudes, Jewish involvement and Jewish behaviors?

Following an initial series of anticipated and predictable rapid-responses from the group, such as “Jewish literacy, derech eretz, appreciation for acts of chesed and kindness, math and language arts skills (with very few examples), there was complete silence from the group. To be sure, the silence was deafening, except from a few senior teachers or principals who opined about the subjects they teach and how these subjects are taught. Very few, if any examples regarding measurable curricular goals of expectations were offered.

Again, the purpose of my question was not intended to pose a gotcha question, but rather to actually stimulate the group to thinking deeper about the complexity of the challenge.

In addition, the question  was not intended to critique, criticize or paint broad brush strokes regarding the lack of deeper responses to this challenge or question;  but rather to demonstrate the daunting vacuum that exist regarding our individual and collective ability to clearly pin-point and articulated the curricular goals and student outcomes.

In deference to these yeshivot and day schools, I also realize that the very fact that they embrace strategic planning and are at least sitting together in order to problem solve via a strategic planning process also suggests that they are in fact a self-selected population with a willingness to understand the importance of sharpening the pencil – whether it be from a structural, organizational, policy or academic perspective. Otherwise, why engage in strategic planning? This is a topic for a separate blog post.

The following are select examples of  Graduate Profiles.

Examples of Yeshiva/ Day School Graduate Profiles 

By the time a student graduates 12th grade from our yeshiva/day school, the student will:

  • Understand, appreciate and demonstrate knowledge regarding Jewish history and its impact on one’s Jewish identity and future;
  • Understand and appreciate the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to our lives;
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of mitzvot, their origin and a strong unswerving commitment to the observance of mitzvot;
  • Develop, foster and demonstrate a personal relationship to HaShem through meaningful tefilla and ongoing service to HaShem;
  • Understand and appreciate the meaning of select tefillot;
  • View her/himself as an exemplar of Tzelem Elokim;
  • Demonstrates a love and a commitment for Torah learning;
  • Understand and appreciate TaNach, Tamud, and other Judaic tests (depending upon type of school and curriculum);
  • Understand how to understand synthesize Rabbinic commentaries and texts (depending upon the school);
  • Display/exhibit Jewish identity and pride through communal, institutional and personal involvement and participation;
  • Display/exhibit derech eretz and middot tovot in public places and at home;
  • Will be fluent in kriah (Hebrew reading and Rashi commentary;
  • Demonstrate acts of Chesed in the school and in the community;
  • Adhere to the laws of shmirat halashon and smirat hadibur;
  • Posses  fundamental/ rudimentary problem solving skills in math, science and language arts; and where possible higher order problem solving ability, capacity and skills in these curricular areas;
  • Have a love and affinity for Judaism an Yiddishkeit.

The aforementioned curricular expectations and characteristics are just a very brief and cursory sampling of select graduate profiles. They by no means represent the full depth, breath and scope of graduate profiles, nor do they represent the wide and expansive array of yeshiva and Jewish day school curricular and/ hashkafic differences within our Jewish community.

Advantages and Benefits

As one can imagine, the advantages of creating and disseminating graduate profiles are multidimensional.

  1. They provide the school with an internal curriculum roadmap and a strategic direction; as well as  an articulation of measurable goals which schools can aspire;
  2. They encourage and motivate school leadership, administration and faculty to determine what and how they are teaching (connected to #1) with the “end mind”
  3. They provide perspective parents with a better sense regarding the school’s curricular objectives, aspirations and expectations; and
  4. They provide the school with an amazing recruitment and marketing tool for prospective teachers;

Finally, Graduate Profiles anchor a school’s mission, vision and educational philosoppy in real time curriculum expectations and help the school to more clearly articulate the school’s goals, objectives and potential student outcomes.

Creating Graduate Profiles: The Process

As indicated, a Graduate Profile is a document that schools can use to specify cognitive, personal and interpersonal student outcomes by the time they graduate.

Profiles are created through teacher, administration and parental reflection, feedback, input and thought-leadership.

They represent “a description of priority goals of teaching and learning that can be easily communicated to students, parents, faculty and staff to align their collective efforts…… Until  a school identifies and prioritizes these competencies (for your school), you wont have a shared vision of your destination”  (The Graduate Profile: A Focus on Outcomes, Edutopia, May 12, 2017).

In order to create a graduate profile, schools should ask themselves several questions:

  1. “What are the most important cognitive capacities that should underpin your student’s learning across their classes and through their school experience?”
  2. “What personal competencies are valued most at home and at school?”
  3. “Which interpersonal competencies are the most essential for collaboration and community in your school spaces?”

These three challenges are determined by all stakeholders who may serve as an advisory group comprises of students, teachers, parents, administrators and representatives from the community at large.

Once there is a total school consensus regarding curricular goals, objectives and student outcomes, it is ratified by the senior administrative leadership of the school and school Board.

Following this process, Graduate Profiles are drafted, reviewed and presented to the total school and community.

Conclusion:

Developing yeshiva and Jewish day school Graduate Profiles  is easier said than done. It requires a very arduous deep-dive into the heart and soul of the school’s raison d’etre, its value proposition and a clear vision regarding student outcomes and expectations.

At the end of the day, every school will develop profiles which best reflect the educational philosophy and hashkafa of their particular school. One-size does not fit all perspectives which affords schools the wonderful opportunity and challenge to create Graduate Profiles which are realistic, meaningful, exciting, transparent and inspiring.

“Begin with the End in Mind”..…………….(Dr. Stephen M. Covey) 

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About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is a senior executive coach and an organizational consultant . He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami; in addition to head of school and principal for several Jewish day schools and yeshivot. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, resource development, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011