At Eisenhower Middle School in the Roxbury school district, a teacher uses an app to survey students before the pre-Algebra midterm, asking them which parts of the curriculum they think they need additional practice on before the exam; the teacher then tailors review instruction to those areas. Another teacher uses an app for a science test, and can quickly and easily identify the questions on which less than 60 percent of the students answered correctly, as well as identifying students who scored less than 70 percent. That data is then used to guide additional instruction.

Teachers at the Franklin Park Elementary School in Franklin Township (Somerset County) share ideas, articles, technology tips and videos through  monthly and weekly blogs so that their colleagues can all benefit from the professional learning community. Many also attend the district’s Summer Technology Institute to learn how to integrate technology-driven pedagogies into the classroom. 

In Clark Mills Elementary School in the Manalapan-Englishtown school district, a 1:1 digital conversion a few years ago put devices in the hands of all students and helped establish a 21st century learning experience for them; in addition, the media center has added a makerspace/STEAM lab where students can create, invent and learn. 

These are just a few examples of how schools and educators across the state are using technology and digital content to deepen and extend student learning, and to fully prepare children for life in the information age.

In addition to their skillful use of technology, the schools mentioned above share another distinction. They have all earned certification under the Future Ready Schools – NJ certification program.

FRS-NJ is a voluntary certification program established in 2016 by a coalition that includes the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the New Jersey Department of Education, and the New Jersey School Boards Association. The three organizations continue to collaborate on FRS-NJ.

Aligned to the national Future Ready Framework, the FRS-NJ certification program is built around its New Jersey Indicators of Future Readiness, which have been developed by over 225 educators, leaders, and stakeholders from more than 125 districts and organizations throughout the state.

The indicators help guide schools and districts towards future readiness by providing them with the knowledge of what successful Future Ready practices look like. They also provide guidance, support and resources that can help schools achieve success. Schools apply for certification from FRS-NJ by taking actions that are detailed in the indicators, providing evidence of having met the indicators, and thus, earning points towards certification.

The FRS-NJ Indicators of Future Readiness are organized into three main themes —

  • Leadership;
  • Education and Classroom Practice; and
  • Technology Support and Services.

Within these areas there are “gears” which include items such as collaborative leadership; community partnerships; budget and resources; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; personalized professional learning; use of space and time; robust infrastructure; and data and privacy.

Results of the 2018 FRS-NJ Program  The 2018 cohort of FRS-NJ certified schools was celebrated in October at an awards ceremony at Workshop 2018.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet, NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, Dean Kevin Belfield of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and FRS-NJ Project Coordinator Jeremy Reich honored 139 schools from 44 districts which were awarded certification. That is a significant increase over the inaugural cohort of 63 schools from 20 districts that were honored at the 2017 Workshop.

Last year also saw the launch of the Silver Tier certification, where schools which have achieved Bronze certification can continue their self-assessment process and show they have learned from, and made progress based on, their previous certification experience. Indicator-based requirements are more rigorous at this level. In the 2018 certification cycle, 35 schools from six districts joined the inaugural cohort of Silver Tier certified schools. (In 2018, 104 schools from 38 districts achieved the Bronze level of certification.)

To find out which schools were certified in 2018 year and to learn more about the Future Ready Schools – New Jersey certification program, and its aligned initiatives, visit the website.

The 2019 Certification Cycle  The new certification cycle will kick off with the 2019 FRS-NJ Certification Summit, which will be held Feb. 28 at NJIT. Information on registration for the FRS-NJ Certification Summit will be available.

For the second year, the summit is being held on Digital Learning Day (#DLDay), a national celebration of digital learning organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education, which developed and runs the national Future Ready Schools initiative.

The summit will be a full-day event and will give participants an opportunity to hear from certified schools, learn how they achieved FRS-NJ certification, explore the certification process and indicators, and network and collaborate with other innovative educators. Attending the summit in person will provide a more impactful experience, but FRS – NJ will also be streaming the morning common sessions for those who are unable to travel to the program.

The submission period for 2019 will begin at the Feb. 28 FRS-NJ Certification Summit, and will end on June 30.

Pursuing Certification In order to be eligible for FRS-NJ certification, districts must commit to support their schools’ efforts by signing the national Future Ready pledge and passing a board resolution that establishes an inclusive, representative and collaborative Future Ready Team.

Individual schools declare their participation by establishing a school-level Future Ready Team. These teams collaborate to perform a self-assessment of where the district is in regard to the use of technology to personalize student learning and how they support that use through leadership, professional development, and technology support based on FRS-NJ’s Indicators of Future Readiness.

This self-assessment is informed and reinforced by evidence collected by the school and district Future Ready Teams. The evidence is submitted for review by an Awards Committee of educators and leaders, many of whom developed the FRS-NJ indicators over the last two years as members of the FRS-NJ task forces. The review provides feedback for the submissions and a greater perspective of where the school and district stand, providing submitters the opportunity to take what they learn and move forward based on their experience in the certification program.

More information on the certification process is available. FRS-NJ also invites individuals to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, to use the hashtag #FutureReadyNJ in any posts regarding events, news, announcements or Future Ready practices in your school and district that you want to share with the community. You can also keep current by joining the FRS-NJ mailing list for updates on the program, announcements, and notifications of other opportunities.

The FRS-NJ team stands ready to support and assist districts in their efforts to become Future Ready.

Jeremy Reich is project coordinator of the Future Ready Schools – NJ program.