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Benefits of Teaching Beyond the Test

September 20, 2019
By Adam Tilove, Head of School

This week I was able to review the data from our MAP test, which is a standardized test used across the United States. It confirmed what we already know: HBHA has students FAR above the national average in English Language Arts and Math. For example, I just opened the results of an elementary school class which showed 80% of the students were either in the high-average to high scale, whereas 20% of the students are in the low to average range.  This is quite remarkable considering:

  1. We don’t “teach for the test,” 
  2. Our students’ days are split between General and Jewish Studies,
  3. We still have recess, music, art, gym, computers, and other specials, and
  4. We are teaching a second language, culture, history, holidays and prayers.

How is this even possible?

Well it would be unfair for HBHA to take all the credit. Certainly some of the success our students achieve is coming from good genes and good parenting. It is clear that parents/guardians are the first and most important teachers in children’s lives. It is also known that children who grow up surrounded by books are more likely to become passionate readers, and students who are exposed to a large vocabulary are more likely to have a large vocabulary themselves. It just so happens that we have a very literate, well-educated community, so we start off ahead in the game.

That said, HBHA deserves some of the credit: Our teachers make the most of every moment with students, teaching content and skills quickly and efficiently, and then giving students ample opportunity to work and think. 

Moreover, while Jewish Studies absorbs a good deal of time each day, one could be excused for thinking that this time might dilute our ability to delve into the basics. However, I believe these Jewish Studies support and facilitate student learning in ALL subject areas - and the proof is in the standardized test results. Our children are learning a second language with a different alphabet and grammatical structure, which is proven to increase brain plasticity and academic growth. They are learning to read texts carefully, looking for linguistic nuance, examining grammatical errors, and thinking deeply about how small changes affect meaning. They are understanding history through a Jewish lens; observing the inter-connectedness of seemingly disparate events. They are finding time for mindfulness in prayer. They are thinking about character and morality through the prism of our Jewish values. Jewish studies enables our students to grow in leaps and bounds in areas we cannot see on standardized tests. However, this holistic growth also lifts our standardized test scores. 

I want to leave you with a bit of wisdom I learned from a sign in my childhood barber shop: “If you like your haircut, tell others. If not, tell me!” If you have any concerns about your children's education, please know we are eager to hear about it and put supports in place. If you love HBHA, please consider writing a Google review and/or a Facebook recommendation about your experience. The community needs to hear about your positive experiences. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Adam Tilove
Head of School

HBHA