Monday, December 27, 2010

Does Anyone Know What This Is?

Someone asked me if I could offer any tips for her child who was going to be taking the BJE exams. I'd heard of the exams but did not know what the specific format was, so I did some research online. Yes, I found a sample copy of the test and directed my questioner to it. But I did some further viewing on the site and eventually ran across the following, which confused me no end.

First, what is the BJE? According to its website "Founded in 1910, BJE serves the entire metropolitan area, Nassau/Queens and Westchester County, and every denomination - Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, Reconstructionist and unaffiliated - with sensitivity to each. We provide comprehensive services to more than 700 Jewish day, congregational and nursery schools, serving 176,000 youngsters, as well as group leaders from community centers and camps."

Now the statement that has me puzzled. "KOSHER ONLY PRODUCTS
"Kosher Only" products must be certified by the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (BJENY) in accordance with the applicable dietary (kosher) laws as established by the "613 Council of Kashruth." Note that this level of kosher is stricter than many other nationally accepted kosher certifications (such as "O-U" of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, or "O-K" of the Organized Kashrus Laboratories). Potential offerors’ manufacturing plants must be certified by BJENY for compliance with the aforementioned requirement. Failure to obtain such certification will result in an offer being deemed non-responsive. Additionally, there are kosher requirements applicable to the ingredients used to manufacture the final end product; this requires adherence to kosher requirements throughout the supply chain. […regardless if whether earlier steps in the supply chain are the direct responsibility of the Governments’ prime contractor.] (See bullets below.) Interested offerors should contact the USDA at 816 926-6050, to arrange for a rabbinic supervisor to be sent to certify compliance of the manufacturing plant with the dietary (kosher) laws. Contractor is not liable for fees associated with initial BJENY certification or with fees associated with the kosher certification of the plant or product."




I've never heard of the "613 Council of Kashruth" and can't find any info on it online either. And to read that it is of a kashruth level stricter than the OU and the OK is kind of puzzling as well.

Anyone out there actually know what this Kashruth Council is and what it does? If I am reading the other information correctly, BJE affiliated programs have to follow its guidelines.

Note: the following schools use the BJE exams. Does this also obligate them to the kashrus rulings of the BJE?

Bat Torah Yeshiva High School for Girls (Suffern)
Bruriah High School for Girls (Elizabeth)
Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys (Woodmere)
Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (Uniondale)
Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns & Rockaway (Cedarhurst)
Hillel Yeshiva High School (Ocean)
Ilan High School (Elberon)
Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls (Teaneck)
Magen David Yeshivah Celia Esses H.S. (Brooklyn)
Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School (South River)
North Shore Hebrew Academy High School (Great Neck)
Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (Livingston)
Ramaz Upper School (Manhattan)
Rambam Mesivta (Lawrence)

Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy - J.E.C. (Elizabeth)
SAR High School (Riverdale)
Shaare Torah High School, Boys (Brooklyn)
Shaare Torah High School, Girls (Brooklyn)
Shulamith High School for Girls (Brooklyn)
Stella K. Abraham HS for Girls (Hewlett Bay Park)
The Frisch School (Paramus)
The New Haven Judaics Academy
Torah Academy High School of Brooklyn
Torah Academy of Bergen County (Teaneck)
Westchester Hebrew High School (Mamaroneck)
Yeshiva Derech HaTorah (Brooklyn)
Yeshiva Or Chadash (Valley Stream)
Yeshiva University High School for Boys (Manhattan)
Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Holliswood)
Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman HS (Brooklyn)
Zvi Dov Roth Academy (Brooklyn)

So, at least technically, admission into these schools is based as much on what your exam scores are as they are on whether or not the school "likes" you and thinks you fit what they want to be known for.

The exam covers both secular and Judaic studies. The secular portion, one hour and 40 minutes in length, covers vocabulary, verbal analogies, grammar and word usage, reading comprehension and mathematics.

17 comments:

tesyaa said...

So, at least technically, admission into these schools is based as much on what your exam scores are as they are on whether or not the school "likes" you and thinks you fit what they want to be known for.

You will notice that the slightly more right-leaning schools don't appear on your list. Manhattan High School for Girls and Ateres Bais Yaakov in Monsey do not participate in the BJE. It's a given that even more rightward schools don't apply.

And I have never heard of anyone receiving her BJE scores. I'm sure there is some kind of legal process by which one could get it, but how would one even evaluate it?

JS said...

Boy, this brings back some lousy memories. All the MO schools use the results from this test as a basis for admissions. I don't know anything about the organization itself or how in the world they got appointed as the arbiters of who qualifies to go to which high school. They've set themselves up for many years now (at least 15-20 years, maybe more) as a sort of SAT exam. I don't remember there being a secular portion of the test, but that's likely because the Hebrew portion was all anyone studied for.

All I remember was that it was supposed to test everything you had learned in yeshiva from K-8 and yet we all found ourselves studying like crazy because we hadn't learned any of this stuff in yeshiva. Note that I blame the yeshiva for this since the material was extensive, but basic and essentially covered tanach, some mishna, brachot, etc. You're expected to know and remember a large amount of information - again, it's not crazy, but for the fact that you're cramming all this information in the span of a few study sessions instead of the K-8 education you're paying for.

Again, no idea how they positioned themselves so well, but even when I took it it was well-known and everyone was afraid of it. The lower school even offered some test prep time during class and sample questions much like high schools do for the SATs.

So, no idea who they are or what they are, but they did a darn good job of positioning themselves in the market. There's even a cottage industry of BJE prep services (much like Kaplan and Princeton Review) that has sprung up for it.

tesyaa said...

JS, LOL at the idea of paying for a Kaplan's-type prep for BJE.

The BJE schools say that no child will be without a placement for high school. All schools agree to work together to decide on a placement for a child who is not initially admitted to any schools. That's a nice thing, right?

GilaB said...

I remember taking this in eighth grade (circa 1995) before 'applying' to high school, although since I went to Bruriah's junior high division, the application process consisted largely of them handing out applications and telling us to bring them back the next day; one was pretty much guaranteed admission, and it didn't occur to me that I could theoretically apply elsewhere. They also had us take a fake IQ test (multiple choice, ceiling of 150). We never got our scores for either exam, although the results for the 'IQ' test went on our transcripts, so colleges saw them. (It was blacked out with marker on any copy they gave you.) There was a soft-cover book of some sort with review questions for the Hebrew section of the BJE that I remember going over in my halacha class.

Nothing was ever said about the BJE's kashrus standards in all my years in the JEC/Bruriah school system, when the OU/OK/Kof-K/Star-K was the standard. In fact, we never heard about the BJE in general other than for that one test.

Abba's Rantings said...

historically the BJE served an important role in professionalizing jewish education in the beginning of the 20th c.
does it still serve an important role or is just another bureaucratic behemoth with overpaid consultants, who knows.

PROFK:

can you link to where you got that info from. i can't find it. i'm surprised that BJE, which is non-denominational would make a statement on kashruth to begin with

TESYAA:

"I have never heard of anyone receiving her BJE scores"

i think this is wrong because

a) parents should have a right to see their kids' test scores, particularly when they are paying out of pocket for the exam. (same objection to those expensive psych evaluations MO school require for admission but then keep to themselves.) can you imagine a public school not telling parents how students performed on a standardized exam?

b) this is part of the whole transparency issue, which doesn't involve only finances. every day school claims to offer a superior education. really? prove it by publicizing BJE and other standardized test scores.

Abba's Rantings said...

JS:

"how in the world they got appointed as the arbiters of who qualifies to go to which high school"

come on. if you're against standardized tests on principle, then say so. otherwise, what's your beef that it's the BJE in particular that administers the exam? do you similarly begrudge the Collge Board and ETS for the SAT?

"at least 15-20 years"

BJE exam has been around since at least 1987 (and likely earlier)

"we all found ourselves studying like crazy because we hadn't learned any of this stuff in yeshiva"

that's not the BJE's fault. responsibility for this rests on schools and parents.

"but they did a darn good job of positioning themselves in the market.

"There's even a cottage industry of BJE prep services"

i worked one year as a tutor with an exceptionally precocious girl who went to an crappy e.s. and needed help on the limude kodesh part of the BJE exam.

tesyaa said...

can you imagine a public school not telling parents how students performed on a standardized exam?

Abba,

I think we've ascertained that yeshivas and public schools have different advantages.

Yeshivas offer Judaic studies and keep children from religious homes separated from other children. That's their "advantage".

A commenter on YOUR blog recently said, "I cannot fathom how people would use a school that, were they not religiously observant, they would never consider sending their children to."

Sure, some yeshivas have the same advantages as prep schools, with pricetags to match. They are Orthodox Jewish prep schools, not to be confused with the typical yeshiva.

But garden variety yeshivas? What's their advantage over public schools?

ProfK said...

Abba,
I got the info from the BJE website a few weeks ago. In checking now, the BJE has a new web page up. They've apparently re-organized. The site is not fully searchable as the old one was, at least not as I could see. The url is bjeny.org

SuperRaizy said...

The BJE is the NY board of Jewish Education. Their high school entrance exam is used as a criteria for admission to certain schools, along with grades, recommendations, interview, etc.
8th graders take the exam in November and the results are sent to the schools but not to the students themselves. Students can study for the Hebrew/Torah portion by using the book HaMivchan.
Many kids do not do well on the BJE and the high schools know this. Most high schools will not reject an applicant with poor BJE exam scores if his/her grades and recommendations are good.
Tell your friend not to sweat it and not to stress her child out about this test.

Miami Al said...

So it's basically a Judaic "achievement" test, more like the SAT IIs than the SATs? It's supposed to cover subject matter achievement as opposed to ability, but the kids aren't prepared for it?

Neat...

Abba said...

AL:

"the kids aren't prepared for it?"

most kids aren't prepared for the SAT either. again, the problem isn't with the BJE, but with schools and parents.

and while i don't think day schools on average do a half decent job at imparting any real judaic knowledge, none of us here has access to the data that would let us draw conclusions from the BJE exam. and for that matter, without considering the content of the exam (which iirc is online for us to inspect), it may not be a relevant to question to ask if kids are successful or not on the exam

Anonymous said...

I remember my daughter studying for this with a review book in the 90's and her tutoring someone to take it.
They never sent the scores to the students or parents, just the member high schools. I don't know what the secrecy was about. The review book (not authorized by the BJE - but every school used for review)had an answer key that was available to educators.

Anonymous said...

I took the BJE exam in 1984 before going to Yeshiva University HS for girls.

There were no review materials. We just showed up one sunday an took it.

I probably failed most of it but somehow I got into school anyway

Miami Al said...

Abba, "most kids aren't prepared for the SAT either. again, the problem isn't with the BJE, but with schools and parents."

Not true at all. All kids are "prepared" for the SAT, it's an aptitude test (PC nonsense aside), it's a semi-accurate IQ test. There is certainly a bias towards those that read more, etc., but the goal is to measure ability, not knowledge.

An achievement test is designed to measure how much material you've mastered, therefore more focus on facts and recollection, less focus on raw ability.

If the BJE test is NOT testing what kids are learning in schools, but being used for high school admissions, then it's a dumb test. If you cram at the end, that's an example of both a bad educational system AND a bad test.

Enough blaming the parents. If one student has a problem, it's a unique situation. If everyone student has the problem, it's a systemic issue.

Anonymous said...

"And to read that it is of a kashruth level stricter than the OU and the OK is kind of puzzling as well."

I recall reading somewhere that this refers to "progressive" certification criteria other than traditional kashruth standards (e.g. environmental responsibility and labor relations).

profk_offspring said...

My memory of taking the BJE is wholly limited to the fact that we got to go for pizza in Elizabeth's pizza shop after schlepping out to Bruria to take them.

Naturally, I ended up in Prospect, which had its own entrance exam...

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