NJ EXCEL Program Features
Ongoing Support and Collaboration: E-Mentoring and Inquiry Groups
NJ EXCEL’s Cohort and Inquiry Group design develops collegiality, collaboration, and peer support as candidates engage in a range of program activities. All candidates are divided into regional Inquiry Groups, which meet regularly and continually communicate on-line to discuss readings, problem-based activities and day-to-day challenges, and to support each other with peer reviews and feedback related to action research, job embedded, and school-based projects. Each Inquiry Group is assigned an E-Mentor who facilitates the group’s activities and serves as its primary advisor. Cohort Advisors, Seminar Instructors, Internship Mentors, and Field Supervisors provide additional support related to program requirements and individual candidate needs through NJ EXCEL’s On-Line Learning Community, which enables candidates and faculty to easily interact with each other as a collaborative learning community.
Standards-Driven, Problem-Based, Inquiry-Focused Curriculum
NJ EXCEL’s program design, curriculum, and assessments are aligned with New Jersey Standards for School Leaders and national standards developed by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). These standards form the basis for the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions for effective school leaders and the expected levels of NJ EXCEL candidate performance in four interrelated areas of school leadership:
- Visionary Leadership
- Community Leadership
- Instructional Leadership
- Strategic Management
NJ EXCEL’s Problem-Based Curriculum Modules are designed to address each of the four leadership areas and develop the leadership, pedagogical and technological knowledge and skills that candidates will apply during structured job-embedded and Internship experiences. NJ EXCEL’s curriculum is also inquiry-focused and requires job-embedded and Internship projects that emphasize the action research process, data-driven decision-making, and technology-driven research applications.
NJ EXCEL’s technology-infused curriculum is aligned with the national Technology Standards for School Administrators (TSSA) and requires a minimum of 15 hours of technology training for all candidates. The training is designed to enhance candidates’ technological knowledge, skills, and understanding related to effective use of current technologies to improve personal and staff productivity, and to enhance teaching & student learning. Candidates develop individualized technology training plans based on an assessment of their technology skills. Special technology skills sessions are supplemented by tutoring and guided practice sessions that are held on a regular basis to support candidates in using technology to prepare required PowerPoint action research presentations and an electronic Leadership Portfolio (e-folio).
Graduate Credit Option
The NJ-EXCEL Program is recommended for graduate credit. This recommendation is publicized to educational institutions throughout the country in The National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs. If necessary, transcripts are available from Thomas Edison State College. Credit awards are as follow:
- NJ EXCEL Model #1……34 Credits
- NJ EXCEL Model #2……38 Credits
- NJ EXCEL Model #3……47 Credits
- NJ EXCEL Model #4……15 Credits
Field-Based Clinical Experiences
NJ EXCEL emphasizes field-based clinical experiences that provide a range of opportunities to examine authentic problems within multiple school settings to broaden candidates’ experience and knowledge base. Field-based clinical experiences are designed to build upon candidates’ prior experience and involve them in authentic tasks and problems encountered by district and school leaders, and to experience interactions with staff, students, parents, and community leaders from the district/school leader’s perspective. Candidates’ job-embedded and Internship experiences are collaboratively planned with E-Mentors and Internship Mentors based on candidates’ individualized Professional Growth Plans to ensure appropriate opportunities to build upon and apply candidates’ knowledge, skills, and research in authentic settings.
Supervised Job-Embedded Experiences
Candidates participate in structured job-embedded experiences within the candidates’ school/district and complete job-embedded projects and activities that provide opportunities to demonstrate their ability to lead, facilitate, and make decisions that effectively guide change, continuous improvement, and increased student achievement through application of research-based practices. Each candidate has at least one on-site visit by an NJ EXCEL Field Supervisor who observes him/her in the performance of specific job-embedded activities and provides feedback and additional support through one-on-one conferences.
Internships and Mentoring
A supervised Internship in a district or school other than that in which the candidate is currently employed is expected of all candidates. In cases where an external Internship is not possible, reasonable accommodations are made. Release time and/or equivalent time accommodation for the candidate to participate in the Internship is required as a commitment from the candidate’s district. The Internship is conducted under the guidance of exemplary school/district leaders who are required to attend an NJ EXCEL Internship Orientation. Participating districts/schools and mentors are selected by candidates from approved NJ EXCEL lists in consultation with their Cohort Advisors. Whenever possible, several candidates are assigned to the same district/school with a Mentor who regularly meets and communicates with them individually and as a group.
Performance-Based Multi-Level Assessment System
NJ EXCEL’s performance-based assessment system is designed to focus candidates on their continual professional growth from the beginning of the program. On-line self-assessments aligned with New Jersey Standards for School Leaders assist candidates in developing individualized Leadership Profiles and Professional Growth Plans that will guide them through all program activities. Multiple standards-based assessment methods are used to continually assess candidates’ knowledge, skills, dispositions, and performance, and to provide feedback for continuous professional growth. All candidates are required to develop an electronic Leadership Portfolio (e-folio), which is regularly reviewed by the candidates with their E-Mentors. A culminating External Portfolio Review is conducted at the end of the program by a panel of exemplary school leaders. The program’s problem-based curriculum and performance-based assessment also prepare candidates for the School Leader Licensure Assessment (SLLA), the state-required test for principal certification.
Oustanding Faculty and Mentors
NJ EXCEL’s Instructors, Mentors, and Field Supervisors are accomplished professionals with exemplary credentials as practitioners in a range of school and district leadership positions, as well as accomplished reputations as researchers and university professors in the field of educational leadership. Internship Mentors are selected using standards to identify exemplary district and school leaders based on their professional accomplishments and evidence of their leadership effectiveness.