The purpose of my original article on school calendars was to begin an open and transparent conversation on school calendars and I thank Daniel Barenholtz for continuing this conversation.
It is great to hear that Daniel’s children enjoy school on Chol Hamoed and I hope that these days are educationally beneficial for them. I wrote in the article that that each school will make calendar decisions based on its own specific culture and needs. I can only speak to my own experience, having run a school for many years that had school on Chol Hamoed. I have also researched the matter by visiting schools that have school on Chol Hamoed as well as speaking to many faculty members at these schools.
Daniel poses that my math is off because I have not taken into account short Fridays in day schools. If we were to deduct the short Fridays, should we not also take into account the fact that our school day is longer than public schools?
I applaud Daniel’s willingness to discuss questions about the length of winter break or starting school earlier and suggest that he bring these issues up with the administration of the school his children attend to advocate his case and move this agenda forward.
Daniel puts forth that our students will be competing with students from around the world and therefore we should lengthen the school year. If one examines the research on length of the school year and its connection to performance, we find that students in countries around the world are outperforming American students in public schools but spend less time in school than our public school students.
I do agree with the overall desire for more school days; however, quality of education is more important than quantity. I don’t believe that lengthening the school day is the key to bringing Jewish day schools into the present and competing in a global world. Quantity of time is an important issue to discuss. Quality of our staff is far more critical to ensuring a competitive edge for our students. If we want to compete we must hire talented educators and continue to give them the tools and support to become master teachers.
Rabbi Daniel Alter
The Moriah School