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The Education Innovator #5
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 February 7, 2005 • Number 5
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Feature
New Jersey Expedited Certification for Educational Leadership (NJ EXCEL)
What's New
Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act offers new level of loan forgiveness; U.S. Department of Education offers reading grants to LEA's with low-income students; Innovative Pathways to School Leadership released; letter issued on appeals filed by supplemental educational services providers operating in Philadelphia; proposed regulations for Troops-to-Teachers and Teaching American History open for public comment; webcast and presentation from Innovations in Education Exchange available online; Charter Schools Program listserv created to broadcast announcements; Innovator features now indexed; Building Excellent Schools accepting applications for 2005-06 fellowship program; The Parent Tutor offers tutoring tips; and Ball State University hosts electronic field trip to the Holocaust Museum.
Innovations in the News
New York State leads the nation with 21 percent of students scoring "three" or better on Advanced Placement exams, plus information on Advanced Placement, charter schools, closing the achievement gap, school choice, and technology.

NJ EXCEL: Following the Rigorous Road to Principal Certification
You have a master's degree and five years' teaching experience. You now want to move into a leadership role in the school system. What does it take in New Jersey to get to that next step? You have heard about the rigor of medical school residencies and the hours of commitment it takes to excel in professional sports. Is the training for education leadership that challenging? In New Jersey it is.

Research has shown that a strong school leader is a necessary ingredient for school improvement. No Child Left Behind underscores the need for strong leadership, as schools are held accountable for increasing student achievement and closing the achievement gap. Where can school systems turn to develop new leaders and support talented educators already in the system? And where can aspiring leaders go to step up to the plate? One program, NJ EXCEL, provides a practical approach to rigorous, job-embedded training.

"New Jersey Expedited Certification for Educational Leadership" (NJ EXCEL) is a state-approved program that provides alternatives to the traditional graduate coursework required for supervisor and principal certification. Its mission is to improve the caliber of school administrators, while also increasing their number and diversity. The program features a curriculum based on real life situations and problems, as well as ongoing support and collaboration for its participants through inquiry groups, an on-line learning community, and advisors called "e-mentors." The 225-hour program focuses on leadership and human resources management, decision-making, communication, finance, and school law.

NJ EXCEL was created in response to a statewide shortage of highly qualified principals and a lack of diversity among candidates. The New Jersey Principal and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) and its nonprofit Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) identified the need to find and train people to work in under-performing schools where principal shortages were acute. In May 2002, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) approved the NJPSA proposal authorizing entities other than institutions of higher education to provide certification programs for principals. The FEA initiated the first NJ EXCEL in January 2003.

The program is designed to prepare leaders specifically for New Jersey's districts and schools, and it serves those who are already education professionals. NJ EXCEL's screening process requires that each candidate present a portfolio, respond to questions related to problems faced on the job, and complete a writing sample.

Participants can choose to enroll in one of four models that are designed to correspond with their educational and professional experience. One model is for practicing supervisors who have a minimum of five years of supervisory experience. A second is for teachers and education specialists with a supervisor certificate or supervisors with up to four years of supervisory experience. The third model is for teachers and education specialists, and the fourth is for those who have a certificate of eligibility or standard certification to be a principal.

The tuition for each of the four NJ EXCEL models is different; however, regardless of which model is chosen, the cost is usually less than a traditional master's program. Nevertheless, tuition fees are sufficient to enable NJ EXCEL to be a self-sustaining program.

Each model includes mandatory "job-embedded experiences" and an internship. The job experiences are in the school or district where the participants are currently employed. The internship must occur in a school or district other than that where they work.

The NJ EXCEL pathway begins during the summer when participants tackle a challenging program. There, they learn about their leadership potential by assessing themselves against NJ EXCEL's standards, which are taken from the New Jersey Standards for School Leaders. These standards of strategic management, community involvement, instruction, and visionary planning are the criteria against which participants' success is measured. NJ EXCEL uses this information to tailor instruction for each person by providing individualized summaries of program requirements along with a timeframe for completing them.

Experienced school principals are the primary instructors, and the curriculum is linked to the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). Candidates are divided into regional inquiry groups, which meet regularly and communicate online to discuss coursework, activities, and participants' assessments of the experience. Participants examine issues specific to the state's schools, within the context of the Strategic Plan for Improving Education in New Jersey and the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards. E-mentors facilitate discussions and serve as primary advisors. Often the relationships that form in the inquiry groups support participants throughout their careers.

Fifteen hours of technology training, which is aligned with the national Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA), is also part of the EXCEL curriculum. Participants use their skills to develop electronic Leadership Portfolios (e-folios), which they regularly review with their e-mentors.

At the end of the program, a panel of school leaders assesses participants' progress through an external portfolio review, and then participants can receive their Certificate of Eligibility for principal or school administrator, if they pass the appropriate state test. NJ EXCEL graduates can use their Certificates of Eligibility to be hired by schools or districts, and the state will then issue provisional certificates to the new administrators. Candidates must complete a one-year residency to be eligible for standard certification.

Gail Donnelly, a graduate of the program, states, "The dialogue with colleagues about various aspects of our jobs is always motivational and inspiring. The time commitment is intense, but it keeps us leadership focused."

Other benefits of NJ EXCEL include graduate credit options. Participants can earn up to 27 graduate credits that may be used at educational institutions across the country. Participants can complete the program in just one year.

NJ EXCEL is one of the programs featured in the sixth, and latest, publication in the OII Innovations in Education series: Innovative Pathways to School Leadership. The program has also received an OII School Leadership grant.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one leadership certification program. The program is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.

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What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

Math, science, and special education teachers who teach for five years in Title I schools may be eligible for new loan forgiveness opportunities. For more information, call the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Customer Service hotline at: 1-800-433-7327. (Jan. 24)

The U.S. Department of Education is offering local educational agencies with at least 20 percent low-income students grants to improve students' reading skills. The grants can be used to update school library materials, including media technology and training for school library media specialists. The application deadline is March 14, 2005. (Jan. 28)

From OII

This week OII releases the latest in the Innovations in Education book series, Innovative Pathways to School Leadership. The book looks at this burgeoning movement to create rigorous routes toward becoming a school principal or superintendent and highlights practices of six programs currently underway. (See also feature) (book will be available online after Feb. 9)

The Secretary has proposed regulations prescribing criteria to be used in selecting eligible members of the Armed Forces to participate in the Troops-to-Teachers program and receive financial assistance. Public comments are due on or before February 14, 2005. (Jan. 14)

Selection criteria and other application requirements under the Teaching American History (TAH) grant program have been proposed. Public comments are due on or before February 14, 2005. (Jan. 14)

Bryan Hassel's download files PowerPoint presentation (133K) | MS Word (28K) at the Innovations in Education Exchange: Lessons Learned from Education Service Providers is available on the OII website along with the webcast of the full program. (Jan. 28)

The Charter Schools Program Listserv, a free service provided by the Office of Innovation and Improvement's Charter Schools Program, broadcasts announcements on new grant programs and opportunities, reports and studies, legislative and policy changes, and special initiatives from the U.S. Department of Education. Those interested in topics related to charter schools are invited to subscribe. (Feb. 1)

OII has added an index of Innovator features to The Education Innovator website. (Feb. 3)

Charter Schools

Building Excellent Schools is currently accepting applications for its 2005-06 Fellowship, which provides aspiring charter school founders with intense, yearlong training, a residency in an existing urban charter school, a $50,000 stipend, and ongoing support. Individuals desiring to start charter schools in Indianapolis, IN; Washington, D.C.; St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN; Denver, CO; Milwaukee, WI; New York, NY; and MA are encouraged to apply. The deadline to apply is May 2005. (Feb. 1)

Parental Involvement

The Parent Tutor, an electronic tutorial service, provides parents with reading selections, enrichment projects, and lessons personalized to each child's grade level, interests, and reading abilities. The Parent Tutor is delivered weekly via email to parents. (Jan. 27)

Reading

SMARTer Kids Connections, a program of the SMARTer Kids Foundation, will provide eight to ten sixth-grade teachers with technology and training to promote collaborative learning projects for teachers and students in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Selected schools will work together on curriculum-based projects to learn how to more effectively use technology and improve communications within North America. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2005. (Feb. 3)

Technology/History

Ball State University (IN) and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (DC) will host an Electronic Field Trip, "The Holocaust Museum Experience: Exploring Our Daily Decision Making" on February 15. Guides will lead students on a virtual tour of the museum using stories and artifacts from the museum's permanent collection. Viewers may also call in with questions or submit them via the web. The field trip will coincide with the 60 th anniversary of the closing of Auschwitz. Best Buy's Children's Foundation will sponsor the live, interactive trip, which will air at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. EST on local and PBS listings. (Jan. 28)

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Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement
The College Board recently reported that New York State leads the nation with 21 percent of its students scoring a "three" or better on the Advanced Placement exams. Additionally, 13 NY high school students have been named finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, commonly referred to as the Junior Nobel Prize. [More-WSTM] (Jan. 31)

Ten South Florida high schools lead the nation in the number of minority students who have passed Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Coral Park in Westchester boasts the largest number of Hispanic students passing the chemistry and U.S. history exams, while Coral Reef Senior High School in Southwest Miami-Dade leads the country in Hispanic students' test scores in European history, as well as Hispanic and African American students' test scores in English language. [More-Miami Herald] (Jan. 27) [free registration]

Charter Schools
The former Graysville Elementary School (IN), which closed in March 2003, re-opened as the Rural Community Academy on August 17, 2004. The curriculum is "place-based," where all concepts are enhanced by presentations from community members. Students participate in 430 minutes of classroom time a day, compared to the Indiana State Department's 230-minute requirement. [More-Indiana Charter Schools Today] (Fall/Winter 2004)

The bipartisan Connecticut Alliance for New Schools is beginning a campaign to increase charter school funding and remove restrictions on schools' growth and enrollment. To gain state support for the campaign, the Alliance notes a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll that found a majority of state residents support charter school expansion. [More-The Day] (Feb. 2) [free registration]

Choice
The Desert Sands Unified School District (CA) and Palm Desert High School have developed an academy within the school called NEXIS (Natural and Social Systems: Experiences Integrating Science, Math, and Technology). The academy features a challenging college preparatory curriculum of core subjects integrated with environmental themes. Students hear presentations from experts, observe live animals, and participate in field experiences. (See also Desert Sands USD in Creating Strong District School Choice Programs) [More-Desert Sun] (Jan. 23)

Closing the Achievement Gap
A recent study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research finds promising results for the policy of ending "social promotion." The study notes third graders who were retained due to low test scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) made significant gains on their second attempt to take the test. Low-performing students who were retained in the class of 2002-03 made a 4.10 percentile-point gain over their low-performing peers who were promoted to the next grade level. [More-Tallahassee Democrat] (Jan. 24)

Technology
A new educational program, e-Mission: Moon, Mars, and Beyond, uses simulated space exploration and enables students to use math and science skills in creative ways. The distance learning program is geared for third to fifth grade students and commemorates the Space Shuttle Challenger Mission that ended tragically on January 28, 1986. [More-Computer Associates] (Jan. 28)

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Last Modified: 02/27/2014