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Early Childhood Education
National research indicates that a Jewishly enriched preschool is the best starting point and "pipeline" for young children and their families to lifelong Jewish engagement and learning, an emerging priority of CJP’s new Strategic Plan. The Bureau's services to Early Childhood Education (ECE) have 3 foci:
Naomi Chernin, BJE ECE Consultant, helps congregations and JCCs design developmentally appropriate, Judaically rich programs in all 32 preschools. We also address the transition from preschool to day and synagogue schools so parents can make informed choices for their children. 5 pre-schools are receiving special education grants through the CJP/BJE Special Education initiative. For Magen HaGan – Judaic Accreditation information, click here.
Federal and State Funding – Advocacy: The BJE represents the Massachusetts Jewish Community as an active member in the Early Education for All (EEA) Campaign. EEA advises the MA Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) on issues related to universal pre-kindergarten, the expansion of education services proposed by the legislature and Department of Education (DoE). The BJE provided the EEC with workforce data in Jewish early childhood centers (JECC), resulting in a policy change in its 2009 Scholarship Grant Program to better meet the needs of the 32 JECCs in greater Boston, plus the 15 centers operating in the rest of the State. The BJE also provided information to EEC in several other current policy areas, including assessment, accreditation and accessibility.
Professional growth and collegiality are critical elements of educational success. More than 120 ECE teachers (out of 375) took courses designed and conducted by the BJE and Hebrew College. Another 200 attended the professional “day of learning” on March 27th designed and conducted by the BJE and JCCGB for the ECE educators in its system. Highlights of the conference were sessions on Israel at 60, a Jewish perspective on “Reggio Emilia”-- an Italy-based, internationally acknowledged innovative approach to early childhood education, and Jewish values. Through CJP’s Day School Initiative, Mark Horowitz addressed a group of early childhood educators and primary grade teachers on the “Reggio Emilia” approach.
Early Childhood Directors’ Council
The BJE's Early Childhood Directors Council (ECDC) met 3 times this year so far, offering preschool directors a unique venue to learn about 2 major challenges: Universal Pre-K (UPK), and recruiting and training a new cadre of pre-school directors. Amy O’Leary and Amy Kershaw, representing Early Education For All, discussed and answered questions about UPK and its impact on our preschools.
Facing the future, we estimate that 5-8 current early childhood directors will retire from active duty in the next 5 years. Therefore, after extensive conversations with our veteran pre-school directors, the BJE is designing the Aspiring (Pre-School) Directors Academy which will identify and train new early childhood directors to fill those positions.
Additional ECDC sessions featured Shira Ackerman Simchovitch, Director of Early Childhood Services of the Jewish Agency’s Education Department, who spoke about the Jewish calendar and also introduced an innovative Hebrew language program “Chalav u’dvash” (“Milk and Honey”). Directors of the 18 Boston-Haifa partner pre-schools also attended 5 separate sessions devoted to the Partnership project, and others attended 4 sessions on Magen HaGan accreditation.
This year the BJE also initiated a “New Directors Network” since 3 new early childhood directors assumed positions.