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We live in an information age, powered by new technology that connects people, ideas, data and content in rapidly changing ways. As we work to prepare New Jersey’s students for this world, we must ensure that our schools provide them with the technology-rich environments that they need in order to be engaged and successful members of a digital 21st century society and workforce. Our schools must establish a culture of digital innovation, where educators are empowered to deepen and extend student learning through the use of technology, digital content, and media.
In order to support this mission, the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) and New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) have collaborated on projects designed to establish a framework for the transformation of traditional classrooms to digital classrooms, develop resources that support teachers in changing their educational practices, and promote the advancement of recognition and/or certification for effective digital learning policies and practices.
The History of FRS-NJ
The first product of this NJSBA/NJDOE collaboration was the creation of NJSBA’s TEC program (Technology for Education and Career) in October 2014. TEC provides schools with cost-saving alternatives for creating, establishing and continuing the most current digital learning opportunities available for students.
On March 2nd, 2016 at the State Board of Education meeting it was announced that the NJDOE, NJIT, and NJSBA were working to establish the Future Ready Schools-NJ (FRS-NJ) recognition program. Designed to spearhead the statewide modernization of New Jersey schools, the goal of this recognition program is to promote a systemic approach to change through the cycle of transformation where districts envision, plan, implement and assess continually with student learning as the focal point for their aligned efforts. This will lead to students engaging in the learning process in new ways and utilizing digital learning tools and 21st century skills. FRS-NJ will provide needed guidance and resources to school leaders, administrators, and school board members regarding how to identify gaps in district/school preparedness for digital learning, and then make available resources to help address those gaps.
What is FRS-NJ?
Future Ready Schools-NJ is housed within the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT) College of Science and Liberal Arts (CSLA) Collaborative for Leadership, Education, and Assessment Research (CLEAR), which houses a group of projects and faculty to work on and research effective digital learning for K-12 schools. Within CLEAR, the Education in a Digital Universe (EDU) project works with the NJSBA and NJDOE to design, develop, implement, and run an integrated program to promote Digital Learning in K-12 school districts across NJ. The vision of the (EDU) project is to foster the effective use of digital learning tools by educators to allow all students to be college and career ready citizens who are productively engaged in the digital universe.
The Future Ready Schools-NJ (FRS-NJ) recognition program is the first planned deliverable of the NJIT EDU project. FRS-NJ will be based on data derived from NJDOE’s NJTRAx Digital Learning (DL) technology readiness reporting system (which is aligned to the national Future Ready District Assessment) and other parameters to be identified. Initially created to track schools’ readiness for PARCC online testing, the deployment of this system aided tremendously in New Jersey’s accomplishment in having the highest state digital testing rate for PARCC last year, when 99.4% of all NJ students who took PARCC did so online.
FRS-NJ will be modeled after the extremely successful "Sustainable Jersey for Schools" certification program developed in partnership between NJSBA and the Sustainability Institute at TCNJ. The initial work will take about two years to set up the organization, generate buy-in and hold the first recognition event for districts and schools. After the first two years, the organization is expected to continue indefinitely in order to continue the promotion of Digital Learning in New Jersey as well as expand the content and materials provided to all stakeholders. The Future Ready Schools-NJ recognition program will be announced at NJSBA’s Workshop in October 2016, and the first awards ceremony will take place at the October 2017 NJSBA Workshop.