2016 will be a pivotal year for New Jersey’s public schools. We will be navigating some of the fallout from Governor Christie’s bid for presidential attention, tackling unresolved issues from 2015 and making way for new legislation to replace No Child Left Behind. Here’s a look at what lies ahead of us, and what it means to administrators, educators, parents and students.
From ‘No Child Left Behind’ to ‘Every Student Succeeds’
We’re finally able to bid goodbye to the antiquated ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) legislation. While well-intended, this act’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was unrealistic at best and punitive at worst. It took years of significant work in the educational community and within Congress, but in the last weeks of 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), shifting authority back to the states for student achievement.
ESSA will roll out in 2016 with less stringent guidelines than NCLB and two important distinctions. It will separate teacher evaluations from student performance. It will put student achievement in the hands of the state rather than the federal government.
A Change in the Common Core
Governor Chris Christie has called an end to the national Common Core standards in New Jersey. Whether part of his presidential bid or sound educational policy, time will tell, but the governor is following a number of states that also have pulled out of Common Core. They’re claiming it ineffective and rewriting and rebranding new standards under their state banners.
In New Jersey, Governor Christie has assembled a task force of parents and teachers to review the Common Core standards and make suggestions for improvement. Their report and recommendations were released on January 11 to the Commissioner and State Board of Education. The State Board will review these recommendations and propose any changes to the existing standards for public input. In the meantime, schools will continue to test students with the PARCC assessments based on the Common Core. New Jersey is one of just six states currently administering the PARCC, and there’s a separate task force looking at student performance and achievement. It’s report was also released this week with recommendations for graduation requirements introduced at the latest meeting of the State Board of Education.
A Constitutional Amendment to Prevent Pension Shortfalls
The underfunded public employee pension fund will again be in the spotlight in 2016, as legislators consider an amendment to New Jersey’s constitution that would require the state to fully fund employee retirements. The resolution introduced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney would not need Governor Christie’s approval to be placed on the ballot. Voters will weigh in on the question at the same time that they choose the nation’s next president.
If this proposed amendment is passed, New Jersey will have a hard time skipping out on bigger pension payments. But it’s unclear where the money may be coming from. Governor Christie has advocated his own plan, freezing the current pension system and moving employees to a 401(k) style plan that’s more affordable for the state but one that also includes less generous health benefits for retirees.
The tech giant Google knows a little something about innovation. To help inspire creativity, the company encourages employees to work 20 percent of their time on a project of their choosing. As a result, Google has inspired divergent critical thinking and exciting new projects from Gmail to AdSense. But Google’s 20% Time Program isn’t relegated to tech companies. It’s a great opportunity for schools to foster meaningful learning, too.
If this idea sounds intriguing, you won’t want to miss NJASA’s TECHSPO 2016, January 28-29 at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, N.J. Now in its 21st year, TECHSPO is New Jersey’s premier educational technology training and exhibition conference for school leaders. It’s the place to be if you’re searching for proven ways that students are learning and teachers are educating with emerging technology.
We’ve expanded the expo to bring you more tech solutions. We’ll be hosting 1,000+ K-12 educators and administrators plus nearly 100 workshop and exhibition showcase leaders. We’re putting them all under one roof to create the largest education technology conference in New Jersey. Here’s what you can expect.
Two Inspiring Keynotes
Meet Kevin Brookhouser, high school teacher and Google Apps Certified trainer. Kevin is author of The 20time Project: How Educators Can Launch Google's Formula for Future-Ready Innovation. His keynote speech on Fueling Future-Ready Students will inspire you to organize a Google-style 20% program in your district. It also might just launch the next generation of Google engineers.
John Shammas is not your average APP developer. For one thing, he’s just graduated high school. Exploring Photoshop at age three, he began his freelance web design career at age 11. He currently serves as technology liaison and developer for Old Bridge Township’s public schools, and consults for international retailers.
In two short days at TECHSPO, you will have new ideas and tools for the year and beyond. You’ll also have a chance to connect with educational leaders from around the state so you can problem solve and brainstorm when you get back to your districts.
Don’t miss your chance to take your district to the next level!
Register today at www.njasa.net.
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