A NY City Department of Education report of 28 Haredi yeshivas published Thursday found that only two of them provided secular education that meets NY State standards.
The report says that city officials have visited those 28 yeshivas starting in 2015, and only two of them provided an education that is “substantially equivalent” to the standards of nearby public schools, as required by the State of New York. The remaining 26 yeshivas maintain various levels of compliance, with a small number of them failing to provide any secular education at all.
“One of these schools stated that they did not offer any courses in secular studies. The school stated that it uses Jewish Studies texts in all aspects of the curriculum and that within Jewish Studies, ELA (English Language Arts), mathematics, social studies, civics, science, hygiene/health, physical education and art are covered.”
It should be noted that there have been a few endeavors in Jewish education to teach math, geography, biology and history using the Talmud as a springboard and investigating those areas of study in the order in which they appear in the ancient text. But city and state education officials would have no way of gauging how many hours of, say, geometry, have been taught while studying the Talmud’s discussion of measuring a half circle (Tractate Eruvim).
It should also be noted that DOE officials attended 140 elementary and middle school classes where a third were taught exclusively in Yiddish, and the rest were taught in a mix of English and Yiddish.
Naftuli Moster of YAFFED, a Jewish advocacy group “committed to improving educational curricula within ultra-Orthodox schools” whose campaigns have pushed the city to look into the state of secular studies in Haredi yeshivas, told the NY Post on Thursday: “The Department of Education report reaffirms what we already know: that tens of thousands of children in New York City are being denied a basic education as required by law.”
But a group called PEARLS (Parents for Educational and Religious Liberty in Schools) issued a response to the DOE report, saying, “The yeshiva system continues to outperform the City’s public schools by every metric, including higher graduation rates, better test scores, greater attendance and more positive outcomes. The New York City yeshiva system is comprised of 275 independent schools. As with all school systems, yeshivas always strive to improve and adopt best practices.”
Which is correct when it comes to the vast majority of religious Jewish schools, but, apparently, not in the case of the 26 schools who have failed to match the achievements of their peer schools.
State Assemblyman Simcha Eisenstein (D-Brooklyn) also kept a positive attitude on the results, telling the NY Daily News: “Now that we know that out of 275 yeshivas in New York City, a handful need additional resources, let’s see if these so-called advocates will join me in advocating for additional government resources to help the 1% improve.”
Somehow, however, we didn’t get the impression from the DOE report that the problem had to do with funding, necessarily.