Brooklyn Hebrew Charter School's F Grade Doesn't Reflect Movement, Leaders Say

Single Class's Setback Blamed for Poor Mark

By Julie Wiener

Published November 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — On a bright autumn morning, Hebrew songs and phrases fill the sun-drenched, freshly painted blue and white classrooms of New York’s Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter School.

A group of kindergartners, representing such an even mix of black and white children that they resemble a 1980s Benetton ad, clasp each other by the waist and dance in a “rakevet,” or train, stopping every few moments to add a new child who, as the teachers explain in Hebrew, is sitting nicely on his or her “tussik.”

In another room of the new institution, located in a former Catholic school on a gentrifying block in Harlem, first-graders place red and yellow chips on Bingo cards, each space designating a colored item of clothing to be identified in Hebrew. Children who lapse into English receive a gentle reproof from the teacher saying in Hebrew, “I hear English. Oy va voy!”

But while students at Harlem Hebrew were basking in the good vibes, its sister school, the 4-year-old Hebrew Language Charter School in Brooklyn, was dealing with the F it received a day earlier in the New York Department of Education’s annual grading of city schools.

Despite the Brooklyn school being named a “vanguard” school by the Hebrew Charter School Center, the national network with which both New York schools affiliate, leaders of the center say the poor showing doesn’t reflect on the quality of the Brooklyn school or on Hebrew charter schools generally.

“It’s in no way a setback for the movement,” said Rabbi David Gedzelman, a board member of both the Harlem school and the Hebrew Charter School Center and the executive vice president of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, one of the center’s primary funders.

The F grade is an unusually poor showing for a Hebrew charter school, the bulk of which have done well on state evaluations. Three of the four schools in the Ben Gamla network in Florida earned A’s in 2013 from the state ranking system, which is based on test performance and other factors. The fourth got a C.

The only other center school besides Brooklyn to be tested so far — the Hatikvah International Charter School in East Brunswick, N.J. — ranked in the 99th percentile of a statewide evaluation of academic achievement.

Launched in 2009, the Brooklyn academy was the first school founded with financial and technical assistance from the center. By some measures, the Hebrew Language Academy has been a success. Its profile on InsideSchools.org, an online guide to New York public schools, is filled with enthusiastic parent testimonials. In recent years, the school has received more applications than it has openings.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.