Monday, March 12, 2007

New Jersey High School Redesign


On Wednesday night, March 7, 2007 over 200 family members and educators convened at Jose Marti Middle School in Union City, New Jersey to discuss the need for high school reform. The event was part of a series of public presentations on the initiative of the New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee.

[Reprinted from the New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee –]

The Steering Committee

The New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee is a coalition of the state’s major education organizations working to build public awareness of and support for a more rigorous high school experience. To work toward the goal of making sure that our state’s students are prepared to succeed in the workforce or in pursuing higher education, the Steering Committee is beginning a statewide conversation on high school reform in our state.

The Steering Committee grew out of the New Jersey Education Summit on High Schools convened in 2005 and supports the work begun at the National Education Summit on High Schools held in Washington, DC in February of that year.

During the event, representatives from the steering committee shared a PowerPoint commentary on the New Jersey Schools including:
  • High Schools were designed over 100 years ago and change is needed to address current concerns. The economy is more global than ever and we need to keep pace with the continuous growth of new technologies. Examples of these technologies include cellphones, digital cameras, wireless connectors, DVDS, satellite television, instant messaging and IPODs.
  • Technology is replacing jobs, e.g., EZPass, voice recognition systems and ATMs.
  • Employers now hire for American jobs from a global workforce.
  • College or jobs immediately graduating high school now require higher level skills.
  • The majority of jobs in the next few years will require more than a high school graduation.
  • New Jersey surpasses the national average for academics but 42% are not ready for college level classes; therefore many are dropping out of college. Remedial courses to catch up do not count for credit, are all too common, increase expenses and add months or years to the educational process.
  • In New Jersey, 99 of 100 companies say high school graduates do not have skills to meet goals. Recently 1,300 applicants were screened for 130 security jobs since many did not have even 8th grade skills.

[Reprinted from the event handout Ready for the Future.

Plan to Improve New Jersey High Schools
  • Students entering the ninth grade should be prepared for rigorous high school courses
  • Rigorous standards and a challenging series of courses should be supported as requirements for graduation from high school
  • Assessments and coursework must be aligned in high school to prepare students for the rigor of college and the workforce
  • The New Jersey high school experience should be redesigned and restructured to make it more rigorous, relevant and personalized for all students
  • All students must have highly effective teachers and school leaders

As an observer of the event, my concerns are:

  • The need for broadening this philosophy to the entire educational experience prior to high school must not be overlooked.
  • Character education must be an instilled philosophy into any authentic educational system and a key ingredient to the success of transforming our schools.
  • Principles of character education must be the driving force of this transition.
  • Bureaucracy, red tape, and the attitude of "who will get the credit" must not prevent the school culture from being transformed.
  • The response must be intense, persistent and executed with full force dedication throughout all elements of the school community including educators, parents, students and community leaders.
  • Many schools have environments where school safety and security is a significant concern. A safe school environment is the foundation for character education and academic excellence and the need for incorporating this concern is critical to any authentic educational reform.

Essentially, the New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee is on track and to be commended for its dedication to

"building public awareness and support for a more rigorous high school experience, one that allows students to succeed in the workforce or in pursuing higher education."
It is critical to the advancement of public education that this initial effort is now complimented with the required forecast, capacity, and determination to clearly understand that educational reform is needed prior to the high school years in order to prepare students and educators for redesigned high schools.

A comprehensive, integrated approach must be taken. Perhaps it is time for the New Jersey High School Redesign Steering Committee to be re-cast to a New Jersey Comprehensive Educational Redesign Initiative?


New Jersey High School Redesign
Steering Committee
Click here to visit site
Achieve, Inc. Click here to visit site
Character Education Partnership Click here to visit site
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools
Click here to visit site

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