Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recognized seven Lighthouse Districts for illuminating the path toward academic growth and student success. The Lighthouse District Initiative is a result of conversations with many educators, families, community members, and students who encouraged the state to focus on growth.
Through the Lighthouse District Initiative, the NJDOE is highlighting districts that have, over the past several years, achieved academic growth in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics with diverse student groups. The Lighthouse Districts have demonstrated student academic progress as a result of setting high academic standards, using assessment data to identify each and every student's needs, and working tirelessly to provide the necessary educational supports.
"Lighthouse Districts show what types of academic gains are possible when visionary, instructional leaders, dedicated educators, and supportive board members work together on behalf of the children in their community," said New Jersey Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington. "The Lighthouse Districts show that New Jersey is on the right path; their success has been contingent upon building a community of educators, students, and families who believe each and every student can and will excel beyond New Jersey's high academic standards."
The NJDOE will be engaging with educators from the Lighthouse Districts to create a sustainable support network for districts.
"By highlighting the best practices of the Lighthouse Districts, districts across the state can benefit from resources that come directly from their peers and illustrates how closing the achievement gap is possible," said State Board of Education President Arcelio Aponte
"We are committed to giving the Lighthouse districts the platform to be models for how to use data to tell the story about what students need and to support other districts in lighting their own path for their students' success," Commissioner Harrington added.
The seven school districts recognized as Lighthouse Districts include:
|Black Horse Pike||Camden|
|Cape May City||Cape May|
|Mine Hill Township||Morris|
20-Time is a new program at Borough School based off of the corporate practice of giving employees one day a week to work on a project of their choice; giving people the freedom to work on something about which they are truly passionate. Ideas such as Gmail and Post-It Notes are just two examples of concepts that were born from the corporate 20-Time model. This is exactly what we are giving our students at Borough School - time to work on something about which they are passionate. All fifth through eighth graders, one day per week during each student's related arts course, for two marking periods (20 weeks total), have had the opportunity to work on a project of their choosing. After forming a partnership and choosing a topic, students developed an elevator pitch, honed a project, created a website/blog, all while being supported by their 20Time coach; a Borough School staff member. Projects ranged from the “fingerprint locker” and A-OK Healthy Soda to charity efforts and student produced and composed music videos. The efforts of the Borough School students culminated in a showcase celebrating their 20-Time projects to fellow Borough School students, 20-Time coaches, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. Borough School is proud of the creativity and successes of the students and looks forward to continuing this tradition through the remainder of this school year and in the years to come. CLICK HERE for access to some of the Borough School 20Time Projects.
Toms River Regional Schools is the largest suburban district in New Jersey, with 18 schools and a large preK program, over 2,400 staff, and almost 16,000 students spread over a 56 square mile geographic area. It was the region hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy, the impact of which continues, both financially and spiritually. In an area already struggling to find its way, recovery has been slow. Where some see obstacles, Toms River sees opportunity--be it in our community, or in our schools in the areas of curriculum, professional development, and creative classrooms. New learning standards, the maker movement, and innovateNJ came along at just the right time to spur us on.
We took baby steps in 2014 when teachers volunteered to be part of the Hour of Code, Computer Science Week, and NJ Makers Day. The growing interest in the kinds of activities we brainstormed together led to a giant leap of faith we dubbed the “Jersey Shore Makerfest.” The all day event in October 2015 was designed to be entirely experiential, content independent, for all ages and interests… and FREE. Thanks to sponsors, partners, and volunteers who believed in us-- including school districts, colleges, community organizations, museums, tech companies, local artists, the NJDOE’s Office of Educational Technology, and the NJ School Boards Association-- we assembled over 100 makers of all kinds. More than 4000 folks showed up, and loved it. We repeated the event the next October, bigger and better. (For details, go to jerseyshoremakerfest.org .)
Makerfest proved the value of a maker mindset in building communities, solving problems, and engaging learners of all ages. We had a story to tell. The partnerships grew. Grant applications started coming back as winners (to the tune of over half a million dollars just last year). Sponsors helped augment district funds and talent to build makerspaces in every building, including a $75,000 “Innovation Station” at Intermediate East School supported by Office Depot and $182,000 from the Grunin Foundation. The Board had already invested heavily in technology and curriculum. These funds allowed us to explore, innovate, and prove the value of our ideas.
Now, on any given day, you can find a NAVAIR Naval Air Systems Command engineer working with a robotics team, a Google Hangout with schools around the country, and teachers training with artists from Rutgers University. The district won a $100,000 Title I basic skills grant and used it to create a summer Makercamp for 75 middle schoolers; guests found it to be indistinguishable from a gift and talented program. Teachers made full day kindergarten a reality by taking charge of professional learning, creating a full day centers workshop symposium. High school staff and administrators have been inspired to initiate high rigor Career Academies at each of our high schools in the areas of Arts, Business, and STEAM.
Our most inspirational education collaborators, which arose out of innovateNJ, has been the staff and students of the A Harry Moore school in Jersey City. We came to view each other as more than one shot project collaborators, but as lifelong partners. We travel to share PD opportunities, to celebrate, and co-plan, and we communicate using web technology constantly.
Our story should inform others that adversity need not define you, that finances shouldn’t stop you from dreaming, and that, more than any curriculum, structure, or space, relationships are the best things we can build to create happy and meaningful experiences for our children.