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Boston Urban Science Academy students in the Summer Bridge program at Quincy College 8-16-2017

Twenty-nine students from Boston’s Urban Science Academy completed a summer course at Quincy College August 10 thanks to a unique partnership between the high school, the college, and JFYNetWorks.

Urban Science Academy is located in the old West Roxbury High building at the end of VFW Parkway, the southernmost delta of the city. Its students come from a broad swath of neighborhoods extending from Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury and Dorchester to Mattapan, West Roxbury and Hyde Park. The daily trip to school via T can be an ordeal.

When Headmaster Jeff Cook wanted a college campus-based summer program, the geography of access looked daunting. He discussed the problem with JFYNetWorks, his longtime college readiness partner. JFY executive director Gary Kaplan suggested a solution: Quincy College. JFY had been working with the college for many years on college readiness in the Quincy schools. He told Jeff about Quincy’s many degree and certificate programs, its friendly atmosphere, and – the clincher—its location at the Quincy Center Red Line station, 7 stops from Downtown Crossing. One meeting with Dean of Inter-Institutional Affairs Mike Marrapodi was all it took to seal the deal.

The high school applied for a “Summer Bridge” grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to enable students who needed to make up credits for graduation to take courses at the college. The courses would be developmental English and math courses, and they would serve two purposes: they would fulfill the requirements for a high school diploma, and, depending on final test scores, they would qualify students for subsequent credit-earning courses at the college. There was a third potential benefit: students who passed the Accuplacer placement pre-test with JFY could enroll directly in a credit-bearing college course during the summer.

It was a bold idea for a high school that had never offered college courses and a college that had never worked directly with Boston schools. But JFYNetWorks, a college readiness partner to both, was confident that it would work.

And it did. DESE awarded the grant and the program started July 10. Twenty-six USA students completed developmental English and math courses and graduated August 10. Three more students completed regular Quincy College courses and earned college credit.

Student reaction was unequivocal. Areissa Hart, who lives in Mattapan, said the program “helped me understand how to use time management, a skill that’s really important to have in college.”

Tyrese Thomas of Roxbury added that he is inspired to work harder in school. “After these five weeks, I can see my future in college and really want to attend college more than I ever have.”

Both attendance and performance have been so strong that the three partners—USA, Quincy College, and JFY—plan to expand into a full early college program in the fall.

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Testing taking anxiety

by Greg Cunningham, JFYNetWorks Blended Learning Specialist

No one likes to be tested.

People have a deep-seated aversion to being challenged about what they know–and what they don’t know.  Perhaps the aversion is rooted in first- grade spelling tests, or timed multiplication quizzes in later grades. Maybe it goes back to hunting practice in the cave. Wherever it originates, the dislike, and even sheer hatred, of being tested is very real.

Many people claim to love a challenge, and some genuinely do.  Marathon runners run to prove to themselves and others that they can survive for 26 miles; others climb mountains, lift weights, and push themselves beyond other limits to be considered exceptional.  There are many varieties of physical challenge, but a mental challenge involving knowledge is not usually fun. It can end in frustration, hurt feelings or low self-esteem.

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Chpice of Present, Choose be present more than showing up

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning SPECIALIST

Go into any classroom in any town and you’ll immediately get a taste of the teacher who presides there. You’ll see some of the latest research in education, famous quotations, pictures of important persons, findings in the teacher’s field of study. You’ll see school mission statements, school protocols, emergency evacuation procedures, teacher expectations and student work.

When you visit many classrooms in many schools, you taste a wide variety of flavors in room décor. It is always refreshing to see how much love, effort, and care goes into the assembly of each classroom. The teacher expectations, quotes and posters establish the culture of the classroom. The student work reveals glimpses into the lives of the students– their priorities, hopes and culture.

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Greater Lowell Tech JFYNet Partner School

Sometimes We Need to Be Reminded…
… that our schools are full of great kids, hard-working and creative teachers, overworked and underappreciated administrators, and effective programs.

Read more about some of these outstanding people, schools and communities in our series: Spotlighting JFYNetWorks Partner Schools… July 2017 edition.

Greater Lowell Tech students medal for metal work at SkillsUSA Nationals

“Three Greater Lowell Technical High School students received bronze medals in metal fabrication late last month at the 53rd annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, which is considered the world’s largest showcase of skilled trades.

SkillsUSA is an organization with a mission to empower its members to become world-class workers and responsible American citizens. And it looks as though GLT’s Joseph DeSalvo, Torrey Smith and Taylor Jeffrey are well on their way. Read more here.

Source: LowellSun.com

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Seeking the balance; planting the seed for success

There will always be joys and tragedies.

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

Another tragic and senseless loss. A Haverhill High student who had just graduated was shot and killed last month when he answered a knock on his door. This student participated in the JFYNet program at Haverhill High last year. I did not know him personally, but having spent many hours and days at Haverhill High I know the principal, many teachers, and dozens of students I have worked with over the past two years. I feel the loss of this young life too.

I’ve thought a lot about why I feel this loss so much. Of course, the senseless taking of a human life is a deeply disturbing violation of every value I’ve ever been taught. This young person had his whole life ahead of him. The news accounts said he had difficulties and challenges in his life but overcame them to graduate from high school. This was a huge accomplishment for him and his family. That diploma contained the promise of a bright future.

Now he will never go to college, or work in a job he loves, or marry, have children, live a life with family and friends. All this was taken from him when he answered that door. In the blink of an eye, the crack of a gunshot, he was gone.

Try as I might, I cannot understand this senseless killing, or the many other assaults and murders we hear about. I cannot understand young people shooting, wounding, maiming and killing other young people. How can there be so much hatred? How can there be so little regard for the value of a human life just like your own? What could have happened between these two young people to cause so much anger and hatred? Two lives are now lost, the victim and the shooter. Both are victims. I don’t have answers. I hope someone does.

This young death was a tragedy. I can’t minimize it, but I can seek consolation in all the good things that have happened in my schools. For example, a student at East Boston High who worried how she was going to pay for college was awarded a full scholarship to a good four-year college. At Revere High, a student who never expected to go to college and didn’t compile a stellar academic record was awarded an athletic scholarship to a four-year college, showing that there are many ways to earn a ticket to the future.

I work with many students who don’t think of themselves as college material but then do well on the Accuplacer college placement tests and realize that they can in fact do college work. Accuplacer scores are an objective standard. It’s hard for a student to deny his or her own ability when the score is right in front of their eyes. I never get tired of seeing the reactions on their faces when they realize their scores meet the standard for college level classes. I feel a sense of joy knowing that I played a small supporting role in these students’ lives. I may never know how well they do in the future or meet the person they become, but I do know that I have planted a seed in them. I like to think that their Accuplacer success shows them they can do whatever they put their minds to.

Life is about balance. There will always be joys and tragedies. When tragedy happens it can be difficult to remember and celebrate the joys. The young man in Haverhill will be mourned and missed by his family, friends, schoolmates and teachers, and he will also be celebrated for the love, joy, and happiness his short life brought them.

May he rest in peace, and may we find a way to bring the senseless violence to a stop.

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Road less traveled...leads to college success

One Student’s Journey

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Today’s high school students are told constantly that they are on a long journey from school to college to career. They are urged to build their skills in order to succeed in a demanding job market. But for many, the transition to college is not mapped clearly enough. They enroll, but then find that their road to graduation is longer and more winding than expected. They discover that college acceptance does not guarantee enrollment in credit-bearing courses that lead to a degree. The road can detour through remedial courses that cost money and take time but do not count toward a degree. This is the story of one student who straightened out her college journey by taking a road less traveled by.

Cynthia entered this country as a high school student. Her father was already living in America, but her mother could not make the journey with her. She spoke English but it wasn’t her first language. “When I first moved to the US, it was a whole new system that I had to adapt to,” she recalled.

She did well at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) and was accepted by Bunker Hill Community College. However, she quickly found out that she would need to take a battery of placement tests before she could enroll in the courses she wanted. If she did not score high enough on those tests, she would have to take remedial courses that would cost full tuition and fees but would not count toward her degree. Her road to college had begun to swerve.

Fortunately for her, CRLS was one of a small group of schools statewide that had a partnership with JFYNetWorks offering a college readiness course, called JFYNet, to prepare students for those placement tests. She jumped at the chance and signed up for the after-school sessions. When JFYNet gave her the placement tests to gauge her skill levels, she was glad she had signed up: her scores were below the passing levels and would have led to multiple remedial courses if she had waited to take the tests at college.

The course was “blended,” meaning that the instruction was online but there was a teacher in the class to help when she got stuck. The online lessons were tailored to her own learning needs, and the pace of instruction was controlled by her own progress. If she went fast, the screen moved fast; if she went slow, it waited for her to catch up. If she needed to repeat a lesson, she could do it as many times as she wanted.

Cynthia’s skills improved steadily. She could see her progress in the mastery quizzes at the end of each lesson. When she took the placement tests again at the end of the course, she had raised her scores enough to place out of all remedial courses. More importantly, she had filled learning gaps and built essential skills that she would need to handle the coursework in college.

Cynthia continued to study with JFYNet through the summer to strengthen her skills further. She knew that college would get more and more difficult the farther she went. “The JFYNet program really helped me understand what college courses would be like and to get ready for them,” she said.

The result of all her hard work has been well-deserved success. Cynthia is studying biology at Bunker Hill and hopes to get her Associate’s degree this year. Then she will transfer to UMass Boston and continue to study biology. Her long-term career goal is “to work at Children’s Hospital and change lives.“

In addition to school, Cynthia has a full-time job at UPS, an internship with the City of Cambridge, and a weekend job at a restaurant. Through her own perseverance and determination, with a little help from JFYNet at CRLS, Cynthia is enjoying success in college and building toward her career goal and success in life. That less-traveled road she took back in high school has made all the difference.

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JUNE SPOTLIGHT JFYNet Partner Schools - Congrats Graduates!

JFYNet Partner Schools Classes of 2017

This month we want to congratulate all of the graduates from our JFYNet Partner Schools. It was an amazing year! We are all so proud of your hard work and dedication.

It was a privilege to help set them on their way!

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Active Reading, Active Thinking Distinctions sharp and shaded

Distinctions sharp and shaded

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning SPECIALIST

I’m sitting in an ELL classroom.  Students are reading articles in our online curriculum and working through the meanings of unfamiliar words.  The teacher in this class has stressed the techniques of active reading: note-taking and annotating a text as you read, asking questions, summarizing and making connections.  The students are practicing these techniques as I observe.

We know that the techniques of active reading are good study skills.  They are recommended as best practices in Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) professional development programs.  But the usefulness of these techniques goes beyond SEI.  Annotating and note-taking are strategies that good readers and successful students of all descriptions use to fully understand what they are reading.

At the end of the class, one student comes up to talk about how excited he is to have figured out a phrase he encountered in his article.  The phrase was “not a sharp distinction between these two ideas.”  He did not know what it meant, and he proudly shows the teacher and me how he worked it out visually. He draws two boxes on a sheet of paper to represent the two ideas.  Then he draws a knife between them.  Then he shades over the knife because it is not supposed to be sharp. With that, he looks up at the teacher and me and explains that he was able to figure out that “not a sharp distinction” was the same as “not a clear difference” between the two ideas.

He was able to work out the meaning because he had taken the time to pause, reflect, ask questions and make connections within the terms of the text.

Active reading is a time-tested strategy that can be used in any classroom.  I am finding that the techniques can also be used with individualized online instruction to help students engage in thoughtful interactions with a text.

Practicing these techniques will enable this young man to expand his mastery of language: tone, mode, denotation and connotation, the shades of word choice.  These skills have relevance beyond the classroom.  The success of a democratic society relies on the thoughtfulness of its citizens and their ability to make sense of difficult texts, written and verbal.  Active reading, active listening and active thinking are the foundations of responsible political decision making.

After the class, I feel assured that this young man will approach his role in our democracy with the thoughtfulness it requires and deserves.  He will interrogate texts with his active inquiry skills.  He will figure out distinctions, sharp and shaded.  I am happy to have played a part in his development as a reader and a citizen.  Experiences like this make all the challenges of education worthwhile.

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JFYNet is my Dream Job

My dream Job! How I got here had many twists and turns.

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning SPECIALIST

From 5th grade on all I wanted was to be a math teacher. And I did that after graduating from college, but it turned out not to be a good experience for me, so I left the classroom and looked for other forms of instructing. I worked as a data technician, a technical illustrator and tech writer, and a marketing assistant. I got closer to teaching in the classroom when I worked in textbook publishing and got to influence how math concepts were taught in the classroom.

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Labor shortage continues. 99% of jobs go to college graduates

Labor Shortage Continues

99% of Jobs Go to College Graduates

by Gary Kaplan, JFYNetWorks Executive Director

“There are no jobs for high school diplomas.”

The May jobs report reiterates a theme we have been hearing with increasing urgency: the shortage of skilled labor. The current 4.3% unemployment rate is a 16-year low. That means there are very few unattached workers available at a time when job openings are near all-time highs. For employers who can’t find qualified workers it means foregoing opportunities for expansion. For the economy at large it means slower growth. But it’s not just a quantitative problem, it’s also qualitative: there aren’t enough workers with the specific skills employers need. The wide range and varied dimensions of the skills shortage are indicated by a survey of Saturday’s newspaper reports.