July 21, 2013 – Research has shown that early literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future academic and social success. In Jewish day schools, where students in early grades are taught to read English and Hebrew, literacy in both languages is critical, with the foundation for literacy established during students’ earliest years. Identifying students who are struggling with reading and intervening early is therefore essential.
Targum Shlishi is helping to support efforts around a significant new Hebrew literacy assessment tool for students learning Hebrew as a second language. MaDYK (Mivchan Dinami shel Y’cholot Kriah), developed by researchers at Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership (the YU School Partnership), helps educators screen students to determine how best to support each student.
“There is no other similar standardized screening tool to measure Hebrew literacy for students learning Hebrew in Jewish day schools. Our assessment can be used across curricula, takes only a few minutes to administer, and is easy to use with all students,” explains Scott Goldberg, Ph.D., director of the YU School Partnership, where the ongoing effort is taking place to develop and add new measures to this unique tool.
The Hebrew assessment is modeled on DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills), a highly regarded dynamic assessment of English literacy developed at the University of Oregon. The assessment’s authors are consulting with Yeshiva University on MaDYK. Teacher comments about the assessment include: “It’s been great…it has allowed us to assess our students and give them the necessary reading support!” and “MaDYK is a powerful tool. We have been using MaDYK…to assess student achievement, break up students into leveled groups, design support programs, and recommend outside intervention when needed.”
The assessment has been used in twenty-eight schools for students in first and second grades since it was launched in 2010. In 2013-2014, additional measures are being piloted to include oral reading fluency for third grade students and letter identification for kindergarten and first grade students.
“Fluency in Hebrew reading is crucial to all areas of Jewish learning, but there is so much more to the story. Language is part of our core identity—when people lose their language, they lose part of their peoplehood. In America today, the majority of the Jewish population does not speak or understand Hebrew and, increasingly, cannot read it. And neither Yiddish nor Ladino nor Judaeo-French are there as backup to unite us. This is one of the few times in history that a diaspora community has not had a common language spoken by its Jewish population,” says Aryeh Rubin, founder and director of Targum Shlishi. “The jury is out on the eventual impact of this lack of language, but on a gut level it does not bode well. Improving literacy is, of course, part of the picture. We applaud the effort to develop a standardized tool like MaDYK because it is an important step in advancing Hebrew literacy.”
About the YU School Partnership
The YU School Partnership aims to support Jewish day schools so that students receive an excellent and sustainable education. To this end, the YU School Partnership provides a range of support services that are intended to improve education across the board, including: the recruitment and placement of educators, ongoing learning and professional development opportunities, research and development projects, and guidance in strategic planning and day school economics. In the past six years, the YU School Partnership has partnered with more than 225 schools and thousands of educators. For more information on the YU School Partnership, visit its website: www.yu.edu/schoolpartnership.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website: www.targumshlishi.org.