created at: 2010-10-13Having a child with special learning needs makes choosing the right elementary school setting all the more complicated. Parents of entering kindergarteners may wonder: Will the school be able to accommodate my child? Will the teachers understand what he or she needs? Will educators communicate with me in a way that enables me to both collaborate and also advocate for my child? How will I know that he or she is doing OK and making progress?

Jewish day schools in the Greater Boston area are often ideal institutions for diverse learners. Small class sizes, flexible learning environments and attention to the individual child’s needs are hallmarks of these schools, which benefit children with special educational needs. Many day school educators approach teaching with a “differentiated instruction” educational philosophy. This proactive method requires teachers to tailor their instructions and adjust the curriculum to students’ needs, rather than expecting students to modify themselves to fit the curriculum.

The best way to find the right elementary school “fit” for any child is to see a school in action. Visit the classrooms, speak to students and educators and try to imagine your child in that school setting. Most private schools and some public schools hold open houses throughout the fall and will set up individual tours for you if you contact them. Make sure to set up an appointment with the school’s special education coordinator to find out about existing programs and services before you enroll your child.

If you’re interested in exploring the Jewish day schools in the Greater Boston area and have a child ready for kindergarten in 2011, there’s a new program that might help you! CJP’s “Discover Day School” offers qualifying families up to $4,000 toward 2011 kindergarten tuition at any of Greater Boston’s 10 elementary Jewish day schools. To qualify, families must be new to day school, have an entering kindergartener in 2011, decline any school-based financial assistance and have an income under $250,000 (after certain deductions for “Jewish expenses” are applied). If families continue to qualify, they will be eligible for additional Discover Day School funding for their child through second grade.

One important aspect of the Discover Day School program is the “Gateways deduction.” This deduction will be available to families who expect to spend additional dollars for Gateways services for their kindergarten child.

For more information about the Gateways deduction and the program in general, please visit Find out if your family qualifies, plus get information about day school education and links to Greater Boston’s Jewish day schools.

Nancy Kriegel is the assistant director of CJP’s Initiative for Day School Excellence.