Questions & Answers
Is there busing to YLS?
Yes, there is busing to and from school for residents of Lower Merion. We will work with families from outside of Lower Merion to make alternate arrangements.
Does the school plan to grow one grade at a time?
The present plan is for the elementary school to grow one grade at a time. If space permits, YLS intends to open its Middle School with a 6th grade in the Fall of 2017.
How will two grades fit into the current learning space next year (2016-17)?
The present learning space is larger than two traditional classrooms. The daily schedule will be carefully coordinated to ensure that the children are making maximal use of the various learning opportunities it affords.
Where will YLS be located for the 2017-18 school year?
YLS is currently exploring the possibility of building a permanent home on the Kohelet Yeshiva High School campus.
What does Ivrit b’Ivrit look like at YLS?
Built off the Hebrew at the Center model, the YLS approach is to create prolonged Hebrew immersion experiences for its students that extend beyond formal Hebrew instruction and into the normal “life” of the YLS classroom. This is accomplished through a “push-in” model, whereby a native Hebrew speaker is inserted into the classroom for several hours each day and engages and interacts with students only in Hebrew.
Will boys and girls be separated in school? When?
YLS is committed to equal educational opportunities in all subject areas for both boys and girls and intends for its elementary school classes to be fully co-educational. It will be looking to its parent body over the coming years to help create parameters for single gender and co-educational experiences in Middle School.
When will students receive their Siddur? Chumash?
Kindergarteners at YLS daven from the Koren Children’s Siddur starting on the very first day of school. Although children do not yet know how to read Hebrew, holding the siddur when they daven and looking at the pictures, helps them connect to the real- world experience of tefillah. Over the course of the year, many children begin to recognize letters and words in their siddur which makes the experience even more meaningful.
In keeping with its approach of honoring the differing developmental needs of every child, students at YLS will receive a Chumash when they are demonstrate the skills necessary to begin navigating it. For most students this will occur during first or second grade.
As such, YLS students will not have traditional siddur and Chumash “parties” at fixed times in the academic calendar. Instead, their love for Torah and for Jewish life will be constantly nurtured in authentic, student-centered, and student-driven experiences throughout each and every year.
When will students start to learn Navi, Mishnah, Gemara?
For most children, Navi will be introduced in 4th grade, Mishnah in 5th grade, and Gemara in 6th. However, the flexible, multi-age approach at YLS will allow students to begin such subjects earlier or later depending on their needs and ability.
Is a “progressive” school the same as Montessori or Reggio?
In what ways will a YLS classroom look different from a traditional elementary school classroom?
Students will work in various configurations around the room, not necessarily in neat rows of desks. They may be sitting or standing; working together, side by side, or alone; on a rug, mat, or floor; seated at a table or desk, or in a chair. Teachers will not be behind their desks rather they will be interacting with their students. Teachers act as facilitators and content experts. This means they spend valuable time in conversation with students, exchanging thoughts, understanding the child’s individual emerging view of the world, and helping them to develop their emerging ideas.
What does it mean to be a “Lab School”?
The term laboratory might sound as if untested, experimental practices will be used. On the contrary– YLS will identify and implement only the pedagogical approaches that have been empirically shown to maximize student learning. Those methods will be employed throughout the curriculum, in both General and Judaic Studies. Another laboratory-like element of YLS is that our methodology will be carefully documented to ensure that it is replicable for other schools and then we can collect unconfounded data to insure that the methods that we are using are most efficacious.
Will there be tests and grades in this school?
ests and grades are tools for assessing student progress. At YLS we believe that constantly assessing student knowledge and skills is vital to the educational process and that there are many different ways to do so. Assessment is most meaningful when it’s interwoven with teaching and occurs through teacher observations of students at work, student projects, exhibitions, portfolios as well as carefully constructed tests. Grades often do not reflect the whole picture of a student’s performance and are often influenced by things outside of the student’s actual performance. Much like child development that resides on a continuum, so does student performance. Assigning a letter or a number can be detrimental to and non-reflective of a student and her/his ability. Charting student progress along a continuum of articulated learning goals and objectives offers a more nuanced and accurate reflection of student achievement. Consistent communication of this progress to both the student and his/her parents is an integral part of the YLS approach.
If students get to make choices in their learning, how do we make sure they learn everything they need to know?
Students will make choices within parameters set by the teacher based on the curricular content and the particular student’s ability. This structure ensures that students master critical content while cultivating the autonomy necessary to take ownership of their learning.
Doesn’t a focus on greater depth and student-directed exploration mean that students in YLS will cover less material (e.g., parshiyot in Chumash, mesechtot in Mishnah, dapim in Gemara)?
The most important objective of the formative years of education is preparation for the next level of education and beyond. While this has always been the case, YLS believes that the information explosion brought about by the digital revolution makes equipping students with the tools to analyze, synthesize, and make meaning of information – both secular and religious – all the more important. Skills for learning, however, can only be gained by interacting with foundational texts and by mastering content that forms the necessary basis for future learning. It is these skills, embedded in this type of content, which will form the basis of the YLS curricula.
Isn’t it better to teach kids to respect authority, especially in an Orthodox Day School, than to question everything and assert their independence?
Appropriate respect for authority in a Day School is imperative. Students’ independence and encouragement to question things is done within a context that has clear parameters and in keeping with our age-old mesorah for doing so. Students’ ability to question assumptions will in fact allow them to gain an understanding of their own, which will result in a greater respect than one that is simply imposed upon them.
Will my kid be ready to go to “traditional” high school after going to a “lab school” for elementary school?
Your child will not only be well prepared for a “traditional” high school, they will have distinct advantages in high school and beyond. YLS’s developmentally appropriate skills based program will prepare them for a life of meaningful learning, by giving the students the skills and motivation they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Does YLS have the ability to accommodate children with diverse learning needs?
The flexibility of the constructivist classroom will allow teachers to better accommodate the needs of a wide range of students. Where additional intervention is needed, YLS will evaluate its ability to provide proper support with the help of developmental learning specialists and educational psychologists.
How can one teacher really teach to 15 different students at 15 different levels?
Every teacher in the classroom faces this challenge. Truly differentiated instruction is only possible when the teacher has a real understanding of where each student is developmentally, is well versed in best educational practices, and is in a classroom structure that allows for it. The teacher’s role within the YLS classroom is different than the usual assumed role of a teacher. At YLS, teachers act as facilitators and content experts with an understanding of child development. This allows them to really know and understand the educational needs of each student and create an environment in which each student is offered the skills to excel. In a traditional classroom, where most information comes directly from the teacher, the challenge is greater as they must deliver the information to the students. However, in a classroom structure where there are multiple sources of information, where guided independent and collaborative learning are the primary modes of instruction, the ability to design a learning program tailored to the needs of each student becomes far more achievable.
Is the school’s expectation that all students be reading by the end of Kindergarten? In English and in Hebrew?
Reading is one of the most complex human cognitive processes and one of the most important. Reading is comprised of multiple interrelated sub-skills that come together to allow one to read fluently and understand what it is that they are reading. Each child gains these component skills at a different pace. By the end of Kindergarten, the students will have had the support and opportunity to gain these skills in both English and Hebrew reading. Some students will be able to read at the end of Kindergarten while others will have the building blocks upon which reading is built.
What does it mean to teach Chumash, Navi, Mishnah, and Gemara in a constructivist model? Are they not going to go pasuk by pasuk, mishnah by mishnah? How do you give students choice in learning material when they lack the skills to learn the material on their own?
Teaching Chumash, Navi, Mishnah, and Gemara in a constructivist model means taking these sacred texts that serve as the basis for all that we do as Orthodox Jews and allowing students to make meaning of them through the analytical abilities and textual skills that they are developing. Students will still be following the order of the pasukim and mishnayot as there is significance to their specific order. Students will be given choices throughout their studies in ways that can make the material more personally meaningful. Before students have gained sufficient skills to learn the material on their own, they can choose particular angles, such as areas for more-focused study or particular commentaries of interest that the teacher can help them explore. Students will also be empowered to make choices about the means through which they demonstrate their understanding.
How does a constructivist school ensure that students build skills that require constant repetition and practice (e.g., math “facts”, English / Hebrew / Aramaic vocabulary, grammar, etc.)?
Skills that require constant repetition and practice are taught in constructivist schools by offering ways for the students to practice that moves beyond rote memorization and recitation when feasible. According to the research on memory, the most effective means of insuring that this information is retained is not through more repetitions. Rather through the use of the information in ways that allows the student to generate something with their knowledge and elaborate upon it, will lead to a deeper level of processing and, in turn, memory.
What is your ideal faculty to student ratio?
There is no perfect formulaic way to determine the ideal faculty to student ratio. This ratio depends greatly on the students and their unique set of strengths and weaknesses as well as the teacher’s ability. Looking at faculty to student ratio in the constructivist classroom is very different than in a traditional classroom. Teachers in constructivist classroom act as a facilitator so the demands are different than those of a teacher in a traditional classroom.
What role will technology play in this school?
Technology will be leveraged to maximize student learning. The extent and nature of its use will depend on the student, content and teacher. Technology has introduced possibilities into the classroom that just a few years ago no one could have imagined. These innovations must be integrated into student learning in a thoughtful way to ensure students are getting the maximum benefits of technology.