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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Joan Reissman

Specialists’ messages to the 2020 graduates

Hats off to the Class of 2020

from Cathie, Eileen, Joan and Greg


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!


On June 4, 1993, I graduated from high school. I was the last student in line at graduation, a fitting place for the last child of a family that had had students in the small school system for 20 years. Beyond that, the most I can recall from my graduation is that my gown was yellow and the graduation ceremonies were completed in less than one hour. It was exciting to toss our caps into the air and exult in finishing a long chapter in our lives. But what was most memorable about high school was the experiences I shared with my classmates. The times when we planned to have the best hallway during spirit week, or our costumes for senior costume day. As a six-foot blonde, I decided to be Big Bird, a name I earned for myself when I had a yellow winter coat. Even more memorable were the relationships I formed with friends and mentors. I loved working on the yearbook staff, and even today I am close with some of my classmates. That is where the meaning lies. Most of all, Class of 2020 high school graduates need to know that the world is before them for the taking. You will forge the future and my wish is that your vision looking forward will always be 20/20.


When I think about my graduation, it seems very innocent. There were problems in the world, but it was easy to feel hopeful. In these tumultuous times, graduates are balancing hopes for the future with great uncertainty as to what that future may bring. I wish you all safe passage to a calmer harbor.


Not many of my high school classmates were focused on graduation when the day finally arrived. The Boston Celtics were playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics had battled back in the series but were still down 3 games to 2 going into graduation night. There were no cell phones. The only way to follow the game was on television or radio. Our class leaders begged the administration to ensure that the graduation ceremony would end early enough to allow time for us to get home to watch the game. When a few students threatened to accessorize their caps and gowns with Walkmans and headphones if the ceremony ran long, those in charge trimmed enough pomp and circumstance to finish in just over an hour. Considering that we were a class of 250, this was no easy task. But my friends and I walked in our doors just in time for tipoff and watched the Pistons demolish the Celtics and win the series.

At the time, the Celtics loss seemed far more important than graduating from high school. Looking back, our plans to celebrate a Celtic victory were certainly premature, even though a win seemed like a sure thing. I’m sure the Class of 2020 can relate, as they have lost their opportunities even to gather together as a class, much less experience what seemed to be a sure thing graduation ceremony just a few months ago.

As a speech and debate coach, my students are well versed in the stories I tell about former students, examples of both triumph and tears, in attempting to shape the performance of current students. At some point in the future, I am certain some students will tell me how hard it is sit in class, or how difficult it was to compete at a tournament, and I cannot wait to tell them how the Class of 2020 forged their way through amid the most strenuous and difficult of circumstances.

The stories you will tell and the memories you will keep will resonate and become part of who you are. Though not what you anticipated, the tales of the Class of 2020 will be unique in the annals of high school graduation.

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Next Generation ELA: MCAS 2.0, Testing Strategies and Review [WEBINAR]

Preparation for English Language Arts in the Next Gen ELA MCAS

This recorded webinar will provide specific strategies for students to use during online testing, including a review of the technology enhanced format used by the English/Language Arts MCAS test and an explanation on how to make the best use of tools available when answering questions. Strategies are provided to prepare students for the specific types of questions featured on the upcoming English/Language Arts MCAS test.

How to Prepare for the 10th Grade ELA MCAS

Spring MCAS tests just around the corner.

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

Mid-Winter Spring ELA MCAS
We’ve hardly had a winter, but Spring MCAS tests will be here before you know it. It’s time to start preparing.

There will be two ELA test administrations in March, first the retest and then the regular Spring test. The ELA retests (Composition and Reading Comprehension) start March 2 and go to March 5. They will be the traditional paper version based on the structure of the old Legacy test. That means separate Composition and Reading Comprehension sessions. The Reading Comp sections include multiple choice and constructed response items. Three weeks later, March 24 and 25, students will be taking the new ELA test. This test will be computer based and follow the guidelines for Next-Generation MCAS 2.0.

February Biology MCAS

If eligible, don’t wait till June

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

If you are eligible to take the Biology MCAS in February, you should definitely consider doing it. As with any test required for graduation, you want to give yourself as many chances as possible to pass. The February test (Feb. 5 and 6) will be a legacy test—the old MCAS. That means the questions will be based on the 2006 standards (which overlap with the 2016 standards) and it will be paper based, not online. If you don’t take this test now, you will have to wait until June. Then you’ll be running into finals and all the distractions of the end of the school year. Why not take it now if you are eligible?

The teacher must be sensitive to the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

Every educator is familiar with differentiated instruction and blended learning. We are bombarded by multiple options for digital learning. There is a glut of high-quality digital content, but do we know how best to use it to serve the needs of our students and make learning accessible for everyone? As teachers, we want students to be engaged and build foundational skills. One of the best ways to engage students is to deepen differentiated instruction with personalized learning.

Summertime Studytime

Math and English Review

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven


The weather is finally nice. You’re sick of school. Going to the beach and hanging out with friends seems like a great idea. After ten months of stuffy classrooms, the last thing you want to think about is next school year. I hear you! You can have fun! But, if you use just a little of your precious summer time to do some studying, you will hit the ground running in September (or August). A little preparation over the summer can really pay off when you head back to class in the fall.

HS Science MCAS Tests

Are we confused yet?

By Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

If you are a science teacher, you know all about the different science tests. But if you’re a student or parent, you may be wondering about them. You know that the new MCAS 2.0 in English and math have been redesigned to meet more demanding standards of college and career readiness. But what about science?

This year was the first year for computer based MCAS tests in math and English for high school. The science tests are still paper-based, but there will be some field tests of computer-based Biology and Introductory Physics. Parents and students may have some questions. What standards will be tested? What test or tests are required for graduation? What choices do students have?

MCAS 2.0 - 10th Grade Math-Student Prep Pt2

Helping Students Prepare, Part 2

By Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

Last month I discussed preparing students for the new MCAS 2.0 ELA. In this post I want to offer some suggestions for the mathematics test, coming right up on May 21. As with ELA, the biggest difference is that the test will no longer be paper-based, it will be online. As a student, a teacher or a parent, your first job is to make sure that students get familiar with the mechanics of the online test.