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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Cathie Maglio

JFYNet Learning Specialists reflect on their experiences during the Covid 19 shutdown

JFYNet Learning Specialists reflect on their experiences during the Covid 19 shutdown

Greg Cunningham

The first half of this academic year has been fraught with challenges for both teachers and students. They had to adjust to remote learning, then shift to hybrid learning, only to revert to full remote as the Coronavirus numbers surged in many communities. Math teachers at Madison Park High School are adding lessons and conducting live instruction online using JFYNet software to supplement their lessons. Students in the Bridgewater State University dual enrollment course in Public Speaking at Durfee High School in Fall River have been successfully attending synchronous instruction online with BSU professors. The students have thrived using the online format, even speaking and presenting via their computer cameras. A high point in remote learning has certainly been achieved by Kingsman Academy Public Charter School in Washington, DC, whose students have logged hundreds of hours of academic work using JFYNet software as their primary learning platform. All these students will be well prepared when schools are allowed to welcome them back into the traditional platform, the classroom, to continue their academic careers. Expectations are that their laptops will come with them and teachers will combine the online methods and materials they have mastered with traditional in-person teaching—the best of both worlds.

Cathie Maglio

In the six years I have been working at JFYNetWorks, this is the first time I have not set foot in a school during the first week of classes! Even though I am not physically in the school, my work with teachers continues. I am setting up classes in our math and ELA software. I am training new teachers on the software via Zoom. I am running performance reports to keep teachers informed on how their students are doing. I have even attended classes via Zoom. I am interacting constantly with my teachers via email and Zoom. The content of my work has not really changed. What has changed is the connection I feel with teachers and students. I am looking forward to the day when I can walk into East Boston High again and hand out Christmas cookies to the door monitor, the ladies in the office, the headmaster, the assistant headmaster, the librarian, and the students and teachers. A school is a social organism. You can’t smell the cookies over Zoom.

Eileen Wedegartner

The proverbial luck of the Irish was not with the Commonwealth, or the nation for that matter, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the day the schools shut down. Through the rest of that remote spring, a feeling of helplessness took hold both personally and professionally as I navigated a complete shift in how I work with and reach students. But as summer came and went, I had time to think about ways to use our programs and instructional model to engage with students in the new online environment. Having taken time to learn about promising practices for remote education while also having access to a large network of innovative teachers, I felt significantly more hopeful about the potential for remote learning. There have been spells of frustration, failure and exhaustion, but I have been deeply impressed by schools’ tenacity and teachers’ dedication to serving students. Most of all, I have been heartened by children’s resilience as they adapt to the changing demands of this challenging time.

The dual enrollment program with Bridgewater State and Durfee High was the biggest shift for me, having no direct contact at all with students. However, the remote format allowed me to coach students individually in shorter but more frequent sessions and sharpen their specific skills where needed. On top of this, meeting one to one with teachers via Zoom to do training and answer questions has allowed us to go more in-depth because we meet without the constraints of travel time and the rigid school schedule with its attention-shattering bells. These are practices that can continue and become part of how we give support, making it more accessible. I am optimistic that our adjustments and spontaneous innovations during this unique period will prepare us for future events and help us better engage students through the techniques we have developed. We are all eager to return to normal and see students and colleagues face to face. Yet the enforced remoteness has pushed us to develop new ways to reach and engage students who struggle in the traditional learning environment. We will certainly bring those tools and strategies back into the classroom, making it more equitable for all.

Joan Reissman

When the world shut down last March, I doubt anyone imagined how quickly technology would become an integral part of instruction. Teachers needed online curriculum right away, with no lead time. Teachers who were working with JFYNet already had online curriculum. And they had training and support. Our students were better prepared to make the shift because they had been spending part of their school day online with our program before the shutdown. I see articles in the media every day about the failures of remote learning, but I know that remote learning can work. I see it in our schools. I am happy that I can play a part in helping teachers and students continue learning despite the disruption of the learning environment. I support them by developing resource guides, writing webinars and designing curriculum. I have been most involved with Kingsman Academy and I marvel at the dedication and hard work of the students and teachers. One student at Kingsman has completed more than 80 math tasks in just a few weeks—an incredible achievement. Like all my colleagues, I look forward to returning to normal, but I am gratified to play a role in supporting teachers and students during this critical time.

AIMing for Success: How JFYNet Supports Teachers and Students [AIMS Methodology]

by Cathie Maglio, JFYNet Learning Specialist

Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support

The JFYNet program is based on a methodology we call AIMS: Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support. These are the necessary components of any instructional program, online or otherwise. Assessment tells us the skill level of the student and shows where help is needed. Instruction is organized according to the assessment. Ongoing measurement, or formative assessment, keeps track of the student’s progress through the year. Support consists of ongoing consultation and coaching for teachers.

Here is an example of the AIMS methodology in action.

Assess: The data below were generated by an assessment we created in our math software to determine the grade-level proficiency of incoming 9th graders in one of our schools. It was given to 178 incoming 9th graders. The assessment covered 20 state curriculum standards, two from 7th grade, eight from 8th grade and ten from 9th grade.

AIMS Figure 1.0 [AIMS Methodology]

This assessment will be used as both a pre-test in the fall and a post-test in the spring to capture growth. We included 7th and 8th grade standards because 9th graders should be proficient at those grade levels. If there are gaps, they need to be addressed so that students have the tools for 9th grade material. We did not expect complete proficiency on 9th grade standards, which are new to these students, but the results are valuable guideposts for teachers in focusing curriculum.

Instruct: After the assessment is given and the data analyzed, we work with teachers to create and implement an Instructional Plan. JFYNet creates assignments for the students based on the assessed standards. These assignments are organized to help students strengthen the skills they need to reach grade level.

Measure: After the assessment was completed, we analyzed the results of the first ten questions– the 7th and 8th grade standards. We generated a report using the color code we use in all our math program reports: green indicates the answer was correct on the first try; yellow means the correct answer was achieved on multiple tries; red shows that the correct answer was not given; blue means the student skipped the question. This report shows the percent of tested students in each category. (We also tabulate the number of students in each category.) Our proficiency goal for this group on material they should have mastered in earlier grades was 75% answering correctly on the first try. Here are the results.

7th grade standards

As expected, students were proficient in the two 7th grade standards. Only 7% answered incorrectly or skipped.

AIMS Figure 2.0 [AIMS Methodology]

8th grade standards

Students did not demonstrate proficiency in these standards. No standard showed 75% correct first tries: only three of the eight standards logged 50% or higher. Four standards had less than 25% correct first tries, though two of those standards had high percentages on multiple tries. These are 8th grade standards on which 9th graders should be firm.

AIMS Figure 3.0 [AIMS Methodology]

Based on these results, we advised teachers that the incoming 9th graders were not firmly proficient on 8th grade standards, and that these skills would need to be retaught to establish a firm foundation for 9th grade work.

This is where the Instruction part of the AIMS methodology comes in. We created an Instruction Plan in our math software covering all eight 8th grade standards to bring this class of 9th graders up to grade level. Teachers can use the Plan with a whole class or assign some or all of it to individual students based on their performance on the assessment. (Teachers have each student’s individual report.)

Support: JFYNet Learning Specialists, such as myself, will be available to support teachers in implementing the Plan via email or phone, in online office hours, in formal online training sessions, or in individual trouble-shooting consults on request. We provide professional development and coaching throughout the year.

This is just one example of JFYNet’s AIMS methodology in action. JFYNet can create assessments based on standards from grades 6 – 12, and then analyze the results and develop data-driven instructional plans.

Before I sign off on this post, I want to acknowledge that there has been controversy over the use and usefulness of educational standards and standardized tests ever since Napoleon rolled out the baccalaureate in 1808. Data-driven though we are at JFYNet, we do not consider standardized tests the goal of education. They are a measuring instrument that provides teachers and students (and districts and states) with information. Teachers need a way to assess each student’s level of content mastery in order to assign appropriate instruction. The AIMS methodology provides that information and supports it with instructional guideposts for teachers and students to help keep the long journey of education on track. That has always been our AIM.


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Data and Measurement Reporting with JFYNet

by Cathie Maglio, Learning Specialist and Statistician

A voice for the silent partner

The JFYNet Learning Specialist wears many hats. One hat is Statistician. Wearing that hat, we collect and analyze data from the math end ELA programs our students use. We also analyze MCAS data for each of our schools. Our analyses help teachers and administrators understand exactly how students are doing and how each year’s performance compares to past years’. We collect and analyze data on a monthly basis throughout the school year and then provide a full year report at the end.

Specialists’ messages to the 2020 graduates

Hats off to the Class of 2020

from Cathie, Eileen, Joan and Greg

Cathie

When I graduated from high school, our class motto was “At this peak we begin climbing.” My message to this year’s graduates is, You have climbed the peak! Congratulations! As you stand there, you look back to your high school days and ahead to all that is before you. This is not the only peak you will climb in your life. You will pass through some valleys, and you will ascend other peaks. Cherish your time in the valleys. It is there that you grow, learn things about yourself, and gain strength to conquer the next peak. As you prepare for that next climb, I wish you a smooth ascent and a beautiful view from the top!

The Dance of Blended Learning with Meredith Hubbell

A gifted teacher shows how it’s done

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

One of my favorite classes is the Grade 10 Level 1 English Learners class at East Boston High School taught by Meredith Hubbell. I am amazed at the strategies Meredith has developed to help students build their English language skills. One of those strategies is our JFYNet online reading comprehension program which Meredith uses nimbly and adroitly in combination with other methods.

Cultivating the Garden, Cultivating Students

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

A teacher is not unlike a gardener.

Time flies so quickly, especially as we get older. It’s now fall and a new school year is underway.

Last weekend as I prepared my garden for winter I started to think about how educators are like gardeners. A gardener sows seeds and then watches the flower seeds turn into beautiful flowers and the vegetable seeds yield their harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and squash. No two flowers are the same, even if the seeds came from the same package. I love seeing the different colors of zinnias and marigolds and the shapes and sizes of tomatoes, each one unique, even on the same plant.