After more than a decade of using the NETA Hebrew curriculum, Schechter Westchester reevaluated its Hebrew language program this winter and decided to leave the full NETA curriculum and use its Hebrew teachers to develop a curriculum.
NETA, a Hebrew language curriculum developed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation, is used by more than 90 Jewish day schools worldwide, but both students and teachers alike at Schechter Westchester have expressed discontent with the program.
The school started using the NETA curriculum around ten years ago because the Hebrew program before the introduction of NETA was disorganized and had overlaps in teaching, said Hebrew teacher Irit Goldner-Khon.
Yet the program has suffered criticism from the student body. “I haven’t learned anything,” said junior Arielle Felberg, when asked about her opinion on the NETA curriculum. Hebrew teachers refused to state their opinion on the program before the school decided to leave it, but Hebrew department chair Sally Hendelman called the decision a “wise” one after it had been made.
Both Felberg and sophomore Rachel Grand said they were happy to hear that the school is leaving the NETA curriculum.
Grand said “I don’t think it’s very good; it’s not very helpful. The way it was taught to me in the past was that we learned all the words and we went through the stories and you didn’t really internalize anything. Sometimes the themes of the books or the stories were just so uninteresting or useless that it just didn’t help.”
“It looked like it was a structured program, but then we realized that it doesn’t really serve all students,” Hendelman said.
Students often cite the ability of their Hebrew teachers to develop comprehensive curriculums tailored to the class, and many can list examples of teachers who choose to forgo the NETA program. Felberg and Grand both have Goldner-Khon, who is described by the students as having replaced the NETA curriculum with stories, songs, and history lessons.
“I feel like the things that we learn are a little more interesting,” Grand said when asked about Goldner-Khon’s teachings outside of NETA. “They should allow the teachers to do their own thing,” she said.
This calls into question the school’s decision to spend the reportedly $75 per student each year on the program, which adds up to $20,000 for the high school alone.
Goldner-Khon, who has taught at the school for fourteen years, said that she supplements the NETA program with her own material: “We felt NETA was not enough […] NETA was not entirely connected to the world of the students at Schechter. We needed to find material to speak to the world of the students and more interesting material.”
“The teachers are working on a curriculum that will really serve the students and match their needs,” Hendelman said. “We are working on a curriculum that will be leveled. It will not be one size fits all. A lot of activities that you don’t have in NETA we will add to the new Hebrew curriculum.” Hendelman expressed joy once the school finalized its decision. “The students now can learn what interests them,” she said.