Are Our Children Ready For College and Career?
For families and educators, this question is top of mind. At the NJ Department of Education (NJDOE), this question is also top of mind, and our mission has never been clearer: to ensure that all children, regardless of zip code, graduate from high school ready for college and a career.
New Jersey ranks among the top states in the nation in student achievement, according to a number of measures, and we owe a debt of gratitude to our teachers for those results. Clearly teacher effectiveness in the classroom is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning. We also know that the family is one of the most important factors in favor of learning outside of school.
While we have much to celebrate, there is no time to rest easy. We still have over 40,000 3rd graders not reading at grade level, and we have a long way to go to make sure all our children are succeeding.
And so we ask again: Are our children ready for college and career? We ask this passionately because it is a moral issue. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, ensuring that all children, no matter where they’re born, have an equal shot at life. We also ask this with a sense of urgency, as it is a pressing social issue: Our failure to prepare all students for success in college and career will have a serious economic impact on our children, and our state.
What should we do? We should begin by stepping back and having an honest conversation about what we’re doing right, and what we could be doing better. We should not blame our hardworking teachers, or our families, or our students.
At the NJDOE, we are beginning with the right "building blocks" for success, and making sure that our schools have the tools they need to succeed. In the months ahead, you will hear us talk more about what we see as four foundational, and mission critical, building blocks for ensuring that all our children are ready for college and career.
We see the first building block as a laser focus on academic standards. This will be about implementing the new Common Core State Standards – revolutionary new standards which are aligned to college and career readiness and which will ensure that all students graduate ready for a 21st century career.
The second block is about performance and accountability, as we look to develop our next generation accountability system that focuses on what is most important – student performance. We will also finish development of an improved statewide data system, which will inform progress against learning goals for every school and student group on an ongoing basis.
The third building block is about talent. Here we must ensure that New Jersey has world-class teachers and administrators by focusing on recruitment, retention, and development.
Our fourth building block is innovation. This is where we identify, incubate, launch, and support proven school models, programs, and technologies for parents and children, especially in our persistently lowest-performing school communities.
These building blocks, we believe, lay the foundation for answering our pressing question, and delivering on our solemn promise. We ask you to stay tuned as we work together as families, educators, and stakeholders to guarantee that all our children REALLY ARE ready for college and career.