1. Who Participates
BASIS was designed from the outset to include nearly all Jewish day schools in Northern California. We recommend that participation in future initiatives be selective; schools and communities should be invited to “opt in” if they demonstrate readiness and capacity to succeed (see Readiness Indicators).
We also recommend that participating schools commit to investing resources in Israel education in strategic ways. These could include clear expectations up front for school commitments to:
- support and sustain the Israel coordinator position;
- support Israel travel for students and faculty;
- adopt a sequenced multi-grade Israel curriculum
2. Community is Essential
The cohort of multiple schools generated a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Creating a networked community of Israel educators supported the work in the individual schools. The communal project also built excitement among
3. Diversity vs. Homogeneity
BASIS comprised community day schools, Orthodox schools, high schools, lower schools, urban schools, and suburban schools. The diversity of participating schools added value as it introduced educators to other approaches, other educational styles, and it reflected the broader diversity of the community. However, diverse needs also require diverse strategies and services. A few observations:
a. Separate Cohort for High Schools
High schools have sufficient differences to warrant a separate cohort. Curriculum development in high school years presents different challenges and opportunities. Educational presentation and discussion of provocative issues, including Israel-Palestinian conflict and prospects present different challenges and opportunities for high school students. And teen social, emotional and intellectual development offer different opportunities for extra-curricular involvement in Israel-related social and leadership development programs at the high school level.
b. Menu of Options and Strategies
Different schools represent different communities, different educational leadership, and different approaches to pedagogy, Jewish studies, and Israel. Thus, an effective Israel Education Initiative must be equipped to support diverse approaches to Israel education. Israel education is not “One Size Fits All.
c. Find Common Ground
While diversity must be honored, we found it equally important to find points of commonality among diverse educators and schools. This involves effort to bring diverse views and approaches together, to create opportunities to share divergent perspectives in an atmosphere of respect, and to offer programs and events that highlight shared values and interests (arts and cultural programs often serve this purpose well). In an educational field in which “Jewish Peoplehood” is an important consideration, an intentional effort to create a sense of solidarity among educators, while acknowledging and respecting differences, can pay off in building community.
4. Invest in Planning
BASIS began with minimal time and resources set aside for planning. Given the ambition of this project, it is advisable to factor in several months – to enable both the operating agency and the schools to plan and prepare.
5. Keep it Simple
BASIS was a large and complex project involving twelve schools, multiple consultants, and a central agency. Over the course of the four year initiative we improved at streamlining processes. Going forward, these lessons would be useful for future initiatives of this magnitude:
a. Clear Road Map
While it is impossible to predict with certainty and precision the road map of a new experimental venture, the clearer and more explicit expectations are laid out up front, the easier it will be for those who participate. These include expectations regarding:
- Participation in communal events and activities;
- Lay and faculty involvement;
- Deliverables demonstrating school progress and achievement;
- Participation in surveys, interviews, and other information-gathering activities;
- Involvement in Initiative marketing or development efforts;
- School efforts to support and sustain the project;
- Reporting requirements.
b. Simplify Reporting
During the funding cycle, the Central Agency strove to balance the need for accountability and transparency to the funder with the desire to minimize the reporting burden on the schools. This improved over time. For initiatives of this magnitude, we recommend that the funder, the operating agency, and some group or individuals representing the participating schools design a reporting mechanism that provides the necessary accountability for those managing and funding the initiatives, while minimizing the reporting burden on the schools.