Why haven’t we developed benchmarks that can be applied across any Jewish school to measure literacy outcomes? Subjectivity of material certainly is an issue, but I feel that there are enough objective materials that can be used to fill an important gap.
Let’s start with something basic: vocabulary. You would want to define a basic set of words which each student graduating from year 6 should know like the proverbial back of their hand. In English, these words were originally described as dolch words, catering to year 3.
There have been attempts to put together Hebrew/Jewish Dolch lists. We have computers, ipods and ipads. We can fine grain this activity. For example, imagine you are going to teach your class Parshas Noach. Before you start, organise an online flash word type activity which is based on the, say, 150 words that most appear in Parshas Noach. Apart from improving vocabulary, the student’s ability to deal with the text is greatly enhanced. They are comfortable learning in their own skin. Comprehension then becomes the main focus of the learning.
You are teaching Perek אילו מציאות in Gemora. Assume that the students have already completed and graduated from R’ Aryeh Carmel’s well known list of words for Gemora. Now, you find the 100 most used, or even the 100 most unique words in the Perek. This can be continued to incorporate Rashi and more. It’s not a replacement for textual learning but an adjunct; a measurable adjunct.
How many times do we see children graduate and not have a basic command of hebrew (or aramaic) words?
I don’t have any doubt that there could also be made available software programs to drill students about basic halacha based on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Again, use the software to create and measure—non negotiable—basic knowledge.
Yes, it’s important that schools train children to be Menchen and have יראת שמים but this needs to also include basic measurable outcomes in jewish learning.
Why don’t we measure across a common worldwide benchmark?