In February, Future Ready Schools – New Jersey conducted the inaugural meetings of its three task forces: Education and Classroom Practice, Technology Support and Services, and Leadership. More than 225 educators, educational leaders, and other stakeholders from 120 districts and organizations throughout New Jersey have volunteered their time, experience, and expertise to help the certification program define what Future Ready means in New Jersey for each task force’s theme — and ultimately for New Jersey’s students.

Future Ready Schools – New Jersey is a coalition of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), New Jersey Schools Boards Association (NJBSA), and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), and has been in development for the last year. NJIT was chosen by the NJDOE and NJSBA to manage the development and execution of the program. The program is moving forward under the leadership of Professor James Lipuma, a member of the Humanities Department in the College of Science and Liberal Arts experienced in initiating and managing major education programs and grants.

Commissioner of Education David Hespe publicly announced the program in March 2016 at the New Jersey Board of Education and provided significant seed funding soon after. Acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington reaffirmed the NJDOE’s support for the project during her speech at NJSBA’s Workshop 2016, marking the end of the program’s initial development and the launch of its first certification cycle. In addition to the NJSBA, the program has been launched with the support of groups that include the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), New Jersey Parent Teachers Association (NJPTA), New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA) and New Jersey Association of School Business Officials (NJASBO).

The Future Ready Schools – New Jersey task forces are developing indicators of Future Readiness based on the national Future Ready Framework developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education. Each indicator is composed of a description, examples of a school’s success for the indicator, resources which schools can employ to achieve success in the indicator, and the data that schools can submit as evidence of achievement for points towards certification from the program.

The program’s philosophy that led to the creation of the task forces is that it is the educators, leaders and stakeholders at every level of the educational process in New Jersey who should collaborate to determine what Future Ready means for New Jersey, rather than a single person or organization that does not represent this array of perspectives.

The process of certification not only provides schools with recognition for their success in preparing students for success in college, career and citizenship in a digital age, but also enables Future Ready Schools – New Jersey to achieve its mission of providing schools and districts with the direction, guidance, support and resources they need to do so.

Future Ready Schools – New Jersey also holds events designed to connect Future Ready educators with potential resources that can help them achieve certification through the program, which is based on the proven and successful model of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program. One such event sponsored by Google in January, the New Jersey Future Ready Schools Summit, brought together several hundred teachers, administrators and concerned representatives from the private and public sectors.

When the Future Ready Schools – New Jersey certification program launches this May, the indicators proposed by task forces and reviewed by the program staff will be available for schools to review, take action on, and submit evidence of their successful completion to receive points towards being certified as Future Ready. Applications for commitment by districts and then certification by schools will begin in May. The first certification awards will be announced at NJSBA’s Workshop 2017 in October.

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