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Helping Students Understand COVID-19, Resources for Teachers

by Joan Reissman

Students are curious and anxious about the pandemic. Its omnipresence in the media and its tangible effect on daily life create a learning opportunity. Teachers can take advantage of that opportunity to develop lessons that touch on a range of subjects and skills.

We have a highly curated series of resources covering Lessons and Activities, General Resources and Science Based content to help our students better understand COVID-19.

Click on the button below to access these teacher resources.

JFYNet Helping Students Understand COVID


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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.

Free Science Resource Summary for teachers, students and parents

A multi-disciplinary treasure trove for teachers, students and parents

By Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven Updated 12/15/2020

JFYNetWorks provides online resources to support remote learning in all core subject areas. To support the STEM curriculum, we have developed this annotated guide to science resources. It lists free resources in all domains of science, and details activities, multi-media lessons and teacher guides for all levels. We hope it will be helpful to teachers, students and parents.

Entire treasure trove of FREE Science Resources found here.


To learn more about JFYNet’s Connected Learning Solutions click on the button below:JFYNet Connected Learning


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Kevin McCaskill of Madison ParkTech Voc

Pandemic exposed a lack of access to technology for some Boston families.

DECEMBER 2020 PODCAST – This month’s podcast is the second part of the conversation between 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 and between them, Gary and Mr. McCaskill have close to 75 years of experience advocating for public education. In this episode, they discuss how the current pandemic exposed a lack of access to technology for some Boston families, how progress and change continues to work its way across the country, and the most important types of leadership needed in our schools to ensure they provide the best possible education to our students.

Give Rise College and Career Readiness is Life Readiness

College and Career Readiness is Life Readiness

JFYNetWorks closes the college readiness gap by helping young people build the skills to climb the ladder into college and on to jobs and careers. We give them the tools to do the hard work of turning their dreams into reality. That is what we mean by College and Career Ready.


Invest in the future of our young people, visit our ‘Give Rise to Student Success’ 2020 Appeal.

Help A Student Today

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


To learn more about JFYNet’s Connected Learning Solutions click on the button below:JFYNet Connected Learning


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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.


To learn more about JFYNet’s Connected Learning Solutions click on the button below:JFYNet Connected Learning


HOW ARE WE DOING? In our pursuit to serve up content that matters to you, we ask that you take a couple of minutes to let us know how we’re doing? Please click here to be navigated to our JFYNet Satisfaction Survey. Thank you!