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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.

Kevin McCaskill of Madison ParkTech Voc

Technology could be the great equalizer for underserved populations.

OCTOBER 2020 PODCAST – This month’s podcast features a conversation between JFY 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. Between them, Mr. Kaplan and Mr. McCaskill have close to 75 years of experience advocating for public education. In this episode, we’ll hear as they talk about a variety of topics, including Mr. McCaskill’s reason for leaving the private sector and beginning a career in education, why urban schools struggle to hire diverse educators, and how technology could be the great equalizer for underserved populations.

Madison Park Tech Voc Grad Now the Educator Podcast, Lessons during Black History Month with Settenah Wright

Lessons taught during Black History Month

FEBRUARY 2020 PODCAST – Settenah Wright is a graduate of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, where she now teaches English as a Second Language. She grew up in Roxbury, MA, attending the Boston Public Schools and spent two years living in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is where her ESL teaching career began. In this episode, Ms. Wright shares her classroom lessons during Black History Month, and the local connections Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X and Barack Obama have to the Roxbury neighborhood.

Madison Park Holds the Line on MCAS Math

Madison Park is on an upward trajectory.

by Gary Kaplan

The scores are in, and they’re down. It was expected that scores on the new 10th grade MCAS 2.0 would be lower than on the old “Legacy” MCAS. The new test was designed to be more difficult, with higher-level questions. In addition, it was online, not on paper like the old test, and it contained new question formats—technology-assisted questions and multi-text comparisons, for starters—that students had never seen before. Lower scores were fully expected.

Madison Park MCAS Gain Leads State

The largest Proficient/Advanced gain in the state

by Gary Kaplan, JFYNetWorks Executive Director

MCAS scores for 2017 were released last month. JFY’s partner schools logged many good results, but Madison Park Technical Vocational High School was far and away the year’s high point.

Madison Park has come in for heavy criticism for many years. Every news story about school problems cites it as one of the lowest performing schools in the state. There is justification for concern: scores have historically been low and the school was demoted to Level 4 in 2015. In our skill-hungry labor market, it makes sense to be concerned: how can we support a burgeoning tech-based economy if Boston’s only vocational school can’t produce skilled workers?

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School Student

It’s Time for Madison Park To Get Some Respect

by Gary Kaplan

The Boston Globe Magazine’s recent article on vocational education (School of Work, 10/2/16) came down like a ton of raw concrete on Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School.  One commentator blamed Madison Park for “vocational education’s tarnished reputation in Massachusetts” while another recommended scrapping the school altogether and “start[ing] over again.”  There are legitimate reasons to be frustrated with Madison Park; but there are better options than the dumpster.

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.

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    JFYNetWorks Podcasts

    Podcasts from JFYNetWorks

    JFYNetWorks addresses today’s college readiness pursuit by providing focused blended learning programs in high school to help students build the academic skills they need to enter college or technical training earning academic credit. The JFYNetWorks blended program model — infusing specialized online content into the regular curriculum — also facilitates scalability, as the low cost of the online platform can easily be expanded to entire schools. Listen to our podcasts to learn more.

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    Kevin McCaskill of Madison Park Tech Voc High School, Pt 2

    JFY Welcomes Kevin McCaskill, Executive Director of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, pt 2

    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.

    Kevin McCaskill of Madison Park Tech Voc High School, Pt 1

    JFY Welcomes Kevin McCaskill, Executive Director of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, pt 1

    OCTOBER 2020 PODCAST – This month’s podcast features a conversation between JFY 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. Between them, Mr. Kaplan and Mr. McCaskill have close to 75 years of experience advocating for public education. In this episode, we’ll hear as they talk about a variety of topics, including Mr. McCaskill’s reason for leaving the private sector and beginning a career in education, why urban schools struggle to hire diverse educators, and how technology could be the great equalizer for underserved populations.

    NFHS, Importance of Extracurricular Student Activities

    Dr. James Weaver of NFHS, Importance of Extracurricular Student Activities

    AUGUST 2020 PODCAST – This podcast features Dr. James Weaver, the director of performing arts and sports of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Federation is the national leader and advocate for high school athletics, as well as fine and performing arts programs. Dr. Weaver has been the director of performing arts and sports for the past four years. In this interview, he discusses the importance of extracurricular activities for students, his own involvement in high school and college activities, how organizations are navigating during the Covid-19 era, and the groundbreaking preliminary results from a study of aerosol spread during performing arts activities.

    Click here for a transcript of this podcast.

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