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Strategies for MCAS Next Gen ELA
MCAS Next Gen 2.0 ELA – Expect greater emphasis on text comparison.

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

The biggest change in the MCAS Next Gen 2.0 ELA test, coming to 10th grade next month, is a greater emphasis on text comparison. Although people read every day, much of the reading students do on the phone or computer is recreational. Nobody is going to quiz you on detailed comprehension after you read something on social media. There is ongoing debate over whether students comprehend better on paper or screen. But it’s academic to us, because Next Gen MCAS is coming on a screen.

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MCAS Prep

Meet the new MCAS with confidence and success

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I started teaching in 1998. My first year I filled in for a teacher in a Boston exurb. The school was my alma mater, so English department staff took me under their wings to help me do the best one could hope for a first-year teacher. They gave me lesson plans, coached me on practice and helped me develop some good curriculum. By all measures, I had a great year in my first year of teaching.

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New twists and how not to get tangled up

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

There has been a lot of discussion about the new MCAS 2.0 test. Parents and teachers are wondering how they can help students build the skills they need to succeed. The biggest difference is that the test will no longer be on paper. It’s online. Although students use technology every day, that doesn’t mean they will automatically know how to navigate the test. The first step in preparation is to make sure that students understand how to navigate through the test and answer all questions.

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Improving Performance on MCAS Math

On MCAS, every point counts.

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Although ELA has barely ended, MCAS math will be here before you know it on May 23 and 24 for high schools.

It seems obvious that the math formula page is there to help students, but few students really use it. Many questions, including open response items, are easy to solve if they just check their formulas. For example, the 2017 10th grade test had six questions that relied heavily on geometric formulas. There is almost always an open response question derived straight from the formula page. One of the best ways to show students the value of the formula page is to do one of these open response questions in class. And don’t forget the handy tool on the DESE website mentioned in my previous blog— the student work/scoring guides section. You’ll find it very useful for practicing open response.

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Last- minute quick tips for the MCAS ELA open response

Simple techniques to improve performance

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist
Many students lose points on the ELA open response questions. We know that some students don’t like to write. But even so, we can improve their performance with some simple techniques.

The 2017 average on ELA multiple choice questions was 80%. Yet the average on open response questions was only 68%. The discrepancy is not due to test position: students did best on the first and last questions of the four open response questions (Reading Comprehension section). So how can we help students score at least a 2 or 3 on open responses?

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by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

The new MCAS 2.0 tests for 10th grade will not be in place until the spring of 2019, but preview tests will be administered this spring. All Massachusetts high schools will be randomly assigned either ELA or math and they are expected to have at least 25% of their students participate. The preview testing window for 10th grade will be between the regular English and math MCAS tests, from April 23 through May 11.

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Madison Park MCAS Gain Leads State

The largest Proficient/Advanced gain in the state

by Gary Kaplan, JFYNetWorks Executive Director

MCAS scores for 2017 were released last month. JFY’s partner schools logged many good results, but Madison Park Technical Vocational High School was far and away the year’s high point.

Madison Park has come in for heavy criticism for many years. Every news story about school problems cites it as one of the lowest performing schools in the state. There is justification for concern: scores have historically been low and the school was demoted to Level 4 in 2015. In our skill-hungry labor market, it makes sense to be concerned: how can we support a burgeoning tech-based economy if Boston’s only vocational school can’t produce skilled workers?

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    JFYNetWorks Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) Preparation

    MCAS is the statewide testing structure adopted in 1998. High school testing occurs only in the 10th grade. There are three MCAS tests: English Language Arts, math, and science/technology/engineering. JFYNet focuses on ELA. A new testing system, PARCC, is expected to replace MCAS at some point. PARCC is being piloted in the lower grades and in selected high schools. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has announced that MCAS will continue to be the high school graduation standard for the next several years.

    The JFYNetWorks MCAS Preparation program is designed to help 9th and 10th grade students reach Common Core-aligned standards with the goal of on-time grade progression and ultimately successful graduation from high school and success in college.

    We measure our success by improved MCAS scores, teacher and administrator satisfaction surveys, and testimonies and stories from students and teachers about the impact of the program on their lives.

    Learn more about JFYNet’s methodology.


    JFYNetWorks offers a complete MCAS 2.0 prep curriculum including practice tests and test-taking strategies for math and ELA. We’ve been providing blended MCAS prep programs to schools since 2000. Our focus is on standards-based instruction. We raise test scores by building students’ skills.

    Our blended learning academic support programs have a long history of documented student gains. We’d be glad to discuss them with you on the phone or come and present a demo. Please shoot us an email or give us a call.

    JFY Accuplacer prep College Readiness
    JFY Accuplacer prep College Readiness

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    MCAS 2.0: Standards-based assessments support data-driven, student-centered instruction

    How standards-based assessments support data-driven, student-centered instruction

    by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

    The JFYNet program creates opportunity by using technology in the form of student-centered blended learning to help young people develop the skills to thrive in school and ultimately in the world of work. This is accomplished by working in schools to help students improve their reading, writing and math skills. There are a few ways to measure the skill development of each student: MCAS scores, quizzes embedded in the software programs, scores on SAT and Accuplacer, and finally placements directly into college-level classes without remediation.

    MCAS, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, is the state benchmark assessment that measures skills and governs the issuance of high school diplomas. By the end of 12th grade, all students must achieve a passing score in math, reading and a science subject. The JFYNet program provides preparation for the math and English tests. By using online math and reading comprehension programs, we help students develop their skills to the levels needed to reach the state performance standards. JFYNet creates MCAS-aligned assignments and tasks that enable students to practice the skills and master the content needed for the MCAS.

    The MCAS is derived directly from the state curriculum standards that were developed in the 1990s and are constantly updated by hundreds of teachers. Each question on the MCAS refers to a specific curriculum standard. There is a longstanding critique of “teaching to the test.” This critique misses the point that the test is a subset of the state standards. With 70,000 tenth graders, it would be impossible to gauge each student’s skills without some form of assessment. “Standardized” testing actually means testing on the standards. The test tells the teacher where the student needs help. If we want to base instruction on data, we need to collect data. MCAS and other “standardized” tests give us data that enable us to adjust instruction to the actual needs of the student. This is data-driven student-centered instruction.

    The JFYNet methodology produces measurable results. One of the schools I support, East Boston High, has an intensive MCAS program for 9th and 10th graders. These students use the JFYNet reading comprehension program 80 minutes a week, two 40- minute periods, to work on reading and writing skills. They read nonfiction articles that are relevant to what is happening in our world today and articles that correlate to skills being taught in the classroom. They answer questions and write responses based on the readings. Thanks to the dedicated teachers who used this program with their students, the school’s Proficient and Advanced MCAS percentages in ELA rose 8 points from 2017 to 2018. This is a significant one-year increase.

    9th and 10th grade math classes at East Boston High also use a JFYNet math program two 40-minute periods a week to strengthen math skills. The curriculum is tightly aligned to the curriculum standards on which MCAS is based. The 10th grade students who used this program last year achieved a 9-point increase in Proficient and Advanced percentages, beating the ELA gain.

    JFYNet is now preparing the students at East Boston High to take the new NextGen MCAS 2.0 test in spring 2019. 9th and 10th graders in the ELA classes are well on their way to covering the material they will need for the new test in March. These classes have increased their average score on the embedded reading comprehension assignments to 72%, a big improvement over the 65% that was measured on the same internal assessment system a few years ago.

    9th and 10th grade math classes are working on assignments based on the Massachusetts Math Frameworks. Students practice one or two standards per week. This preparation will help them on the MCAS 2.0 math test in May.

    East Boston High is not the only school that employs the JFYNet program to prepare their students for MCAS by making sure they demonstrate proficiency on the curriculum standards that underly the test. More than 40 schools, mostly high schools but some middle schools too, have used JFYNet since 2000. More than 70,000 students have augmented their skills and improved their chances of entering college at the credit-earning level, or finding employment. The new MCAS 2.0 creates a new set of challenges for schools and students. JFYNet is ready and willing to help them, as we have been since the advent of statewide standards and assessment.


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    Tragedy and Triumph, The Highs and Lows of Working in Schools

    The Highs and Lows of Working in Schools

    by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

    The schools I work in have been back in session since the beginning of September. I was excited to get back to see teachers I have worked with for years, to meet teachers who are new to the JFYNet program, and to see all the students, new and returning. I have also gone to new schools, giving presentations on the JFYNet blended learning program. I enjoy doing these demonstrations since it gives me a chance to meet other teachers and principals and to show them a program that I know helps raise students’ skills and scores on MCAS and college placement testing.