1996-2009: what has changed?

The N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards were first introduced in public schools in the mid-1990s at a time when just three percent of classrooms had access to the Internet nationwide. Today, over 92 percent of classrooms are connected to the Internet and nearly eight in 10 households with children have home Internet access. Today’s students, born into the Information Age, are surrounded by and have become adept users of electronic media, such as online games, iPods and mobile phones. These increasingly sophisticated virtual experiences will continue to change how we understand the nature of reality, the human experience, and how we learn, as they offer a means of acquiring and communicating knowledge in ways most adults never dreamed of a decade ago.

In addition to these new and emerging technologies, key global trends continue to affect what students need to know and be able to do:

  • The globalization of economies and the rise of Asia are the cornerstone of the early 21st century. The majority of future growth for most U.S. companies, whether small, medium, or large, will be in overseas markets. This means that employers will increasingly require a workforce with international competence, which includes the ability to think critically and creatively and to solve problems collaboratively in cross-cultural teams.
  • Demographics are changing. If there were just 100 people in the world, only five would be American. As such, Americans will increasingly interact and work with individuals from vastly different backgrounds and cultures. This will present a challenge and an opportunity that require new skills and perspectives, including greater sensitivity to cultural differences and the ability to function with usable levels of language proficiency in the community and workplace.
  • The role of citizens has evolved and expanded. American citizens will be called upon to vote and act on issues that require greater understanding of the world outside our borders due to challenging global issues. These include environmental degradation and global warming, pandemic diseases, and energy and water shortages. Hence, the need to develop an active and engaged citizenry is greater than ever.

The 2009 standards: addressing the change

The revised standards respond to the needs of 21st-century digital learners and align with the knowledge and skills needed for post-secondary education opportunities that may include: community college, technical training, four-year college, military service, direct entry into the workplace, and an array of future careers, some of which are currently unforeseen and others just being envisioned. The standards thereby reflect, by necessity, a 21st-century framework for teaching and learning that includes the new literacies required in an information economy. Students will need to access, evaluate and synthesize vast amounts of information, and apply knowledge and skills to personal, workplace or global situations in order to solve problems creatively and enhance knowledge. Such student outcomes move beyond basic competency in core subjects and require a deeper understanding of academic content at much higher levels. This is accomplished through the integration of 21st-century knowledge, skills and themes with a focus on the systematic and transparent infusion of technology, global perspectives and cross-content connections in rigorous coursework in all standards areas.

The information provided in this section highlights revisions in the 2009 standards in each of the content areas and further illustrates how 21st-century knowledge, themes and skills, global perspectives, and cross-content connections are infused throughout the document. Sample learning/assessment tasks are also provided as examples of Standards in Action.

Visual and Performing Arts

The 2009 arts standards play an important role in globalizing the curriculum by providing a rich framework for teaching students why and how the arts are valuable to them as individuals and to an increasingly interconnected world community. As students learn to communicate at a basic level in each of the four arts disciplines (dance, music, theater, and visual art), beginning in the earliest grades, they explore questions such as: Does art define culture or does culture define art? What is old and what is new in any work of art? How important is “new” in art?

In viewing, creating and consuming arts, students develop greater understanding of how artists and cultures throughout history have used art to communicate ideas. They are able to relate the influence of past and present world cultures on the American arts while also gaining knowledge about elements of art forms that originated in other countries and cultures. Further, new technologies enable teachers and students to access an array of art forms from every corner of the world and to build connections with artists, craftsmen and cultural institutions that provide artifacts and live performances to enrich learning experiences.

Standards in Action

In celebration of art history month, secondary students create a visual art work that will be included in a virtual art gallery. The artwork takes a position on a recent ongoing ethnically-driven conflict (e.g., the genocide in Darfur in western Sudan, or the Bosnian war in Bosnia and Herzegovina). The show will be shared and discussed with a peer group of students in another country via electronic media. Stylistically, the artworks draw inspiration from the use of symbolism and allegory in Picasso’s Guernica; Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman’s Holocaust Series; Hale Woodruff’s The Mutiny Aboard the Amistad, The Amistad Slaves on Trial at New Haven, or The Return to Africa; or Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series. Students share aesthetic evaluations (peer-to-peer aesthetic critiques) of their work that lead to expansion or modification of gallery artifacts, and speculate on the potential role of artists and art in discussions about ethnic violence and conflict resolution.

Comprehensive Health and Physical Education

Health literacyhas been identified as a dominant theme in the 21st century and is an important part of the state’s goal to prepare students to function optimally as global citizens and workers committed to lifelong wellness. While responsibility for personal choices and behaviors remains critical to achieving wellness, technological advances require students to develop a new skill set that includes expanding global perspectives. Students learn to recognize the influence of media, technology and culture as consumers of health products and services, make informed health-related decisions, communicate effectively across cultures, and accept and respect individual and cultural differences. In a 21st-century world, students can become informed advocates for personal, family, community and global wellness by being knowledgeable about national and international public health and safety issues.

Standards in Action

High school students advocate for the worldwide need for increased organ/tissue donation through the creation of a video clip for YouTube that includes reliable sources of information, personal views and cross-cultural perspectives obtained in interviews with students from other countries. They continue advocacy efforts on Facebook and other Web 2.0 social networking platforms.


What are the core scientific concepts and principles students need to understand in the 21st century and what must they be able to do to demonstrate understanding of the concepts and principles? These questions informed the development of learning progressions that increase in depth of understanding through the grades and support the premise that science is experienced as an active process where inquiry is central to learning. When engaging in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge, and communicate their ideas to others in their community and around the world. Scientifically literate students will be able to engage intelligently in public discourse and debate matters of scientific and technological concern with the world community, as well as apply scientific knowledge and skills to solve local and global problems and issues and to create innovative products that affect the economy.

Standards in Action

Middle school students develop site-specific conservation plans for biodiversity hotspots worldwide for posting on the Conservation International (CI) website, www.conservation.org . They work collaboratively in groups with peers in their class and from other countries to complete the task. Each group selects one of CI’s identified hotspots, researches the key species present, becomes familiar with the landscape and culture of local people, and identifies the stakeholders that might be involved as well as the region’s threats to conservation. They then develop a plan to conserve the biodiversity of the region that directly addresses the identified threats and includes mathematical projections on how the strategies used will affect the population numbers of the key species of the region. By studying how the extinction of a species affects an ecosystem, students can extrapolate from their understandings to predict how the loss of the species might affect the entire global system.

Social Studies

The challenges of the 21st century are complex, have global implications, and are connected to people, places, and events of the past. The revised standards therefore reflect the content knowledge and social studies skills needed to think analytically about how past and present interactions of people, cultures, and the environment have shaped and continue to shape the American heritage and affect issues across time and world cultures. They also focus on the skills needed to be active, informed citizens who value diversity and promote cultural understanding by working collaboratively to address the challenges of an interconnected world. The natural integration of technology in social studies education allows students to overcome geographic borders, apply scientific and mathematical analysis to historical questions and contemporary issues, appreciate cultural diversity, and experience events through the examination of primary sources.

Standards in Action

Middle school students create a video about migration and diversity in order to encourage tolerance and appreciation for different cultures in celebration of International Migrants Day. Students gather personal stories by communicating with immigrants online and through Skype. In addition, they research the historical impact of migration in different regions of the world to gain understanding of why people migrated and the challenges they encountered. Students submit their video to the PLURAL+ film festival sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other international partners.

Hi gh school students submit an alternative land use plan to state legislators in their district regarding a local issue of eminent domain for consideration and feedback. Their plan is based on data collected from research as well as interviews of stakeholders and experts from the U.S. and other countries and a survey conducted to gain multiple perspectives.

World Languages

The need to prepare greater numbers of students with usable levels of language proficiency by the time they graduate from high school for use in New Jersey’s diverse communities and businesses and for emerging careers in the global workplace is unprecedented in state history. Multinational companies with operations in New Jersey and overseas corporations are seeking employees capable of dealing with colleagues, competitors, and co-workers from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. There is a similar demand from state government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and service-oriented businesses and manufacturers with diverse workforces who need managers and professionals to provide services to first-generation immigrants whose English ability may be limited. Consequently, the establishment and/or maintenance of quality, world languages programs beginning at the elementary and middle-school levels, as required by New Jersey Administrative Code, is critical forbuilding the capacity of students to achieve the usable levels of language proficiency needed in today’s global community and workplace by the time they graduate from high school.

There is only one world languages standard, but it is a powerful standard that asks students to engage in conversation, present information to a known audience, and interpret authentic materials in an appropriate cultural context with increasing competency. World languages content is both linguistic and cultural and includes concepts and ideas from other content areas as well as topics of personal and social interest. Twenty-first century technologies provide a means for students to interact with people from other cultures and to experience authentic cultural products and practices. Consider the following digital tools in the context of world languages instruction that assist in building communicative competence: applications and software that may include video conferencing, texting, and IMing; electronic information sources--audio, video, and text available through a virtual format that may include podcasts, video, audio clips, and websites; virtual sharing through electronic information sources such as a social community/educational sites, electronic posters, or web pages. These tools, once considered optional, are now indispensible when engaging digital learners in the world languages classroom.

Standards in Action

As part of a class service project, novice level students develop a Public Service Announcement for the local Hispanic community related to information on the H1N1 virus. Intermediate level students volunteer to answer phone inquiries related to the possible pandemic in their town’s Office of Public Health.

Intermediate students collaborate with a sister school in the target language country to find out which family in each classroom has most decreased its carbon footprint. They share the “greenest” habits through a digital platform.


The reorganization of standards 8.1 and 8.2 addresses emerging technologies and technological applications that are needed for life and work in the global age. Standard 8.1, Educational Technology, is aligned to the most recent International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards and the Partnership for the 21st Century Skills framework. Standard 8.2, formerly Technology Education, is renamed Technology Education, Engineering, and Design and is aligned with the goals of (ISTE), the International Technology Education Association (ITEA), as well as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework.

Technology offers versatile learning tools that can support the acquisition of knowledge and skills beginning in preschool. Electronic storybooks can “read” stories to children in multiple languages; adventure games foster problem-solving skills; story-making programs encourage literacy and creativity; and math-related games can help children count and classify. In the elementary grades, students are formally introduced to the features and functions of computers and demonstrate understanding that technology enables them to communicate beyond the classroom on a variety of topics. They are also exposed to elements of the design process, systems, and a variety of technology resources. In the middle grades, students expand their capacity to use operations and applications, apply information-literacy skills, and select the appropriate tools and resources to accomplish a variety of tasks, as they develop digital citizenship. They build understanding of the perspectives of learners from other countries by participating in online learning communities and collaborating on the design of products that address local and global issues across the curriculum, Students at this level can also apply the design process in the development of prototypes and products. In high school, students demonstrate advanced computer operation and application skills by publishing products related to real-world situations (e.g., digital portfolios, digital learning games and simulations), and they understand the impact of unethical use of digital tools. They collaborate adeptly in virtual environments and incorporate global perspectives into problem solving at home, at school, and in structured learning experiences.

Standards in Action

Elementary students create electronic posters for a campaign conducted by a local animal shelter to convince people to consider adopting a pet. They investigate if animal shelters are common in other countries, and speculate why they may not be.

Middle school students create a podcast for posting on an environmental organization’s Web site on the short- and long-term impact of recycled e-waste on people and the environment after learning that China is now the destination for 70 percent of the world’s discarded computers. They post to a blog for comments to obtain multiple perspectives on this issue and include research on how other countries recycle e-waste to determine if a collaborative global solution is possible.

High school students determine the relationship between building design and the damage sustained in earthquakes in a region of the world that has seen increased earthquake activity to inform a school cable TV station special report. They determine the validity of their findings by consulting with geologists and engineers from the region.

21st-Century Life and Careers

The mission statement for Standard 9 focuses on providing New Jersey's students with the life and career skills needed for success in a global context: 21st-century life and career skills enable students to make informed decisions that prepare them to engage as active citizens in a dynamic global society and to successfully meet the challenges and opportunities of the global workplace. Formerly named Career, Consumer, Family and Life Skills, Standard 9 now includes four standards: 21st Century Life and Career Skills; Personal Financial Literacy; Career Awareness, Exploration, and Preparation; and Career and Technical Education (CTE) . The inclusion of Personal Financial Literacy as a standard, rather than as a strand, responds to the need for 21st-century citizens who are financially literate and who face increasing financial choices due to the global economy. Financial literacy includes the application of knowledge, skills, and ethical values in consumer and financial decisions impacting self and family and the local and global community. The adoption of the CTE standard reflects the call to action in recent national reports urging states to adopt policies and practices that effectively integrate academic content standards in CTE programs in order to both elevate the role of CTE and to align CTE with postsecondary education and training. These life and career skills are an organizing principle of K-12 public education as the state has both an obligation and a vested economic interest to prepare citizens who are productive members of a world class workforce that rewards innovation, creativity and adaptation to change mediated by new technologies.

Standards in Action

Using the business model for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, students register a lemonade stand with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer (www.alexslemonade.org/stands/hold-own-stand). They select the ingredients, factor the production cost costs, set sales targets and develop a marketing plan. They determine how much to charge per cup based on an analysis of expenses and other variables (such as weather). After analyzing their business structure and profit/loss balance: they stage their own event with proceeds to be donated to the Alex’s Foundation. Students also develop a secondary marketing plan on how decisions, target market and the marketing mix would be affected if the project was to be expanded to include another country/culture. This includes ethical obligations that the company would have to meet if cheaper imported products become available.

Standards website and teacher resources

The N.J. Core Curriculum Content Standards interactive website will enable educators to easily access the 2009 standards and standards support materials to assist with all aspects of standards implementation--curriculum development, curriculum mapping, instruction, assessment and professional development. The website search engine allows users to access the standards and cumulative progress indicators by multiple means (e.g., grade level, content area, strand, key word search, essential questions and enduring understandings). Users will be able to view, print or download the standards and a host of accompanying resources on demand. Resources include Classroom Application Documents for all standards areas and related strands that offer instructional guidance for teachers, sample state and formative assessment tasks and multiple resources that may be linked to outside sources, such as primary source documents.

The second phase of website development will allow teachers to post lessons, activities and resources through a juried process. It will also offer the use of Web 2.0 tools to support continued professional dialog and growth. The website will be unveiled on Nov. 5 at the NJEA Convention.

21st-century professional learning, student learning and student achievement

In the information age, effective 21st-century professional learning and student learning share common characteristics. Teachers and students are co-learners as they seek, share, adapt and invent new knowledge thereby creating a dramatic shift of who controls the learning process. The learning process for teachers and students is collaborative, student-centered, success oriented and interactive, focusing on content, skills, learning strategies and habits of mind necessary for student success. As such, the need for professional learning that mirrors desired student learning experiences is greater than ever in implementing the revised standards.

Collaborative professional learning within the school community provides a framework to facilitate the ongoing, sustained learning and growth needed to enhance teacher practice. It includes all stakeholders (e.g., principals, superintendents), empowers teachers as learners and learning leaders, and most importantly, models student behaviors that lead to high levels of achievement. Here’s what this learning might look like:

  • Teams of teachers creating common lessons that ensure students are able to transfer learning to relevant, real world tasks in collaboration with peers in their classroom or in other countries. Teams of teachers bringing research-based strategies and best practices to the table – applying the strategies to classroom instruction, and refining their practices based on student learning needs and focused feedback provided by peers.
  • Teams of teachers creating common formative and summative assessments aligned to the standards that provide valid and reliable data about student learning.
  • Teams of teachers analyzing student work and using protocols to guide the conversation.

In recognition of the significance of professional learning, the department has launched a statewide initiative in collaboration with the Center for Innovative Education at Kean University and other professional partners with the goal of engaging all education stakeholders through a systemic and systematic learning model. The initiative is twofold, with both components being mutually dependent--the first supports the creation of professional learning communities in schools, and the second provides a rich context for the conversations taking place about teaching and learning.

“Creating 21st Century New Jersey Schools: The Statewide Systemic Model for Continuous Professional Learning and Growth” offers a blended model of professional learning that includes onsite and online learning and Web 2.0 tools to support both face-to-face and virtual collaborative learning. The focus is on new learning--the tools needed to implement the revised standards, specifically, the integration of 21st-century themes and skills, global perspectives, technology and cross-content connections in all standards areas. Core learning sessions are offered at no cost to educators along with fee-based sessions throughout the three-year plan.

Phase 1, Awareness and Familiarization, focuses on engaging students as digital learners in 21st-century learning environments. Phase 2, Critical Transformations, is centered on understanding and using revised standards and online standards support materials and on using multiple, flexible approaches for teaching and learning that are relevant to students’ lives. Phase 3, Sustaining the Change, provides opportunities for deeper learning in all core areas and the creation of models of success that support 21st-century learning environments. Additional information and resources, which include free online web literacy courses, may be found at http://cie.kean.edu/CIE/21st_century_nj_schools.html. A schedule of Phase 1 fall sessions may also be found on Page 10 of the September NJEA Review or on njea.org.

Janis Jensen is currently serving as director of the Office of Academic Standards at the N.J Department of Education, where she is responsible for all aspects of the implementation of state standards and related initiatives in the core curriculum content standards areas. Jensen previously served as coordinator of world languages and international education and taught at the K-12 through post secondary levels.

Jensen has held various leadership positions at the state, regional and national levels. Currently, she serves as president of the N.J. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (NJASCD) and immediate past president of the National Network for Early Language Learning. She is also a past president of the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages. Jensen is a member of the executive boards of NJASCD and the National Coalition on Asia and International Studies in the Schools.

You can reach her at Janis.jensen@doe.state.nj.us