College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Thank you for your continued support

Dear friend of JFYNetWorks,

You may remember a young man named Joey whom we have featured before. Joey was a pleasant, affable high school student with a winning smile and a low opinion of himself. “I want to go to college,” he said, “but I’m not sure I can do it. There’s too much to learn. How am I ever going to make it?” We have recounted how we helped Joey work his way through our College Readiness course by showing him the periodic reports that documented how much he had achieved and how much closer he was to the goal. Our blended learning specialist, Melissa, even counted the number of software modules he had to complete and checked them off as he did them. By the end of the year, he had learned enough to pass the college placement test. In the fall, he was admitted to community college without having to take any remedial courses. We’ll never forget his charmingly modest expression of triumph to Melissa: “I got this, Miss.”

Every year, we ask you to help us prepare disadvantaged young people like Joey for college and careers. But does everyone have to go to college? Aren’t there jobs that don’t require a degree? Is college really worth the cost? We hear these questions often. As college costs rise, we hear them more often. With unemployment at historic lows, it’s a seller’s market for job-seekers. So why bother with college?

If the economy were a static system, it would make sense to count on current conditions continuing. But the economy is not static. It’s as changeable as the weather—or oil prices. Today’s sunny labor market could cloud over in one bad quarter, or one oil shock, or one revolution halfway around the globe. Or it could implode as it did barely a decade ago.

Even if nothing undermines our full-employment labor market, technological advance is changing the content of every job in that market. New technology drives new processes, and new processes require new skills. American workers will have to learn new skills throughout their careers.

This tech-driven need for re-skilling has changed employers’ ideas. When they describe the skill set they are looking for now, they list critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills, teamwork, ability to find and use information—a profile commonly dubbed “21st Century Skills.”

These skills sound a lot like the skills needed for college and, in fact, they are the very same. The education goal of “College and Career Readiness” adopted a decade ago signaled the recognition of the new labor market in which skills are the primary raw material and innovation the primary product.

College used to be the province of the few and fortunate who could afford to spend four years inside ivy-covered walls. Now we use the term “post-secondary training” to include a range of options from technical certificates to coding camps to associate degrees and including bachelor’s and advanced degrees. The new post-secondary training doesn’t necessarily happen in one concentrated chunk immediately after high school. It can be modularized over time as the learner’s career develops and requires new skills. The old static concept of college is morphing into a new paradigm of flexible lifelong learning that adapts to the evolving life and career needs of the learner.

Does everyone have to go to college? The answer is no—not in the old sheepskin and mortar board sense. But does everyone need the skills to handle college? Yes, because the skills required for college and for careers are now identical. The 21st Century workplace is every bit as cognitively challenging as any college classroom. 21st Century skills rest on a strong academic foundation but go far beyond classroom theory into the applied world of work. And there’s no final exam—this course never ends.

JFY helps young people build the foundational skills that underly every academic and career endeavor. Last year we helped 4500 high school students develop those skills through blended learning programs that prepared them for high school and college benchmark assessments. This year we are on track to reach even more. We’re the largest College and Career academic support program in the state, and we work hard to be the best.

Your charitable contributions help us support and guide young people like Joey toward a productive future. Whether they go on to further education or training, or go into the workforce or the military, the skills we help them develop give them the foundation to keep up with the changing demands of the workplace. And it’s not just they who benefit: their productivity keeps our economy thriving for all of us.

As we approach the holidays, we thank you for the support you have given us and ask you to renew it. With your continued help, we will continue to help build a skilled, competitive workforce one young person, like Joey, at a time.

With deepest appreciation and best wishes,

Gary Kaplan

 

Gary Kaplan
Executive Director

 

Donate to Help a Student Today

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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.

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Tragedy and Triumph, The Highs and Lows of Working in Schools

The Highs and Lows of Working in Schools

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

The schools I work in have been back in session since the beginning of September. I was excited to get back to see teachers I have worked with for years, to meet teachers who are new to the JFYNet program, and to see all the students, new and returning. I have also gone to new schools, giving presentations on the JFYNet blended learning program. I enjoy doing these demonstrations since it gives me a chance to meet other teachers and principals and to show them a program that I know helps raise students’ skills and scores on MCAS and college placement testing.

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What educators can learn from the Red Sox, Good of the Student

Humans do not always perform according to algorithm

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

The Red Sox won the World Series this fall for the fourth time in fourteen years. If any of my friends had told me in 2003 that the Red Sox would collect four World Series championships in the next decade and a half, I would have told them they were crazy. (Disclosure: I strongly believe most of my friends to be crazy anyway.)

Championships do not happen by fluke. The cosmic forces of the universe have to align to create just one instance when a team is permitted to accomplish such a feat. Okay, having great talent helps: but the team with the most talented players does not always win– and often does not. It takes a myriad of little things to make a championship happen. A former boss of mine used to preach to the staff: “Worry about the little things. Big things take care of themselves.” For the Red Sox, those little things began on the very first day of Spring Training. For us fans in the world of education, there are lessons to be learned here.

Communication

From the very first day, manager Alex Cora made his philosophies and strategies clear to his players. Much of it had to do with rest. He was preparing the team not just for the 162-game season but for a deep playoff run as well. He made this clear to the players and communicated days in advance when a player was to have a scheduled day off. When Xander Bogaerts received such a text during the first week of the regular season he replied, “You really weren’t kidding about those days off?”

Communication is vital to the success of any endeavor. When an administrator issues a blanket policy to teachers without explanation or any type of logic, it can cause a backlash among the staff. The same thing goes for a teacher to students: if students do not understand why the classroom is run the way it is, or why they are doing an assignment, they may not fully buy in. Complete buy-in was essential for the Red Sox. Alex Cora’s players would run through walls for their manager by mid-season. Many were at that point much earlier. He gained their trust and he had a plan. Which, it turned out, worked exactly the way he intended.

For the good of students, it takes a team

Right vs Wrong

Cora could seemingly do no wrong during the playoffs. His moves were inscrutable. Brock Holt was the first player ever to hit for the cycle in the playoffs. He was pulled from the lineup the next night. Eduardo Nunez pinch-hitting for Rafael Devers? Three-run home run! But there were times during the season, and even once in the playoffs, when Cora admitted a mistake. “The game got a little bit ahead of me,” was a line he used more than once during the season. He frankly admitted leaving Eduardo Rodriguez in for one batter too many in World Series Game 4, resulting in a three-run homer. Shades of Grady Little.

A manager admitting a mistake was unusual and refreshing. It earned him respect from fans and the media alike. Administrators and teachers are much like managers and coaches: we hate to admit when we’ve made a mistake. But teachers will have great respect for an administrator who concedes that an idea of his wasn’t exactly what the school needed; and students will respect a teacher who admits that “The class got a little bit ahead of me. ” It is usually abundantly obvious to both teachers and students when mistakes are made. Not admitting them demonstrates a lack of humility and can even project a sense of arrogance. No one is buying in when arrogance rears its ugly head.

Trust Instincts

Cora and the crew who crunch numbers for the team did an outstanding job behind the scenes. Cora had a wealth of information about his own players and the opponents for each game. But every once in a while, he played a hunch rather than going strictly by the numbers. There is a quirky human factor in the game of baseball, and sometimes things happen that make absolutely no statistical sense.

In education, the wealth of standardized testing delivers ample data for teachers and administrators. But as professional educators, we know our students. Teachers and even administrators are human, and humans do not always perform according to algorithm. The people in the trenches and on the front lines know their students best, and know when to let instinct trump statistics. The hunch played in a classroom can result in an academic grand slam for a student.

Listen

Early in the season, J.D. Martinez made the unprecedented request to have his batting practice sessions videotaped so he could analyze them. It did not take long for all the players to request the same thing and suddenly the team had a new resource to improve hitting.

Administrators may find that the best ideas come from teachers, and teachers can discover a new idea or method of presenting material by listening to students. If the staff and students have truly bought in to the goals set for the school, everyone has a stake in the game and everyone will find a way to contribute.

Best for the Team

One of the best moments of the World Series came in the middle of the ninth inning. For the entire playoff run, the pitching staff threw their concerns about protecting their arms out the window. Players who threw over 100 pitches one day were volunteering to pitch the next. Immediately after the 18 inning Game 3 marathon, Alex Cora had no less than four pitchers in his office volunteering to start game 4. One of them was Nathan Eovaldi who had just finished throwing 97 pitches in more than six innings of relief.

In the ninth inning of Game 5, Chris Sale, the originally announced starter, began warming up in the bullpen. As the bottom of the ninth began, the bullpen door opened and all the pitchers lined up and applauded Sale as he entered the game. It was a sight even veteran baseball fans had never seen. Most players want the ball, and while they may never admit it, they get a bit jealous when another pitcher gets the call. This group were all about what was best for the team. They checked their egos at the bullpen door.

Our focus as educators always has to be on the good of the students. It can be hard to focus on the task in front of us and not stew about the colleague who has an easier schedule or has students who are more focused and teachable. Borrowing a page from the Patriots playbook, everyone on the 2018 Red Sox did their job and showed no qualms about the assignments handed to other teammates. The result was another duck boat parade.

It takes an entire organization to shepherd a team to success. From the very top down, everyone must find a way to buy in, trust each other, and always focus on the common good. It isn’t easy. It takes a very special type of leadership to foster such trust and commitment—even when it takes until 3:30 a.m. to see the results. The more students find ways to make great plays, the more teachers can celebrate, and administrators can plan for the duck boat parade.