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Educational Technology

Future Ready NJ Grant Program

Purpose: The Future Ready NJ Grant is a FY16 state-funded grant program intended to support LEAs, Charter and Renaissance schools in implementing the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) online assessments in spring 2016. This grant program is designed to address two readiness factors for PARCC assessments: technology ready and digital learning. The implementation of a digital learning environment supports the implementation of the PARCC assessment. This grant supports increasing the capacity for digital learning readiness through mentoring partnerships between two LEAs (which include Charter and Renaissance schools). The partnerships address the devices and infrastructure necessary for the implementation of the PARCC online assessments in 2016, support digital learning throughout all content areas so that students are increasing their technology literacy skills, and are comfortable with the digital tool(s) that they will be using for the assessments. The maximum award under this program is $250,000. The project period is March 1, 2016-August 31, 2016

Eligible Agencies: LEAs, Charter and Renaissance Schools who updated NJTRAx PARCC Readiness and completed and obtained a rating from the Future Ready gear assessment for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Future Ready NJ Grant Recipients (2016)

Newark Public Schools and Pascack Valley Regional High School District

The Newark Public Schools (NPS) and Pascack Valley Regional High School District (Pascack) propose to partner on the Future Ready NJ grant in order to improve the digital learning readiness of schools in NPS (applicant and Mentee LEA) and foster a collaborative exchange between the two districts to expand digital learning experiences. NPS has identified four high need schools to participate in the project: Avon Avenue School (Priority School), Luis Munoz Marin ES (Focus School), East Side High School (Focus School), and Technology High School. As Mentor LEA, Pascack, an InnovateNJ partner, will work collaboratively to help improve the use of technology in NPS schools and classrooms.

Over the course of six months, NPS and Pascack teachers will engage in inter-visitations, virtual Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), virtual and face-to-face coaching, and professional development activities created specifically to improve digital learning readiness in NPS schools and enhance digital learning in Pascack schools. In addition, the partnership will offer experiences for district staff to co-develop digitally aligned content to district curricula in order to support learner-centered environments and update/revise district technology use policies focused on safe and responsible use of digital applications and content. Finally, each district will produce a set of web-enabled videos that document and share the mentoring process and the resulting digital learning best practices in both districts.

Overall, the project will impact the ways in which instruction is conceptualized, delivered, and refined over time in mentee classrooms at the elementary and secondary levels.  The project's participants will benefit from the best practices learned from expert Pascack teachers, including those designed to improve instruction for struggling readers and improve students' college and career readiness. Mentee teachers in the project will be supported in their work to enhance instruction through the use of collaboration, formative assessment, and digital learning tools to help create more student-centered learning environments. The project will have additional impacts beyond mentee teacher classrooms as the mentee teachers turnkey the practices they have learned to others in their schools and the district, both in-person and through the dissemination of the project-developed training videos.

University Heights and Robert Treat Academy

With the support of the Future Ready NJ grant, mentee University Heights Charter School (UHCS) seeks to collaborate with mentor Robert Treat Academy (RTA) to increase its capacity for digital learning and assessment readiness.

Currently, UHCS, a PreK-8 charter school in Newark, has some technology in place to support staff with collaboration, planning and material creation, and students to practice skills.  However, the school lacks clearly defined and communicated 21st Century standards and curricula for all students; adequate technology resources to truly personalize student learning; and sufficient training for staff to implement digital learning. These challenges, in turn, have not left students at UHCS fully prepared to succeed on the PARCC online assessment or with high school digital learning demands.

In contrast, RTA, a K-8 charter school also in Newark, was identified to UHCS by Stanford University's Redbird Advanced Learning initiative as a digital learning readiness leader serving similar students. This is clearly demonstrated by classroom observation, NJTRAX and FutureReady assessment scores, and outstanding PARCC and high school readiness outcomes.

Specific outcomes for this grant for UHCS include:
1.The establishment and communication of 21st Century skills (i.e., critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration, communication, self-direction, visual learning, information literacy, and global and cultural awareness) as learning standards for all students across all levels;
2. Staff trained to integrate 21st Century skills and the Universal Design for Learning framework into their teaching.
3. Addition of digital learning content and resources necessary for staff to integrate 21st Century skills and the Universal Design for Learning framework into their teaching.
4. Creation/revision of curriculum including lessons and materials integrate 21st Century Skills and the Universal Design for Learning framework.

RTA, in turn, seeks to grow expand its educational impact with Newark's children, further develop its own technology resources, and provide opportunities for staff who are digital learning leaders to grow professionally by replicating their work in other schools.

River Dell Regional School District and Manasquan School District

This cooperative, mentoring project proposed jointly by the River Dell Regional School District, a district with a long-running, well-established digital learning program, and the Manasquan School District, a district with a new, emerging digital learning program focuses on two main areas designed to meet the prescribed objective of increasing capacity for digital learning and assessment readiness.  The goals and experiences of these two districts nicely complement one another.  While both district have established the goals and allocated the resources for a solid digital learning program, the decade-long experience in digital learning offered by the mentor district pairs nicely with the relatively new program being implemented in the mentee district.

Two focus areas meet the overall goal of this project.  The first focus area, and its associated objectives, creates a collaboration between various leaders, technology coaches, and technology professionals in both districts to bring targeted professional development to their teachers and school leaders in the months leading up to the 2016-2017 school year.  This focus area of the project draws on the experience the mentor district has in conducting professional development in their long-running digital learning program and the desire of the mentee district to provide targeted professional development to its faculty who are new to a digital learning program. It also includes action steps to allow both districts exposure to national trends and emerging strategies in digital learning. The second focus area allows the Manasquan School District to expand its current one-to-one digital learning program to students in grades six and seven. This second focus area alone serves to meet the dual goals of the overall project and allows more students to be assessed simultaneously during PARCC testing windows without having to disrupt the school schedule and not take away from rigorous instruction during testing

Irvington School District and Caldwell/West Caldwell School District

Digital learning environments improve academic achievement and facilitate acquisition of the 21st Century skills of critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and global connectedness. Online activities and assessments, aligned to the acquisition of these skills, are a vital part of the digital learning process.  The proposed partnership between the Caldwell/ West Caldwell and Irvington School districts, working in collaboration to meet these goals as articulated in the NJ Future Ready Grant Program, will increase student and teacher capacity and competence for the mastery of digital learning skills. Increased competence in digital skills will result in an increased demonstration of skill proficiency on standardized tests as a result of activities that will expand PARCC Readiness. Although the project requires that one district be identified as the mentor and the other be identified as the mentee based on the results of the Gear Assessment Readiness results, the former identified as the agency that will focus on increasing the capacity of the latter, it is anticipated that both the mentor and mentee districts will realize increased levels of digital preparedness as a result of professional collaboration through the implementation of this project.

Throughout the project period, teachers will engage in professional development activities which will expand their ability to integrate technology into instructional design. Students will become familiar with Mac Book and Chrome Book platforms and will use these devices to explore online resources to complete research projects and classroom assignments in all subject areas.