College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

Tags Posts tagged with "college preparedness"

college preparedness

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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.

MCAS, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, is the state benchmark assessment that measures skills and governs the issuance of high school diplomas. By the end of 12th grade, all students must achieve a passing score in math, reading and a science subject. The JFYNet program provides preparation for the math and English tests. By using online math and reading comprehension programs, we help students develop their skills to the levels needed to reach the state performance standards. JFYNet creates MCAS-aligned assignments and tasks that enable students to practice the skills and master the content needed for the MCAS.

The MCAS is derived directly from the state curriculum standards that were developed in the 1990s and are constantly updated by hundreds of teachers. Each question on the MCAS refers to a specific curriculum standard. There is a longstanding critique of “teaching to the test.” This critique misses the point that the test is a subset of the state standards. With 70,000 tenth graders, it would be impossible to gauge each student’s skills without some form of assessment. “Standardized” testing actually means testing on the standards. The test tells the teacher where the student needs help. If we want to base instruction on data, we need to collect data. MCAS and other “standardized” tests give us data that enable us to adjust instruction to the actual needs of the student. This is data-driven student-centered instruction.

The JFYNet methodology produces measurable results. One of the schools I support, East Boston High, has an intensive MCAS program for 9th and 10th graders. These students use the JFYNet reading comprehension program 80 minutes a week, two 40- minute periods, to work on reading and writing skills. They read nonfiction articles that are relevant to what is happening in our world today and articles that correlate to skills being taught in the classroom. They answer questions and write responses based on the readings. Thanks to the dedicated teachers who used this program with their students, the school’s Proficient and Advanced MCAS percentages in ELA rose 8 points from 2017 to 2018. This is a significant one-year increase.

9th and 10th grade math classes at East Boston High also use a JFYNet math program two 40-minute periods a week to strengthen math skills. The curriculum is tightly aligned to the curriculum standards on which MCAS is based. The 10th grade students who used this program last year achieved a 9-point increase in Proficient and Advanced percentages, beating the ELA gain.

JFYNet is now preparing the students at East Boston High to take the new NextGen MCAS 2.0 test in spring 2019. 9th and 10th graders in the ELA classes are well on their way to covering the material they will need for the new test in March. These classes have increased their average score on the embedded reading comprehension assignments to 72%, a big improvement over the 65% that was measured on the same internal assessment system a few years ago.

9th and 10th grade math classes are working on assignments based on the Massachusetts Math Frameworks. Students practice one or two standards per week. This preparation will help them on the MCAS 2.0 math test in May.

East Boston High is not the only school that employs the JFYNet program to prepare their students for MCAS by making sure they demonstrate proficiency on the curriculum standards that underly the test. More than 40 schools, mostly high schools but some middle schools too, have used JFYNet since 2000. More than 70,000 students have augmented their skills and improved their chances of entering college at the credit-earning level, or finding employment. The new MCAS 2.0 creates a new set of challenges for schools and students. JFYNet is ready and willing to help them, as we have been since the advent of statewide standards and assessment.

Related content found here.

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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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Of Engines and Mountains-little engine that could


Teaching students to think they can

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist
Illustration by George and Doris Hauman

In the classic children’s story “The Little Engine That Could,” the little blue steam engine is asked to pull a train full of toys and gifts to boys and girls on the other side of the mountain. Even though the engine is the smallest in the train yard, she gives it a try. She encounters many obstacles on the way up and each time she says, “I think I can, I think I can.” And in the end, as all children know, the little blue engine does make it over the mountain to deliver the toys to the children.

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by Eileen Wedegartner, Blended Learning Specialist

I fondly recall a ragged rhyme that kids used to chant on the last day of school. Every adult of a certain age knows some version of it, but the one we always bellowed was:

learning new song of summer, Schools not out forever...

Only the most daring or naughty would speak the last word. The rest of us just let it hang in the air as we fled toward the fleet of yellow buses that would ferry us away from the stifling chalk dust-filled confinement of desks and books and droning teachers to the sun-splashed freedom of beach balls, bikes, and the soothing chimes of the ice cream wagon.

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Summer Study for Accuplacer

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Many students don’t understand the connection between Accuplacer scores and their immediate future.

They may not see any connection until they meet with an admissions counselor and find out how many remedial courses they have to take. Although some community colleges are now waiving remedial math courses based on certain high school GPA levels, many institutions still require a minimum Accuplacer score for math and all still require it for English classes. 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. Today, let’s look at some strategies for improving English skills. (Part II will deal with math.)

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Road less traveled...leads to college success

One Student’s Journey

by Joan Reissman, Blended Learning Specialist

Today’s high school students are told constantly that they are on a long journey from school to college to career. They are urged to build their skills in order to succeed in a demanding job market. But for many, the transition to college is not mapped clearly enough. They enroll, but then find that their road to graduation is longer and more winding than expected. They discover that college acceptance does not guarantee enrollment in credit-bearing courses that lead to a degree. The road can detour through remedial courses that cost money and take time but do not count toward a degree. This is the story of one student who straightened out her college journey by taking a road less traveled by.

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$1 Million of College Savings for Students

One million dollars.

That’s how much JFYNetWorks has saved college-bound students.

How? By helping them build the skills to meet college entry requirements. Our high school-based blended learning programs have helped thousands of students improve their skills and eliminate over 2000 remedial college courses. The savings in tuition and fees have now passed the one million dollar mark.

A million dollars. The idea has deep American resonance. No amount of inflation can dim the luster of its gold-rush gleam.

Today’s gold rush is college. A two-year degree is worth $300,000 more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma. A four-year degree gains $800,000.