There have been a lot of changes in New Jersey education over the last several years and it’s only going to continue to move in a more modern direction, fueled by technology. It’s important that New Jersey school districts continue to communicate and work together to make these transitions as smooth as possible, and share our experience for the betterment of New Jersey education. With so many issues facing New Jersey chief education officers in the coming year, how we can minimize stress and disruption in the classroom?
Below we discuss some of the major education issues facing New Jersey school districts, but we also discuss them at our professional development seminars where we are able to learn from each other’s experience and expertise. This is a very important time in New Jersey education and we are the chosen ones responsible for shaping what education looks like in the future.
Longer School Day And Year
Governor Chris Christie called for a major scheduling change during his 2014 State-of-the-State address. He wants longer school days and a longer school year. We recognize that a 180-day school year and a six-hour school day are both relics of the past. That’s why extending the school day and year has been part of the education dialogue for decades, but the challenge is in the implementation.
There is a cost—in staffing and facilities. According to nj.com1, an elementary school in Arizona added 132 hours to the school year at a cost of $290 per student, while a school in Massachusetts added 540 hours at a cost of $1,695 a student. When calculated as cost per hour per student, the additional expenses ranged from $2.20 to $5.23.
Who will pay for the additional time for schools to be open? Is the funding going to come from already strapped school budgets?
Common Core Implementation
Forty-five states, including New Jersey, have adopted the Common Core standards and are in the process of implementing new curriculum. The standards require an interactive approach to testing. We can no longer evaluate students in a classroom with paper and pencil tests. But some schools don’t have enough devices—and all districts are going to be challenged by budgeting for this expense.
Not only that, switching over to interactive testing is going to be cumbersome, at least initially. We’ll have to plan to minimize any disruption to the educational process.
Here are some tips to keep stress in the classroom low:
- Educate parents on how they can help assist in making the shift easier for their children.
- Figure out a way to teach students basic computer skills if they don’t have any.
- Communicate with your school district to make sure everyone has an understanding on the Common Core.
Teacher and principal assessment now requires multiple measures, which is good in theory. In reality, it’s challenging. There’s limited time for administrators to complete the increased number of classroom observations. But the stakes are high. After all, the results will determine whether teachers and principals keep their jobs.
New Jersey has long underfunded the state pension system. Now it’s trying to ‘catch up’ with a funding commitment over the next seven years. Again, that’s good in theory. In practice, however, that means less money for school budgets. These are budgets are already stretched to the limit. Yet the state continues to require districts to do more, with less.
New Jersey’s Chief Education Officers are working hard to confront these challenges and others.
We’re at an exciting time in New Jersey schools, at a crossroads of traditional methods and a futuristic focus. Our goal is to determine what a successful public education system will look like in 2020 and beyond.