JFYNetWorks has a mission and a four-decade history of conceiving, developing, and conducting programs to enhance the academic and economic success of low-income urban youth and young adults. Our programs have utilized various education and training strategies over the years as the labor market has evolved, from competency-based GED instruction to biotechnology lab training to online college preparation. Our strategy throughout our history has been to recognize changes in the economy and adjust our programs accordingly.
Five years ago, in response to the rising skill demands signaled by the new national goal of “College and Career Readiness,” JFYNetWorks’ board adopted a new strategic plan concentrating entirely on online education programs with the goal of preparing high school students with the skills necessary for college entry at the credit-earning level. Because of the crucial importance of college-level skills, whether certified by a degree or not, we considered this fundamental goal the single most important contribution JFY could make to our mission of increasing economic and social opportunity. Since we began implementing this Accuplacer-based blended learning program, we have helped students eliminate 2039 remedial courses they would have been required to take, a cumulative 50% reduction, representing $1,099,423 in saved tuition and fees. After four years of development, we consider JFYNet College Readiness the most scalable and sustainable program we have ever mounted or encountered, because it operates by infusing low-cost technology-based interventions into the existing infrastructure of schools and other institutions. By minimizing expenses and producing clearly measurable outcomes with socially significant value, the program offers a scalable and sustainable model that has the potential to produce a significant impact on our most intractable current economic problem: the widening income and opportunity gap.
JFYNetWorks has a proven history of working with high schools to implement supplemental programs. Working in concert with high schools is the most effective way to achieve the necessary scale to make an impact on a large-scale problem like college readiness. We also have deep competency in blended learning. We have been employing blended learning since 1998, and bringing it into schools since 2000.
JFYNetWorks addresses the need for developing college-level skills in high school. An associate’s degree is worth $330,000 more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma; a bachelor’s degree $840,000. However, fewer than half of our high school graduates complete any level of post-secondary degree or certificate. In community colleges, 63% of incoming high school graduates are assigned to remedial courses because they do not have the requisite skills to perform at the college level. Remedial courses cost students full tuition and fees but give no degree credit, causing a drain on students’ limited financial resources and valuable time that could otherwise be spent earning college credit. A staggering 90% of remedial students drop out of community college without a degree.
JFYNetWorks addresses this college readiness problem by providing focused blended learning programs in high school to help students build the academic skills they need to enter college or technical training earning academic credit. We administer the state-mandated Accuplacer college placement exam and enroll students in an online curriculum tailored to their individual needs. By integrating our instruction with regular math and English classes, we maximize classroom time and teacher expertise to focus on the particular skills needed for college success. At the conclusion of instruction, we re-administer the Accuplacer test. We send passing scores directly to colleges, exempting students from corresponding remedial courses. Our use of the Accuplacer, integration into the school curriculum, and direct conversion of program results into remedial exemptions are unique among college-focused services. The JFYNetWorks blended program model — infusing specialized online content into the regular curriculum — also facilitates scalability, as the low cost of the online platform can easily be expanded to entire schools.
Large numbers of young people, 40% according to the U.S. Department of Education, are leaving our high schools without the basic academic skills needed to qualify for college entrance at the credit-earning level—the definition of “College and Career Readiness.” This skill deficit severely limits long-term career prospects.
A college degree is now the minimum credential required for meaningful participation in the workforce. In addition to higher lifetime earnings potential for college graduates, the unemployment rate for workers without a college degree is double that of those with a degree. Yet 63% of Massachusetts high school graduates who enter community colleges must take remedial courses, 6000 students each year. Nine out of ten of these students drop out before completing a degree. Rates of remedial placement correlate directly to income and demographics, so the penalty of being unprepared falls heaviest on those who need college the most— low-income, minority, and underperforming community college entrants whose hopes for a sustainable future depend entirely on their ability to get a two-year degree, the first step up the economic ladder. Remedial courses cost students their financial resources and time, and their futures.
The following elements distinguish JFYNet from other college readiness programs*:
*Source: Board Chair Statement