A new program designed to help New Jersey school districts identify and meet their needs for digital learning was announced by Education Commissioner David C. Hespe at a meeting of the State Board of Education. The state Department of Education will partner with New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) to develop the "Future Ready Schools-New Jersey" recognition program.
The Future Ready Schools-New Jersey (FRS-NJ) program is designed to promote digital learning throughout New Jersey's elementary and secondary public schools, and to engage students in developing 21st -century skills, by encouraging the best use of digital-learning tools by educators, according to Hespe.
"The program's ultimate goal will be to promote transformative change within our state's districts and schools to support student learning and to ensure that they are ready for college and a modern workforce," he said.
"FRS-NJ will provide needed guidance and resources to school administrators, school board members and other school leaders, helping them identify gaps in districts' preparedness for digital learning, then directing them to resources that can help address those gaps," the commissioner explained.
Modeled after the successful Sustainable Jersey for Schools program, and aligned with the national Future Ready Schools program, Future Ready Schools-New Jersey will launch in the fall.
The FRS-NJ program will be housed in the Collaborative for Leadership, Education and Assessment Research (CLEAR) at NJIT, said Kevin Belfield, dean of NJIT's College of Science and Liberal Arts. Within CLEAR, the Education in a Digital Universe project will design, develop, implement and coordinate an integrated program to promote digital learning in school districts.
"The vision is to foster the effective use of digital-learning tools by educators, so that all students will be college- and career-ready citizens, able to be productively engaged in the digital universe," said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom.
NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod noted the importance of technological skills for students entering college and the workforce.
"The National Commission on Mathematics and Science for the Twenty-first Century put a number on it: More than 60 percent of new jobs that our students will enter this century will require a background in science, technology, engineering and math," Feinsod said. "The new FRS-NJ program is meeting a crucial need by helping our public schools prepare. The importance of these fields cannot be underestimated."
The FRS-NJ program will be formally launched in October, at the New Jersey School Boards Association's annual conference, Workshop 2016, at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
FRS-NJ will use data derived from the Department of Education's NJTRAx digital-learning technology readiness reporting system, and other metrics. Initially created to track schools' readiness for PARCC online testing, this system has contributed to New Jersey's having the highest state digital-testing rate for PARCC in 2015. Results showed 99.4 percent of all students who took PARCC did so online.
One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology- dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 11,300 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering and cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT ranks fifth among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to Payscale.com.