TRENTON, NJ - - Legislation sponsored by Patrick Diegnan and his fellow Assembly colleagues to encourage more of New Jersey's teachers to take part in educational leadership roles received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk.

The sponsors note the purpose of the legislation is to create a teacher leader endorsement program that would identify the skills, knowledge, and requirements necessary to fulfill leadership roles in school districts. Teacher leaders would serve as coaches, mentors, and facilitators of professional learning.

"The opportunity to grow within your profession is important to any individual, "said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).” Teachers taking on leadership roles, serving as experts, supporting decision-making in school and being a resource to fellow teachers is a critical factor in our maintaining excellence in an ever-changing educational environment."

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The bill would establish a Teacher Leader Endorsement Advisory Board in the Department of Education to make recommendations to the Department of Education and State Board of Education regarding the program of study for the teacher leader endorsement

In order to be eligible for the teacher leader endorsement, an applicant will be required to: complete a program of study equivalent to, at a minimum, 12 graduate credits or 180 clock hours; and complete five years of full-time teaching under a valid provisional or standard certificate, or a combination thereof, issued by the State Board of Examiners.

Under the provisions of the bill, a State institution of higher education, an educational organization, or other non-profit entity, or a combination thereof, may apply to the Department of Education to offer a program of study preparing teachers for eligibility of a teacher leader endorsement. The State Board of Education will be required to set the standards for the program.

The bill was approved 33-0 by the Senate on Thursday and 75-0-1 by the Assembly in June.