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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

- Authored by: Joan Reissman

New twists and how not to get tangled up

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

There has been a lot of discussion about the new MCAS 2.0 test. Parents and teachers are wondering how they can help students build the skills they need to succeed. The biggest difference is that the test will no longer be on paper. It’s online. Although students use technology every day, that doesn’t mean they will automatically know how to navigate the test. The first step in preparation is to make sure that students understand how to navigate through the test and answer all questions.

Minding the Gap… GAP Year that is

Should you take a year off after high school?

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

If you’re a senior, you are probably thinking about college. The traditional pattern has been to attend college right after high school, but many students now are taking a year off before enrolling in college. The so-called “gap year” got a lot of attention when Malia Obama decided to wait a year before attending Harvard. Her decision attracted both praise and criticism. Was it a good decision? Let’s examine the gap year option.

Summer Study for Math

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

My last blog post discussed the fact that students don’t understand the connection between Accuplacer scores and remedial college courses until they meet with an advisor and see how many non-credit-bearing courses they will have to take. Although some colleges allow a good high school GPA to substitute for remedial math courses, using high school courses as a proxy is much more common for English than math. It’s generally easier to study English on your own than math, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your math skills. You may not be pursuing a STEM major, but you will still need to take math courses. Not only do you need basic math skills for everyday living, but you will need math skills for many majors including accounting, trades and social sciences. Keep in mind that the skills you build now are the foundation of success in college.

Summer Study for Accuplacer

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Many students don’t understand the connection between Accuplacer scores and their immediate future.

They may not see any connection until they meet with an admissions counselor and find out how many remedial courses they have to take. Although some community colleges are now waiving remedial math courses based on certain high school GPA levels, many institutions still require a minimum Accuplacer score for math and all still require it for English classes. Improving Accuplacer scores is a worthwhile idea regardless of remediation policies, because it signifies improved foundation skills. Tests like Accuplacer are not just arbitrary exercises: they measure the skills required for an academic or vocational pursuit. Math and English are the foundation skills. Today, let’s look at some strategies for improving English skills. (Part II will deal with math.)

Improving Performance on MCAS Math

On MCAS, every point counts.

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Although ELA has barely ended, MCAS math will be here before you know it on May 23 and 24 for high schools.

It seems obvious that the math formula page is there to help students, but few students really use it. Many questions, including open response items, are easy to solve if they just check their formulas. For example, the 2017 10th grade test had six questions that relied heavily on geometric formulas. There is almost always an open response question derived straight from the formula page. One of the best ways to show students the value of the formula page is to do one of these open response questions in class. And don’t forget the handy tool on the DESE website mentioned in my previous blog— the student work/scoring guides section. You’ll find it very useful for practicing open response.

Last- minute quick tips for the MCAS ELA open response

Simple techniques to improve performance

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist
Many students lose points on the ELA open response questions. We know that some students don’t like to write. But even so, we can improve their performance with some simple techniques.

The 2017 average on ELA multiple choice questions was 80%. Yet the average on open response questions was only 68%. The discrepancy is not due to test position: students did best on the first and last questions of the four open response questions (Reading Comprehension section). So how can we help students score at least a 2 or 3 on open responses?

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

The new MCAS 2.0 tests for 10th grade will not be in place until the spring of 2019, but preview tests will be administered this spring. All Massachusetts high schools will be randomly assigned either ELA or math and they are expected to have at least 25% of their students participate. The preview testing window for 10th grade will be between the regular English and math MCAS tests, from April 23 through May 11.

Does Homework Have to be Boring?

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

The value of homework is the subject of longstanding debate among educators. In simpler times, homework required no more than rote repetition of concepts taught in class. That’s no longer enough. Today’s teachers don’t want reinforcement to be merely repetitious. They want homework to drive deeper understanding of concepts. They use techniques that reinforce daily lessons while promoting deeper understanding through application and differentiated instruction. For example, one study of teachers who assigned technology-based homework linked their students’ improved performance on final exams to the way the teachers structured the homework ccording to the principles of cognitive intervention (Butler, Marsh, Slavinsky et al., Educ Psychol Rev (2014) 26: 331).

Treat? Or Schtick? Can tricks teach math?

There are many tricks that can help students solve math problems

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

It’s not news that many students struggle with math. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the triennial test given to 15 year-olds by OECD, the United States ranked 38th out of 71 countries in 2015.1 Every three years we slide a few more notches. Something has to be done. But what?

How to Create an Effective Bended Learning Classroom

Assess, Instruct, Measure, Support

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Everyone today talks about blending technology into their classrooms. When I first started working for JFYNetWorks, many teachers asked, “How can a computer be better than me?” Those days are long gone as technology has become such an essential part of our lives, but many teachers still ask how they can create an effective blended learning environment.