April 2013

JData Revealed: The Full Story on Part-time Schools

JData has located 1,848 congregational and other part-time schools in the United States. All of these schools are listed in the JData Directory. Users can search for them nationally, by state, community, or zip code. They are also searchable by denomination.

Part-time schools are found almost everywhere there is a Jewish community. Our list encompasses 105 communities and states, from the four schools in Alaska and the four in West Virginia to the 97 in Greater Los Angeles. Mirroring the American Jewish population, the greatest number are located in the Northeast (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Part-time Schools by Region

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Note: The main sources for this information were JData's local community partners and lists from Chabad, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, North American Association of Community Hebrew High Schools, Union for Reform Judaism, and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.


Varieties of Part-time Schools

More part-time schools identify as Reform than any other denomination (Figure 2). Some 38% of the schools are Reform and another 27% are Conservative. The 17% identified as Orthodox schools are mainly associated with Chabad or other outreach organizations. Smaller numbers identify with the Reconstructionist movement or consider themselves community, pluralist, secular, humanistic, or traditional. The "other" category includes those that are affiliated with more than one movement or describe themselves as unaffiliated, independent, progressive, renewal or the like. A small number (22 programs or about 1%) could not be classified.

Figure 2. Part-time Schools by Denomination

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As seen in Figure 3, the Reform schools are prevalent in all regions. But also note the situation in the West with the relatively small number of Conservative options and the relative strength of Chabad and other outreach Orthodox schools.

Figure 3. Part-time Schools by Region by Denomination

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Enrollment—117,595 and Counting

In 2011-12, 886 schools—almost half of all part-time schools—entered their enrollment information into JData. The total number of students accounted for by these schools was 117,595. This number suggests that the complete count for the part-time schools could be as high as 240,000 children and youth.

The average school served approximately 130 students last year. As seen in Table 1, over one-third of the schools have fewer than 50 students. Forty-nine of these schools have single-digit enrollments.

Table 1: School Size (2011-12)

  Number of Schools Percent
1 to 49 students 323 37%
50 to 99 students 184 21%
100 to 199 students 180 20%
200 to 299 students 99 11%
300 to 399 students 46 5%
500 or more students 54 6%
Total 886 100%

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Because response rates were identical for Reform and Conservative part-time schools (51%), it is possible to compare the number of children and youth they are reaching. Not only are the Reform schools the most numerous, they are also, on average, the largest schools—an average of 199 students versus 110 students in the Conservative schools. All totaled, the Reform schools in JData served over 72,000 students 2011-12, two and a half times as many as the Conservative schools.

Grade-by-grade enrollment shows the long-familiar pattern of a steady increase in enrollment through the early grades, high enrollment in the middle-school grades, and a sharp decline in high school. (See Figure 4.) It is a skewed bell curve at best, with 11th and 12th grade numbers even lower than preschool numbers. It should be noted that this pattern is not unique to the part-time schools. Enrollment figures in part-time schools peak in grades 5 and 6, and decline sharply in grade 8. JData figures for enrollment in Jewish residential camps show an analogous pattern with enrollment peaking in grade 7 and declining sharply in grade 11.

Figure 4. Grade by Grade Enrollment (2011-12)

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JData tracks not only how many students are in the Jewish educational system but also how many more could be accommodated. Overall, in both part-time schools and day schools, we find significant unused capacity. Last year 178 part-time schools provided information on their enrollment and their capacity (i.e., the total number of students who could be served given space, staffing, and program options). On average, these schools are operating at less than half capacity. That is, at least half of the school is empty. JData is helping its community partners examine the issue of under-utilized space in terms of both the opportunity cost and the possibilities for increasing efficient use of space.


How Part-time are the Part-time Schools?

Part-time schools are truly part-time. In 2011-12, they operated an average of 30 weeks per year. The program in even the most intensive grades (grades 3 through 7) is shy of four hours per week (Figure 5). In grade 5, which tends to have the most hours per week, students receive an average of 125 hours of program time over the course of the year.

Figure 5. Average Hours per Week (2011-12)

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The common notion that Reform schools offer fewer hours a week in their formal educational program as compared with the Conservative schools is borne out by the data for most grades. The difference is most noticeable in the early and middle grades but disappears by high school (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Average Hours per Week by Grade by Denomination (2011-12)

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Cost of a Part-time School Education

Tuition and fees vary by grade with a pattern that mirrors that of enrollment—a slow climb from the early grades to the high marks of grades 4 through 7 and then a steep decline in the upper grades (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Tuition & Fees by Grade (2011-12)

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Schools that are using JData are able to compare their tuition and fees to other schools in their location. Importantly, the cost to families varies significantly by region. On average—in every grade—schools in the Northeast charge the most. By way of example, Table 2, shows the regional averages for Grades 3 and 7 in the 2011-12 school year.

Table 2: Average Tuition and Fees by Region (2011-12)

  Grade 3 Grade 7
Annual Tuition
Hours per Year
Annual Tuition
Hours per Year
Northeast $839 117 $907 103
Midwest $817 125 $749 90
South $697 114 $740 115
West $766 119 $838 99
OVERALL $774 117 $829 107

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Regional differences in price cannot be attributed to the number of hours of instruction. The highest number of hours per year of instruction is found in the Midwest in grade 3 (an average of 125 hours) and in the South in grade 7 (an average of 115 hours). Overall, the Northeast offers fewer hours for a higher tuition (an average of 117 and 103 hours respectively).

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