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Higher Education

A New Higher Education Rep and A New Vision

By Gladys Vega Scott

T he beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year will certainly be one to remember for years to come. The week before most colleges and universities were supposed to start classes two natural disasters hit the eastern seaboard: an earthquake and a tropical storm. Hurricane-turned-tropical storm Irene had devastating effects on students, educators, and administrators alike, which led to delayed openings in several institutions of higher education. Despite the difficulties we faced, ranging from power outages to record-high flooding, we were blessed with minimal loss of life in our state. Personally, however, this academic year will also bring back positive memories as this fall, I begin my term as the higher education representative of our organization.

Serving on the Executive Board of NJTESOL/NJBE is an honor, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to support the efforts of all the members to maintain NJTESOL/NJBE moving forward and growing. I am excited about the prospect of strengthening our participation in the annual Spring Conference through the Higher Education Mini-Conference started this year as well as fostering closer ties between the higher education members and those of the secondary education group. Expanding our lines of communication with secondary education members is particularly important since the state of New Jersey is a member of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

PARCC is a new consortium of 24 states that received a $186 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top competition to create a K-12 assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. Aimed at assisting states increase the number of students who graduate from high school ready for college and careers, the PARCC assessment system is expected to have a significant impact at both high school and college levels. The first set of assessments is slated to be implemented in 2014-2015. (For more information, please go to http://www.parcconline.org/)

As a result, it is vital that ESOL educators from secondary and postsecondary organizations initiate more in-depth conversations on how to collaboratively provide input to the working groups that will be developing the PARCC assessment system. Such collaboration will enhance our understanding of the needs of high school graduates and the challenges that they face as they the transition into college. Furthermore, it will create the conditions for a cohesive partnership that will carry a stronger voice as delegates of ELL students, teachers and administrators communicate with  the state representatives in the PARCC consortium. Let’s start sharing what we have learned from working with our students at both levels of education to find ways to form a productive, effective, long-lasting coalition.

Gladys Vega Scott is the Higher Education SIG Representative. She directs and teaches in the Academic ESL Program at William Paterson University. She may be reached at scottg@wpunj.edu.

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