SOMERSET, NJ – Schools across the state are trying to better align the classroom experience with the increasingly technology-driven society waiting for students after graduation. According to the state Department of Education – with the exception of the high school – nine out of the 10 schools in Franklin Township are providing students with the technology-rich environments needed to ensure students can participate in the digital workforce.
“As of today nine out of 10, or should I say, 90 percent of our schools have achieved New Jersey Future Ready Schools certification,” district Supervisor of Instructional Technology Edward Ward said at last night’s board of education meeting.
In 2017, the state Department of Education, New Jersey School Boards Association and New Jersey Institute of Technology came together to localize the national framework developed by the Alliance for Excellent Education to ensure the state’s schools are deploying technology in the classroom in meaningful ways.
Ward said the program exists because “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.”
All nine schools in the district that received certification did so at the bronze level – one of three tiers recognized by the state. Individual schools can get either bronze or silver certification, with districts where every school has a silver certification receiving the silver district certification.
Schools complete an extensive self-assessment that’s verified by the state to earn the certification, which lasts three years.
Claremont Elementary School and Pine Grove Manor School were certified this year, and FMS at Sampson G. Smith Campus; FMS at Hamilton Street Campus; Elizabeth Avenue School and Franklin Park School were re-certified this year according to school officials.
MacAfee Road School, Hillcrest School and Conerly Road School, were originally certified and will pursue re-certification when the time comes, school officials say.
“It's a tedious process,” Superintendent John Ravally said. “It's no joke to become certified. This is not something where the DOE is just saying okay, you do a few things and boom.”
The certification process demands that media specialists, board members, teachers and administrators work together to identify not only where schools are integrating technology well, but more importantly, serves as a roadmap for where and how the schools can improve.
“This really is a hard look at what you're doing from an instructional technology standpoint and if you meet certain criteria you earn this particular status. There are certain things we've had to make adjustments to along the way in order to position ourselves to be able to earn such a status across the district,” Ravally said.
The road to state certification is demanding, with the process following one teacher to Niagara Falls.
“It takes countless hours, numerous emails back and forth from Baltimore to New Jersey and text messages after hours,” Kira Sikorski, a teacher at Franklin Park Elementary School, said. “I remember being in Niagara Falls and getting an email about something we may have been missing.”
Ravally credited Ward with the success of the program in Franklin, thanking him for his stewardship of the certification process across the district.
“A lot of what has taken place over the last couple of years is due to the leadership of Edward,” he said.
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