We exist in an information age, powered by new technology connecting people, ideas, data, and content in rapidly-changing ways. As we work to prepare New Jersey’s students for this world, we must ensure our schools provide them with the technology-rich environments they need in order to be engaged and successful members of a digital society and workforce.

To achieve this, New Jersey’s schools need to 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.

That is why Future Ready Schools – New Jersey was created.

The What Future Ready Schools – New Jersey (FRS-NJ) is a certification program designed to promote transformational change in schools and districts throughout New Jersey, whether they are public, private, or charter. FRS-NJ provides the guidance, support, direction, and resources schools need to achieve “Future Ready” goals, while fostering inclusive collaboration within schools and districts, and between them throughout the state.

The program is a partnership of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). It is based on the work of the national Future Ready Schools initiative, and the structure and success of the Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Program.

The national Future Ready Framework, developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education, serves as an organizational umbrella for all discussions and decisions related to the use of technology in the classroom and the technical, professional, and leadership support needed to ensure the most effective and efficient Future Ready practices.

The Future Ready Schools – New Jersey certification program started with the foundation of the Future Ready Framework, and “New Jersey-ized” it so the state’s districts, schools, educators, and leaders have a local support structure and framework .

The state model of the national framework has been created by FRS-NJ task forces, made up of hundreds of educators, leaders, and stakeholders, who dedicate their time and expertise to create the New Jersey Indicators of Future Readiness. These indicators help guide schools and districts towards future readiness by providing them with the knowledge of what successful Future Ready practices look like in a given “gear,” or section, of the national framework. At the same time, they provide guidance, support, and connections to resources that can help them achieve success.

The FRS-NJ Indicators of Future Readiness are the heart and soul of the FRS-NJ certification program. Organized at all levels into three overarching themes that further condense the national Future Ready framework for the context of New Jersey, the themes are Leadership; Education and Classroom Practice; and Technology Support and Services.

The How The FRS-NJ certification process is designed to foster inclusive collaboration, organize discussions and decisions, and support school and district efforts to best prepare students for success.

Three Phases to Get Started Each step in the three phases of the program is designed to guide these efforts. Those phases are the district commitment phase, the school participation phase, and the school certification phase.

Phase I: District Commitment

I. Superintendent signs the Future Ready Pledge

II. The Board Resolution is implemented

III. District-Level Future Ready Team is established

IV. Optional District Self-Assessment is conducted

V. District Commitment Pre-Application is submitted

The District Commitment Phase ensures that district leadership and staff are dedicated to supporting their school’s efforts, and that these efforts are collaborative. Once a district is committed, schools in the district can declare their participation and apply for certification. To become a committed district, the superintendent first signs the national Future Ready Pledge. The board of education then passes a board resolution that establishes the District-Level Future Ready Team and officially declares the district’s commitment to supporting its schools’ Future Ready efforts.

The district’s Future Ready team should be inclusive and collaborative, and consist of members including at least one board member, the superintendent, the technology director or other IT personnel, a librarian/media specialist, a student representative, and other dedicated leaders and educators. The district then conducts a self-assessment to establish an understanding of where they stand with regard to the Future Ready Framework, and submits a pre-application to FRS-NJ to declare their commitment. District commitment can be declared at any time on a rolling basis.

Phase II: School Participation

I. School-Level Future Ready Team established

II. School Participation Letter signed

III. School submits their Declaration of Participation

The School Participation Phase features establishment of the school-level Future Ready team, and official declaration of a school’s participation in the certification program. In this phase, the school establishes its own School-Level Future Ready Team, which acts as the front-line team towards certification, with collaborative and integral support of the district-level team. The school’s Future Ready team should be inclusive and collaborative, and should consist of the principal, a librarian/media specialist (if one exists at the building level), and representatives of each academic and supporting department in the school. When appropriate, it is also recommended that this team have a student representative, but with younger grades it is understood this is not feasible or helpful in the certification process. The school declares its participation by signing a school participation letter and submitting it to the FRS-NJ team. School participation can be declared at any time on a rolling basis.

Phase III: School Certification

I. School team develops an Action Plan for Certification

II. Implement actions to achieve success in the FRS-NJ Indicators of Future Readiness

III. Submit evidence of success

The School Certification Phase is the most important phase, and enables individual schools to apply for certification by taking actions that lead to success through the Future Ready Schools – New Jersey Indicators of Future Readiness. As the indicators are updated each year by the FRS-NJ task forces, this is the only phase that is not rolling, and has a deadline for submission. Schools review the current year’s indicators and develop an action plan for certification based on the mandatory actions of the process, and the goals of the school, and based on the realities of the school. Indicators are organized so that schools in varying situations can work towards Future Readiness without being excluded due to size or organization. Schools implement this plan and prepare evidence for submission towards each chosen indicator. Evidence is in the form of theme-based narratives and examples of activities declared for each indicator. This design ensures accuracy in certification, provides schools with an effective guide and process, and avoids certification being more of a burden than a support.

The submitted application, due on June 30 of each year, is reviewed by the FRS-NJ awards committee, which provides feedback and identifies example submissions, to be included in the following year’s indicators. In this way, the success of certified schools informs and inspires participants who come after.

Results of the 2017 Program By the June 30 deadline in the inaugural 2017 certification cycle, 63 schools from 20 districts were ready to submit for certification. The certified schools were honored and celebrated at the inaugural FRS-NJ Awards Ceremony on October 24 at Workshop 2017. At the time of this writing, in December 2017, 51 districts have committed to support their schools Future Ready efforts, and 85 schools declared participation in the program.

What’s New for 2018? With the inaugural 2017 certification cycle completed, Future Ready Schools – New Jersey is preparing for the second program cycle by taking feedback from participants, reflecting on the process, and adjusting the program and Indicators of Future Readiness with the help of the 2018 task forces.

The 2018 cycle will see the first of two additional tiers of certification, to provide schools that are certified at the inaugural basic level with a continued path to progress. Future Readiness is not an endpoint, but rather a continuous journey. Future Ready Schools – New Jersey will use these tiers to help guide schools and districts towards higher degrees and greater rigors of Future Readiness.

The full rollout of three tiers of certification will be completed with the 2019 certification cycle. Schools that achieve the first tier have three years until that certification expires, during which they can either renew certification, or seek the next level.

The coming year will also see the launch of two new initiatives designed to foster greater collaboration and networking throughout the state. The larger is a partnership with the Google partner LumApps, which has volunteered its expertise and platform to help FRS-NJ develop an in-house collaboration suite to house the work of school and district Future Ready teams, as well as the FRS-NJ community as a whole. This will create a continuous discussion and interactions between members of the community that are not contingent on events or other in-person opportunities. FRS-NJ plans to release this new feature on our website in conjunction with the 2018 FRS-NJ Regional Certification Summits.

FRS-NJ is also designing a series of community networking site visits based on the model employed by the New Jersey Technology and Engineering Educators Association for their members. These site visits will be hosted by FRS-NJ certified schools across the state to introduce neighbor schools and districts to the Future Ready mission and program, share practices and initiatives that helped lead to a school’s certification, and provide the opportunity for dedicated and innovative educators and leaders to network and lay foundations for possible collaborations.

How Can You Get Involved? The 2018 FRS-NJ certification cycle will begin with a series of three Regional Certification Summits taking place across New Jersey, starting on Feb. 22, 2018 with the North Regional Certification Summit at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The Central Regional Certification Summit will take place on Feb. 26 at Bayshore Middle School in Middletown Township, a 2017 certified school. The South Regional Certification Summit takes place the following day, on Feb. 27 at Stockton University.

Each summit will be a full-day event, including a chance to hear from certified schools and their students, to learn how they achieved FRS-NJ certification in the inaugural 2017 certification cycle; experience a walk-through of the process with your Future Ready teams; explore the new structure and content of the 2018 indicators; and have the chance to network, learn from, and collaborate with other innovative and dedicated educators and leaders.

It is recommended that attendees include a district Future Ready Team,with representation from schools that intend to apply for certification in 2018. Listed below are the recommended team members to form the core of your district’s efforts to support school certifications. Registration is by team; teams can consist of anywhere between five to 10 members, depending on the district:

  • At least one board of education member;
  • The superintendent;
  • A technology director or similar IT personnel;
  • A librarian/media specialist;
  • School and district leaders and educators who are dedicated to the success of the district’s and schools’ Future Ready efforts; and
  • A representative leader for any schools who may already be interested in applying for certification.

​Please note that schools and districts that were not certified, or did not apply for certification in the inaugural cycle, will have priority for registration. A wait list will be created in case there is room for others to join.

The 2018 certification window for submission ends on June 30. Schools will be notified of certification status by Sept. 15, so they have time to prepare for the awards ceremony at Workshop 2018.

Individuals interested in getting involved in Future Ready Schools – New Jersey can also consider joining 2019 task forces, when submission opens after the 2018 awards ceremony, or facilitating Future Ready discussions in their school and district. FRS-NJ also invites individuals to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, to immediately join the FRS-NJ community.

We also invite you 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. FRS-NJ is eager to spread the word! You can also stay in the loop by joining the FRS-NJ mailing list, for updates on the program, announcements, and notifications of other opportunities.

Districts and schools can start by establishing Future Ready teams, and considering beginning the certification process, from commitment to certification. The FRS-NJ team is eager to support your effort in any way you see fit. Let us know how we can help guide, inform, and support your Future Ready efforts, because that is our “why” and what we are here for!

Jeremy Reich is project coordinator of the Future Ready schools New Jersey certification program.