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College and Career Readiness through Blended Learning

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life preparation

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!

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.

A Jeffersonian Solution for a Jeffersonian Problem: Inequality

All people may be created equal, but all schools are not.

by Gary Kaplan

Inequality will be a pervasive topic in the new decade. It won’t be a new topic. It’s been a front page story ever since Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century came out in English in 2014. But it seems to be coming up more frequently, and in more contexts, from the World Economic Forum in Davos to the sports page of the Boston Globe. Yet for the millions who live it every day, it’s hardly breaking news.

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.

Fate Faith in Classroom-Reflections on Hadestown

Reflections on Hadestown

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

We have many figures of speech in our language that refer to hell:

    “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
    “Going to hell in a handbasket.”
    “Heaven doesn’t want me, and hell is worried I’ll take over.” (That one has been ascribed, perhaps erroneously, to Rudy Giuliani.)

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the new Broadway musical Hadestown, in which there is actually a train to hell. (MBTA riders will understand.) I was struck by the show’s contradictory appeal. While the script frankly admits that the story is sad, the message is nevertheless one of unyielding hope. How is that possible? The story and the outcome, based on Greek myth, are totally predictable. So how does the script manage to convey a message of unwavering hope? And why, by the final curtain, had comparisons to the world of education become unavoidable, at least to me?

How to explain bad behavior to students

How to explain bad behavior to students

by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist

These are difficult times for teachers. With MCAS looming, budgets due (and most likely cut from last year), and antsy students counting the hours to year-end, teachers have a small mountain of things on their plate. Add the storm of controversies in pop culture (which students pay more attention to than Algebra) and the classroom can be a complex and complicated storm center. Students who grew up listening to R. Kelly are going to have many questions even before getting to the recent revelations about Michael Jackson. And now English teachers have to confront the news that Charles Dickens tried to have his wife committed to an insane asylum so he could be with another woman. (Divorce was apparently too much trouble.) Throw in John Wayne’s recently rediscovered racist rants and Joe Biden’s hair fetish and your head spins like a scene from The Exorcist.

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.

Travel Advisory-Pay Attention
I am always amazed that students ever make it to class on time!

by Cathie Maglio, Blended Learning Specialist

Navigating the corridors of a high school during the changing of classes is a challenge. I’d rather drive on the expressway in rush hour. Students move in packs down the middle of the corridor making it difficult for anyone to pass. They congregate at the ends of the corridors blocking anyone from getting around the corner. They stop abruptly to greet a friend and you almost bump into them. Or they almost crash into you texting on their cell phones oblivious to their surroundings.