Donate to a Student Today

College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning


The Power of Reading. Be Empowered, Get Inspired

Get Inspired

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I can remember the moment in childhood when I was first able to read independently. We were on our annual drive to the Berkshires, a family tradition. As we got onto Route 2 I began to read the signs excitedly to my father. I read each exit number and the names of the towns. “Mohawk Trail” was easy but “Leominster” and “Winchendon” were more challenging. I distinctly remember being in the back seat of the big blue Ford LTD with my dad in the front, feeling his pride as I nailed sign after sign all by myself.

Now, with children of my own, I appreciate his patience and ability to coach me through the tough words. As an adult, when reading is a reflex and you are constantly taking in information, it can be both overwhelming and empowering.

As I grew into a young reader, I would attempt to read everything, especially fiction. Oftentimes I would read deep into the night to complete a novel. I would experience the joy of having immersed myself in a good story, but I would also experience the anticlimax of having finished the story and leaving the characters I had come to know and enjoy. Every final page was bittersweet.

Reading not only brought me information; it transported me to distant places and different times and allowed me to feel the experiences of different people. It helped me develop an understanding of diverse worlds and cultures and showed me places that I might never see in real life. Over the years, the joy of reading branched from mainly fiction to nonfiction. I have had nightmares where I could not read, waking up with chills because I could not make sense of the world around me.

As an English teacher, I hung a poster in my classroom with a quotation that has been attributed, accurately or not, to Mark Twain:

Power of Reading, Keep Your Power

I kept that poster right behind my desk. When I would conference with students about the next project, report, or concept they wanted to explore, half the class would inevitably tell me, “I do not read. I do not like reading. I can just watch the movie.” Of course, nearly all high school students who have to read the “classics” would say that, if only for the sake of bucking authority. I could always appreciate that.

Nonetheless, whenever I heard it I let out a little mocking gasp. Then, taking a deep breath, I would try to appeal to the innate rebellion in teenagers and go into a diatribe about power in the world. Knowing that I only had an elevator pitch to sell my point, I would ask, “You know how the most powerful people in the world attained their power?” Some students would inevitably answer, “Guns or money.” I would shrug and agree, “Yes, those are ways one can assert power over others. But when you trace humankind back through history, power was always in the hands of those who could read.” That is when I would see the student bristle and say, “I can read, I just do not like to read.” Like clockwork I would say “Yes” and then point at the poster behind my desk and ask the student to read it. I would add, “If you choose not to read, you are letting others make the decisions for you and giving them the power.” I would continue, “That means that you get from a book what the film director and screenplay writer want you to get. That means you listen to the newscaster summarize a speech or policy guideline, but without reading it yourself you are subservient to their biases.” I would conclude:

JFY_12-12-19 Power of Reading, Read for yourself

When it comes to teenagers, rebellion against reading does not shock me. With their access to video, text, chat, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. I can appreciate their distraction from focused reading. Reading is a skill and a discipline that needs to be practiced and developed. Learning to interact effectively with a text can be taught both in the classroom and in support sessions.

At JFY, we work to help students develop these skills that are essential to a literate society. While our program tracks where students currently read in vocabulary and sentence complexity, it also allows them to highlight the text for main idea, questions, connections and supporting details. In addition, students can write annotations at the end of every paragraph or at key intervals in the text.

As an educator, I love that we can do this. I cannot induce anyone to love reading, but I can make sure they have the skills to do it well. Being a strong reader is essential to self-empowerment. There have been many occasions in history when learning to read was an act of rebellion, and when writing and reading were the tools of revolution. I will always hold firm with students that once you learn to read well, you will love it. Ever since that ride in the back seat of my dad’s LTD, I have never doubted that reading is fundamental.

More posts from Eileen Wedegartner found here.

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.

Words and Meanings - The teachers’ job, Ask Questions

The teachers’ job

by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

The job of the English teacher is to ensure that students can read a complex text with comprehension and formulate ideas about it orally and in writing. Teachers often walk a fine line between imparting their own views and facilitating an environment where students can formulate their own judgements based on their own knowledge, values, ethics and beliefs.

Strategies for MCAS Next Gen ELA
MCAS Next Gen 2.0 ELA – Expect greater emphasis on text comparison.

by Joan Reissman, MCAS Maven

The biggest change in the MCAS Next Gen 2.0 ELA test, coming to 10th grade next month, is a greater emphasis on text comparison. Although people read every day, much of the reading students do on the phone or computer is recreational. Nobody is going to quiz you on detailed comprehension after you read something on social media. There is ongoing debate over whether students comprehend better on paper or screen. But it’s academic to us, because Next Gen MCAS is coming on a screen.

MCAS 2.0: Standards-based assessments support data-driven, student-centered instruction

How standards-based assessments support data-driven, student-centered instruction

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

The JFYNet program creates opportunity by using technology in the form of student-centered blended learning to help young people develop the skills to thrive in school and ultimately in the world of work. This is accomplished by working in schools to help students improve their reading, writing and math skills. There are a few ways to measure the skill development of each student: MCAS scores, quizzes embedded in the software programs, scores on SAT and Accuplacer, and finally placements directly into college-level classes without remediation.

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.

Language Arts and Math

Two disciplines with a common purpose

by Cathie Maglio, blended learning specialist

Ever since fifth grade I wanted to be a math teacher. I fell in love with the subject at that point and never wavered from it.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in math, I knew I wanted a master’s degree but didn’t know in what. It took twenty years to find the right program, a Masters of Education with a concentration in Technology in Education at Lesley College (now University). The program was being offered at a local school one week-end a month for 22 months.

Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

Of Literacy and Democracy

Is access to literacy a constitutional right?

by Eileen Wedegartner

On July 5, 2018, Thomas Birmingham and William Weld co-authored an opinion piece in the Boston Globe titled, “Mass. has to return to its high standards for education.” The former governor and senate president re-visited the 1993 Education Reform Act on its 25th anniversary, praising its successes and making an argument to raise the ante and not relax the push for high standards that has brought Massachusetts success in education.

Online Study Apps to Help You SUCCEED IN COLLEGE

Digital assistance in Math and English

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. In recent weeks we posted two blogs addressing the importance of being ready for the Accuplacer no matter the version. One post highlighted the MATH component while the other focused on ENGLISH. In both cases we shared various online tools, that if used with consistency, will most assuredly help a student improve Accuplacer scores. Here is a compilation of the online resources.