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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

Life Preparedness
Life Preparedness

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.

Those early years focused on “job readiness training,” which included time management, professional dress, manners and speech, and interviewing skills. The program also covered job applications and resume composition, which led to tutoring in reading and writing, which blossomed into a GED alternative diploma program and eventually into one of the first alternative high schools. In Massachusetts, economic enfranchisement through education was the antidote of choice to injustice.

Through the 1980s and 90s we kept pace with the labor market by creating high-skill training programs in biotechnology, financial services, health care and environmental technology in collaboration with universities that had expertise in the fields. These programs required higher levels of academic skills, so we developed prep courses using educational software. We found self-paced computerized instruction to be effective in raising reading and math skills. When standards-based education came to K-12 in the late 1990s we adapted our methodology to the state high school curriculum. Software-based instructional support to high schools and then middle schools soon became our largest program.

The link between education and earnings was clear then and is even clearer now. As we have noted many times, an associate degree is worth $275,000 more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma, and a bachelor’s degree raises the ante by a million. As the 2000s progressed, it became clear that the most effective way to promote economic and social justice was to focus on high school graduation and post-secondary education or training, the widest and straightest path to economic stability and social mobility. In 2009 we formally adopted the rubric “College and Career Readiness.” This new policy language of government and philanthropy accurately described what we had been doing since 2000.

Have our efforts produced results? At the micro level, yes. We provide academic support to urban schools where the gaps are widest and the needs greatest. We have raised skills and scores for thousands of young people every year for two decades. We have saved students millions of dollars in remedial college tuition. We have helped schools raise graduation rates and college enrollment rates. Our track record looks very good.

But the macro level does not look as good. The Times ran a sobering piece last week on inequality (“Quantifying The Inequity Many Face In Finance,” NYT 6.10.20). In the echo chamber of articles and books and TV specials on this subject over the last few years, this broadside reverberated jarringly. To paraphrase the lede, “We cannot quantify injustice… but we can measure the economic inequity that serves as backdrop.”

The story catalogued Black-white inequity in household income, college graduation, student loan debt and default, wages, home ownership, retirement funds and inheritance. All these gaps have widened since the 1970s. The home ownership gap is the widest in 50 years. Many other indicators could be added to the list. The Boston Globe series on race in December 2017 unearthed the most shocking: median net household worth. The number for white households in Boston was $247,500. The median net worth of African American households was $8.00. The Globe had to run a follow-up to clarify that wasn’t a typo—it really was eight dollars.

Justice can be an elusive concept. But no one can call the gap between $8 and $247,500 an equitable distribution of wealth. No one can say that 40 years of widening inequality is good for the civic health of a society. All the vehicles of social funding in the US—youth programs, jobs programs, welfare, education, even food stamps—have been decimated since Nixon’s burst of pragmatic liberalism. Police department reform alone cannot correct systemic economic injustice.

The Times article offered a blunt summary: “An imbalance of societal power cannot be separated from cradle-to–grave economic inequality.”

JFYNetWorks was founded on the belief that all young people can find their own unique path to success in our dynamic economy– if they acquire the right skills. We have no magic trowel or miracle mortar to tuckpoint the fissures of inequity in the foundations of our society. What we do have is an education program that helps young people develop the skills that open the doors of opportunity.

We still believe that economic empowerment through education is the path to social justice. We will continue to put that belief into practice as long as equality remains a bedrock American value. Forty-four years after our birth under the sign of Justice, we still hold this truth to be self-evident. It’s in our DNA.

Gary Kaplan is the executive director of JFYNetWorks

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Math skills. Not just a passing grade requirement, but essential for life after school

These skills are essential for life after school

There are basically two types of people in the world: those who already love math, and those who don’t love it yet. In this webinar, we explore why math skills are important, not just to pass required math classes, but also for jobs and for life after high school in our data-driven society where almost everything eventually turns out to be a numbers game.

Explore how and why these skills are important not just to ensure eventual success in math class, but also are important for jobs and professions, along with the basic living skills necessary once students graduate from high school.

More VIDEOS ON-DEMAND found here.

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!

Star Light, Star Bright… Use the Force

Is it the end? Or just a pause for regeneration?

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

On the night of December 18, 2019, a piece of my childhood came to an end. Though I would not be shocked if Disney found a way some day to resurrect the Star Wars saga, it seems that the storyline which began when I was seven years old, in the back of my parents’ car at the drive-in theater, has come to an end.

My friends and I grew up with Star Wars. Though we learned at some point that the first movie was not actually the beginning of the story, still the release of the first three movies enthralled us. I had a Luke Skywalker poster hanging in my bedroom, complete with fuzzy edges, well into my early teenage years. The action figures, which today would be worth hundreds of dollars, were scattered around the basement.

Stress and Pressure: Helping Students Navigate

We need to help them manage expectations effectively.

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

Growing up, I remember there were high school students around me who had either attempted to take their own life or had done so. As a teen, it shook me to think that anyone felt that alone. It was sad, but it was also an anomaly.

In the last few years, a community near mine experienced a spike in suicides among high school students. It was enough of a crisis that the Boston Globe wrote about it in the article “After suicides in Acton and Boxborough, A Communion of Sorrow.”

Philosophy in a Traffic Jam; Pondering Uncultured, Aggressive, Rude Behavior

Acrimony and outlandish behavior the new norm?

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

Adults are not always on their best behavior. One need only drive on the Expressway during rush hour to confirm this truth. We do the best we can, especially around children, but sometimes we’re forced to explain the behavior of other adults who should absolutely know better.

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.

The Way it Ought to Be… Have we lost the concept of civil discourse?

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

It begins with the way we are teaching our children.

At the conclusion of his news broadcast on CBS each weekday evening, Walter Cronkite would shuffle the sheaf of papers on his anchor desk, raise his eyes to the camera, and deliver his signature sign-off: “And that’s the way it is.” It was one of the first consistent taglines on television. There have been others, such as Charles Osgood’s “See you on the radio” and “We’re in touch, so you be in touch” from ABC’s news magazine 20/20. Entertainment shows followed, like Carol Burnett’s famous ear tug, a secret message to her grandmother, and the current The View which asks us to “take a little time to enjoy the view.” Rachel Maddow thanks viewers for “joining us this hour” and Ellen DeGeneres implores them to “be kind to one another” when she signs off.

Labors Twilight-The Changing American Workforce

The Changing American Workforce

by Gary Kaplan
photos by Matthew Kaplan

Labor Day 2019

In the 1800s the Calumet region of northwest Indiana was Chicago’s Cape Cod. The baltic blue crescent of Lake Michigan swung serenely eastward from the state line. Tawny beaches and rolling sand dunes offered refuge from the raucous, brawling city of the big shoulders. Windwarped swale and reedy marshland attracted hunters and fishermen, birdwatchers and botanists. The lowslung lakefront lured industrial land scouts.

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.