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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Gary Kaplan

Giving thanks in a socially distanced year

by Gary Kaplan

This will be a Thanksgiving like no other.

Our customary rituals of gathering and sharing will be at best constrained, at worst cancelled. The very idea of social distancing is antithetical to the spirit of the season.

But thanks has many dimensions. Even in our current global health crisis, we can find occasion for thanks. Consider the selflessness and dedication of our health workers who put their own lives at risk to help save the lives of others. Just as much as the “greatest generation” who answered the call to World War II, these doctors, nurses, medical technicians, ambulance drivers, maintenance crew members and countless others are demonstrating every day and every night what service to others means. In the fractured, antagonistic state of our polarized society, their selfless behavior demonstrates that the bonds of social cohesion can still be activated.

The rapid emergence of a Covid 19 vaccine is another cause for thanks. Readers who remember the polio epidemic of the early 1950s and the miraculous deliverance of the Salk vaccine are experiencing déjà vu. Once again, faced with an existential threat, human creativity has risen to the challenge. Human creativity has always risen to the existential challenge. QED: Here we still are. Existential challenges are accumulating and gathering increasing gravity. This current scientific triumph gives hope that the power of human creativity will prove equal to the scale of our other looming challenges.

In the field of education, the Covid shutdown has pushed us to find new ways of teaching and learning. Technology, a constant example of human creativity, has provided the tools that are being used by teachers, students, parents and all strata of the education enterprise to invent new ways of communicating in the expanded online classroom. Though not as immediately lifesaving as medical care and vaccination, education can claim existential status as the fundamental culture-defining and socially unifying process. Education establishes norms and values as well as imparting practical skills. In this time of social fragmentation, now aggravated by enforced social distancing, online education performs a convening and bonding function that may be even more crucial for our post-virus recovery than academic skills. Digital cohesion may offer an antidote to the alienation of social distancing.

In these fragmented times, we are more appreciative than ever of the creativity and commitment of the extended community of educators, to whom we give our heartfelt thanks.

Gary Kaplan is the executive director of JFYNetWorks


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Kevin McCaskill of Madison ParkTech Voc

Technology could be the great equalizer for underserved populations.

OCTOBER 2020 PODCAST – This month’s podcast features a conversation between JFY Executive Director Gary Kaplan and Kevin McCaskill, the Executive Director of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, the only Vocational High School in the Boston Public School system. Mr. McCaskill has been working in education for over 30 years. Between them, Mr. Kaplan and Mr. McCaskill have close to 75 years of experience advocating for public education. In this episode, we’ll hear as they talk about a variety of topics, including Mr. McCaskill’s reason for leaving the private sector and beginning a career in education, why urban schools struggle to hire diverse educators, and how technology could be the great equalizer for underserved populations.

Education in the anxious autumn of Covid

by Gary Kaplan

The need for continuity of instruction and accountability—and help.

Help! I have to convert all my classes to fully remote. Can you help me?

Hi. I’m a high school math teacher. I have to teach two classes for the summer program. Can you set me up with a curriculum?

I’ve been drafted into doing a Zoom presentation for parents. I would like to show some screen shots of math and ELA curriculum. Can you send me some slides that would appeal to parents?

Would you be able to send me my classes’ pre and post assessment scores in an excel spreadsheet so I can include them in my progress report? Thank you in advance for your help.

This is a scary and uncertain time for everyone, especially our students. They are figuring out how to learn remotely and we are figuring out how to teach remotely. The emotional toll this is taking on teachers and students is tremendous.

The Autumn of our Reconnect. School will be opening. But how?

School will be opening. But how?

by Gary Kaplan

School will be opening September 16. How it will open is still uncertain. Three operational models have been defined by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: fully in-person, fully remote, and a hybrid of the two. It is up to each district to decide which option to choose. The decisions will not be strictly pedagogical: much will depend on health and safety conditions. Final school plans for reopening are due at DESE August 10.

Cracks in the Bedrock, The destabilizing effects of inequality

by Gary Kaplan

History doesn’t repeat itself, Mark Twain observed, but it often rhymes.

Because of our peculiar history, the current calls for redirection of police funding to social programs fall with a familiar cadence at JFYNetWorks.

We are often asked what JFY stands for. It stands for Jobs For Youth, the original name of the nonprofit organization. Jobs For Youth was founded in 1976 with a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant from the US Department of Justice. Our original mission was to help high school dropouts find jobs. Low-income youth were dropping out of high school at rates rising toward 20% nationally and 40% in the cities. In the early 1970s the Nixon Administration, predating Reagan, thought the best social program was a job. And so, our history began as a juvenile justice delinquency prevention program.

Remote doesn’t have to mean impersonal

by Gary Kaplan

Online communication has been with us since May 24, 1844, when Samuel F.B. Morse tapped out his first dots and dashes. Thirty-two years later, in Boston, Alexander Graham Bell summoned Mr. Watson with the first voice message carried over an electrical wire. Western Union transmitted a halftone photograph in 1921, and in 1927 Philo Farnsworth beamed the first live TV image. The cornerstones of online communication were in place. These founding fathers would be astonished at the ceaseless cacophony of voice, image and text that blankets the globe today in an impenetrable electronic cocoon.

Remote Learning with JFYNetWorks

Education is a culture-defining and socially unifying process.

First and foremost, we hope all our friends and colleagues are managing to weather these extraordinary circumstances with patience, fortitude and a dash of humor.

Here at JFY, we are working hard during this period of shutdown and social distancing to guide and support our partner schools and their students in making the transition to remote learning.

JFYNetWorks has been providing online academic support to schools since 2000, but we can’t think of a time when our online curricula and teacher support were more vital. It’s almost as if the past twenty years were preparation for this rocket launch from classroom to cloud.

COVID-19 Response-JFYNetWorks Mobilizes Resources

COVID-19. We Are Here to Help During This Time of Uncertainty

Dear partners and friends:

We at JFYNetWorks want you to know that we are ready, willing and able to help you and your students keep education on track during this unprecedented and prolonged period of uncertainty and disruption.

E-learning can help mitigate the disruptions. Our ELA and math curricula are aligned to the state standards and flexible enough to support regular classes as well as all benchmark assessments. We are working with our school partners to maximize deployment of our online resources to help students keep current with their classes and prepare for MCAS and Accuplacer. As always, we are providing online coaching and professional development to our teachers. In addition, we have on-demand videos available on our website to assist with MCAS prep.

Origins of JFYNetWorks (Podcast)

With Gary Kaplan, Executive Director
Narrated by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

JANUARY 2020 PODCAST – For nearly 40 years, JFYNetWorks, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, has served high-need populations in Massachusetts by developing and delivering education and job training programs that equip young people with the skills needed to succeed in our changing economy. Gary Kaplan, Executive Director of JFYNet, describes the origins of the non-profit, and how it has adapted to best serve a changing student population over the years.