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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

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Making Use of Student Performance Data

Student ownership is the key

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

Data is the key word in almost any discussion of student achievement. There is so much emphasis on data and test scores that teachers, students and parents can easily come to hate even hearing the word. But data itself is not the villain. It’s all about how you use it.

Data is not just about test performance: it’s about student skills. This is an obvious statement, but it’s frequently overlooked. If students improve their skills, they are going to improve their test scores. Research shows that students need to become active participants in data analysis1. They should analyze their data and use the information to take ownership of their own progress. Data can be a tool for setting personal goals that are measurable and relevant, and that encourage students to develop a sense of personal ownership. Robert Marzano in his article The Art and Science of Teaching / When Students Track Their Progress found a 32 percent gain in achievement when students consistently tracked their own progress.

Collaboration with B.M.C. Durfee High School, Bridgewater State University and JFYNetWorks

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

In 2018-19, Bridgewater State University, BMC Durfee High School and JFY piloted a dual enrollment collaboration. The pilot offered much encouragement and many lessons. Here are some general observations, followed by specific recommendations.

All students, especially those who may be the first in their family to attend college, need support navigating the shifts in academic rigor, independent learning strategies, time management, different technologies, and other aspects of college.

Knowing where students stand in basic academic skills is important. GPA and course work are good indicators. Standardized exam scores are useful supplements. Accuplacer can help determine how much supplemental support a student will need.

A formal early college orientation should be developed. It could begin by going over a course syllabus in detail, an essential bridge for students to cross in navigating the shift between high school and college expectations. In high school classes, the teacher may have a course outline with expectations that she reviews with students and with parents on parents’ night. This is not the case in college. Students get a syllabus. The professor may or may not go over it in detail, noting texts, technology, assignments, deadlines, tests, the need to build a schedule and manage time and access to academic resources, etc.

Early College Orientation Components

  1. Initial assessment of reading and/or math skills using Accuplacer, not to exclude students but to determine needed support.
  2. Detailed examination of syllabus, highlighting and noting information that is essential for developing independent learning strategies.
      1. Highlight the grading policy. Understanding how you are graded allows students to continually self-track their progress.
      2. Highlight attendance policies. Review the importance of letting the teacher know when you will not be there. Contacting professors before the absence ensures that the professor knows you are aware of the course expectations, and that you respect her time. This is also an essential skill in the workplace.
      3. Highlight the professor’s office hours and make a point to stop in during those office hours at the beginning of a semester. This is a practice that helps students learn to advocate for themselves in college. It is also a useful practice on the job.
      4. Highlight all major assignments and test dates. Show students how to put dates into a calendar or planner that can be accessed via computer or iPhone. This helps students develop a schedule that they are responsible for with notifications.

  1. After syllabus review, work with students on contacting professors to introduce themselves via email.
  2. Practice class expectations.
      1. In college classes, professors often lecture or hold a seminar, but there are no ongoing formative assessments like homework checks or classwork to track learning. Students are expected to do classwork on their own time outside of class and be responsible for their own learning by independently pursuing inquiry before the next class session.
      2. In math, students practice problems and come to class with questions if they did not get the right answer. They need to learn to come to class with questions on topics they need help with, taking responsibility for their own progress.
      3. In humanities classes, there is a jump from high school classes where teachers guide students in formulating a thesis through classroom discussion, guided reading questions and close readings. In college, students are expected to formulate a thesis independently. They are expected to identify passages for close reading on their own and practice critical reading skills and methods outside of class. Demonstrating and practicing these skills before classes begin will make the transition easier.

  1. Practice note-taking methods and skills. These techniques are critical tools for success.
  2. Have students explore campus support resources such as the Academic Achievement Center at BSU or similar services at other campuses. Though our dual enrollment classes are in the high school, we may be able to access these support services online or through campus visits. Helping students practice getting support is an important part of college readiness. Click here to link to the BSU Academic Achievement Center. We should plan one or more campus visits with specific objectives such as student support services. Familiarity with the campus and its resources will encourage matriculation.
  3. Practice logging into the platform the college uses for classes. At BSU this is Blackboard. Other colleges use other platforms.
      1. Help students download and upload material for a course.
      2. Ensure that students have access to content.

  1. Practice using the technology they will need for the class. This would include using Google sheets to create documents with math and creating charts and graphs for projects.
  2. Practice using the word processing programs or transferring documents across different programs to learn to transition easily between programs.

Not Just Early College, Ongoing Support

Ongoing Support During the Semester

  1. Meet with students in weekly sessions.
  2. Share updates from college professors, such as changes to the syllabus.
  3. Target students who struggle through check-ins and academic support interventions.
  4. Provide opportunities for students to work on programs with access to computers and materials for both independent and study- group work.
  5. Develop protocols with professors to keep track of students’ standing in class and flag problems early. (This is backup for student self-management.)
  6. Work with students to track their own progress, so they can map their route to success.
  7. Show students how to access the MLA manual or APA manual, depending on course.
  8. Access online library sources from the college. Give students time to do necessary research.

In general, a three-credit college class runs approximately 38 hours of class time during a semester. A high school class for course credit runs about 50 minutes a day for 180 days (or 100 minutes for 90 days), a total of 150 hours. This means that structured class time is four times higher for the high school student. To support these students as they transition from one realm to the other requires reinforcing skills that will help them succeed when structured learning time is reduced. Our job is to ensure that they develop the skills they need to work effectively in this new structure, beginning with managing their time but including becoming aware of their own gaps and working to fill them through self-advocacy.

Picture credits: B.M.C. Durfee High School twitter and Facebook pages, as well as

Related post about this dual enrollment pilot program found here.

Learn more about JFY’s Early College program here.

The Importance of being a teacher

It’s More than Imparting Subject Knowledge

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

Schools are people— students, principals, deans, librarians, janitorial staff, office staff and teachers. Of all these groups, the teachers are the most influential. They are the largest constant bloc, staying largely intact as students pass through, and they have the most direct contact with students. They are the ones who make the school what it is.

The Year in Review - Looking back on a busy 2018-19

Looking back on a busy 2018-19

by Gary Kaplan

The end of a school year is a traditional time for reflection. This year offers a wider than usual range of events to reflect on.

Education occupied an unusual amount of front page real estate. The quarter-century anniversary of Education Reform last year kicked off a long process of re-evaluation that continues to the present moment. The Legislature is still working on a new funding formula to correct the flaws in the old formula that widened the gaps in resources between wealthy towns and poor cities. These dollar gaps correlate with longstanding student performance gaps. There is a wide opinion gap on the degree to which correlation is causation, and on how to ensure that increased funding produces higher performance in the places where it is most needed. The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education are untangling the strands of three competing proposals and weaving them into a tapestry of consensus.

Fate Faith in Classroom-Reflections on Hadestown

Reflections on Hadestown

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

We have many figures of speech in our language that refer to hell:

    “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
    “Going to hell in a handbasket.”
    “Heaven doesn’t want me, and hell is worried I’ll take over.” (That one has been ascribed, perhaps erroneously, to Rudy Giuliani.)

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the new Broadway musical Hadestown, in which there is actually a train to hell. (MBTA riders will understand.) I was struck by the show’s contradictory appeal. While the script frankly admits that the story is sad, the message is nevertheless one of unyielding hope. How is that possible? The story and the outcome, based on Greek myth, are totally predictable. So how does the script manage to convey a message of unwavering hope? And why, by the final curtain, had comparisons to the world of education become unavoidable, at least to me?

Early College Reduces Inequity

A Promising Pathway to College and Careers

Bridgewater State University, B.M.C. Durfee High School and JFY’s New Partnership

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

The college admissions scandal that broke in March kept unfolding through the weeks and months like an origami of shame, exposing story after sordid story of gross inequity in the college admissions process.

As the national networks uncoiled twisted tales of bribery and deception that famous parents of means had braided to get their kids into elite colleges, local news stations were swarmed by flocks of ordinary people calling in anonymously to admit that they had written their children’s essays for them.

Reflections on the Blue Line - A school year draws to a close

A school year draws to a close

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

Here I am at the tail end of another school year. It’s been busy getting students ready for MCAS, both in ELA and Math, and ready for college. This year I have been responsible for two schools, Revere High and East Boston High. Though only a few stops apart on the Blue Line, they present very different challenges. I’ll get off at Maverick first and save Revere for next time.

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?