The New Jersey Department of Education recently announced the third round of Lighthouse Awards. This prestigious award, which is presented every two years, recognizes progress to ensure equitable outcomes in enrollment, discipline, and workforce composition.
The following districts and charters were recognized for the 2021-2023 term:
Increasing Equity in Postsecondary Enrollment Special education students in the Burlington City School District participate in field trips to local businesses and colleges, and enjoy speakers on career-readiness. In the 2018-2019 school year, students with disabilities opened the Blue Devil Bean Coffee Shop to provide real-life work experiences. Freshman special education students can utilize the Practical Assessment and Exploration System Lab, a simulated work setting exposing them to tasks in business, construction, customer service and production.
The district encourages African American students to enroll in advanced-level courses and learn about career options. They also host career programs, including remedial opportunities for English language learners in their native language.
In the Weehawken School District, teachers meet with English learners and economically disadvantaged students (and families) to share information on programs — even before they are freshmen. Students meet with career counselors, and the school utilizes college fairs, career days, and sessions on financial aid. The Weehawken Senior Experience links students’ interests and majors with internships.
Using the inclusion model, the districts evaluate, classify and regularly reevaluate students in need of bilingual special education services. Additional services are given as needed. During the last several years, the district added special education staff and has two dedicated mental health clinicians.
Improving Diversity in the Workforce Learning Community Charter School in Jersey City participated in several federal grants received by New Jersey City University. One gives college students internships at the school.
Last year, it formed a Black, Indigenous, People of Color Leadership Committee to analyze data on faculty retention, turnover and teachers of color support. It launched biweekly staff training on topics such as privilege, microaggressions and processing current events. The committee evaluated the curriculum to ensure BIPOC representation.
The Watchung Hills Regional High School District participated in the annual Central Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators Job Fair. It also developed and awarded CJPride scholarships to students from under-represented groups.
The district’s strategic plan features a goal on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The high school has an Equity Team for adults and; a teacher-facilitated School Improvement Panel; students have a Diversity Club and Black Student Union.
The district provides a mentor to all certificated educators new to the school. Approximately 30 teachers in the Professional Learning Community develop and deliver workshops on diversity and equity to all faculty.
Enhancing Equity in Course Enrollment The Barack Obama Green Charter High School launched an Advanced Placement program in art. Many students focus on remedial courses and have limited time for electives, so leaders redesigned the remediation curriculum and intervention system to increase access. The school supported student success by providing guidance to parents in their native language.
The Student Equity Champions group at Burlington County Vocational School Districthelped create the Gender Non-Conforming bathroom policy and the Equity in Education policy for the board of education. It also suggested clubs that would be more inclusive to the Career and Technical Education shops, such as Girls that Build. It advocated for all students to join exploratory programs that would expose them to nontraditional career skills.
In addition to adding a staff diversity, equity and inclusion specialist, the district also has a team that leads professional development on equity-related topics. It launched a book club for the school community to read and discuss DEI-related books as well.
Bolstering Equity in Disciplinary Outcomes In 2017, the Hoboken School Districtset out to evaluate student discipline. Data showed that Black and Brown students were suspended at higher rates than their white and Asian peers. After hosting a retreat, the district created a strategic plan. It formed new codes of conduct and trained deans in restorative justice and practices. It created scenarios to orient students and parents on the new disciplinary approach. During the school year, teachers and administrators participated in professional development and evaluated progress.
More detailed information on the honorees is available online.