November 2015

JData Revealed:Understanding Attrition in Chicago Part-time Schools

As enrollment in part-time schools declines, educators need to pay closer attention to student attrition. (Read article on declining enrollment.) It's important to understand why students leave and where they go.

In 2014–15, Chicago’s Community Foundation for Jewish Education (CFJE) used JData to gather such information from part-time school leaders. Rabbi Scott Aaron, CFJE Executive Director, used both existing questions in JData and also created custom questions for the community. The results proved intriguing and useful for CFJE’s work.

Figure 1 shows reasons why students left Chicago part-time schools in 2014–15. Part-time schools struggle to retain students in upper grades, and 11% of students in Chicago left after their bar/t mitzvah. Students today have busy schedules, and it is valuable to know that 17% of students left due to scheduling conflicts. Getting families to prioritize religious school on the child’s calendar has long been a challenge for part-time schools.

Figure 1: Reasons for Attrition: Chicago Part-time Schools
Core JData Profile (2014-15)

n=39 schools reporting on 475 students

Figure 2 shows the destinations of students leaving Chicago part-time schools. Most striking is the one-third of students who dropped out of Jewish education entirely—they went nowhere. The data confirmed anecdotal knowledge of the field with hard numbers. They are helping CFJE engage stakeholders to develop a plan of action for part-time student retention. Perhaps schools could have conducted out-take interviews to help maintain relationships with exiting families while garnering important feedback about why students are leaving and where they are headed. Perhaps some of these students might have stayed if the school had been aware of and responsive to the issues that caused the impending move.

Figure 2: Destination of Attrited Part-time Students
Chicago Custom Profile Tab (2014-15)

n=32 schools reporting on 339 students

First-year data, such as those presented here, are baseline data. They describe the status of the schools during Chicago’s first year as a JData partner and point to potential areas for intervention. Data from 2015–16 and beyond will reveal trends over time and show the impact of CFJE’s efforts to bring new ideas, energy, and resources to the congregational schools.

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