The Brandeis School in Lawrence, is looking to offer a new program for middle school students who may be having difficulty adjusting to the changes that accompany the next step in their educations. In middle school, students are expected to navigate the hallways between periods, traveling from classroom to classroom for different subjects.
The Aliyah Program, designed by Stacy Bieder-Mayer could help those who have had trouble adapting, she said. The program focuses on executive function skills that Bieder-Mayer described as, “the cognitive processes that help us make decisions, set and achieve goals and regulate behavior,” using the book “Smart but Scattered,” by Peg Dawson, a psychologist at the Center for Learning and Attention Disorders at Seacoast Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire as a reference.
Bieder-Mayer, a professor of law at Queens College, and mother of five students at the Hebrew Academy of Five Towns and Rockaway, hosted a meeting at Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst on Oct. 25, where she explained the program. It would allow students to remain in one classroom with one teacher who would work closely with them and a couple other students, she told some interested parents and representatives from Brandeis, HAFTR and the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach.
After discussing the program further with Bieder-Mayer, The Brandies School has decided to offer the program to students for next school year, if there are enough interested families. Administrative Director Reuben Maron said that he knew Bieder-Mayer from his years as HAFTR’s executive director. “I was very impressed by her presentation,” Maron said. “I thought it was something that could be good for the community, and certainly for the children who it could help.”
According to Bieder-Mayer, they’re hoping to begin by offering the program to sixth and seventh grade students in 2019. She added that there would be an extra cost of likely between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, but that similar programs in schools in the city often cost between $50,000 and $70,000 a year. Bieder-Mayer also said that parents may be able to seek reimbursement from the school. It would be on an case-by-case basis and only in situations where the parents believe the school isn’t providing the child with the appropriate educational services.
Beverly Bernstein, the educational director of Orot, an organization that supports Jewish schools and helping students with learning needs, who is Bieder-Mayer’s aunt, helped design the program. The curriculum would be identical to the other classes, so it would be possible for students who may excel in one or more subjects to return to the standard classroom setting should they show improvement.
Elizabeth Kahn, the secretary of Brandeis’s advisory board, has taken an interest in the program. Her son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, graduated from Brandies. “All Jewish children should have access to a Jewish education tailored to their level,” she said.
Bieder-Mayer and Brandeis will interview and test potential students to see if they could benefit from the program. She explained that the program is not for students with behavioral issues, but executive functioning issues. The goal is to find the best way for each student to learn such as dividing a 100-question test into smaller chunks or have a teacher read the questions to the students aloud, for example.
Interested parents could contact Bieder-Mayer at email@example.com.