Full Discussion - Strategies for Addressing Transitions in Adult Basic Education

Discussion Transcripts

  1. Program Profiles and Classroom Formats
  2. Challenges and Resources
  3. Counseling and Mentoring
  4. Hybrid and Blended Models in Transitions Programs
  5. Accuplacer and College Developmental Courses
  6. Math and Transitions
  7. GED in Spanish
  8. Transitions and Students with Disabilities
  9. National External Diploma Program
  10. Delayed Feedback with GED Scores
  11. Assessing Non-Academic Skills
  12. Low Reading and Writing Ability
  13. Undocumented Students and Financial Aid

Program Profiles and Classroom Formats

Good morning, afternoon and evening to you all.

Today begins our week-long discussion on Transitions in Adult Education.

For full information on this discussion, go to:
http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/assessment/09transitions.html

I have some questions for subscribers:

  1. What seem to pose the biggest obstacles for your program when trying to successfully transition adult students from one education level to another, or from education to the workforce? What does your program try to do about this?
  2. What resources have you found helpful when trying to successfully transition a student? How have they been helpful?
  3. Please comment on the Introduction and/or Recommended Preparations for this Discussion, found at the announcement URL above.

Please post your questions and share your experiences now.

Thanks!!

Marie Cora

Assessment Discussion List Moderator


Hello and welcome everyone,

I'm Wendy Quiñones, an ABE teacher at a community-based learning center, the Community Learning Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I also taught for two years in our college transition program while Cynthia Zafft, whom you'll also meet in the course of the discussion - was head of NCTN. Recently - this past Saturday, in fact - I also began teaching a high-level ESOL communication class at a private two-year college in Boston, Urban College. This class consists of women who are family day care providers working toward a certificate; they have had all their content courses in Spanish and are now trying an academic English course for the first time.

Marie asked me to talk about the "process" at my learning center for transitioning students from ESOL into ABE. I can name it in a word: none. Our ABE program aims to move students toward a GED; many of our ESOL students have no need of or desire for one. We are also fortunate to receive a number of scholarships to the ESOL program at Harvard University's extension school, so our advanced students who want to work hard at improving their English often go there. We tried a specific transition class one year, but it was the only time we had a large enough cohort of students who were "stalled" in high-intermediate ESOL but wanted a GED.

However, when students do move into the ABE program from our ESOL classes, or they enter the ABE program with skills that are too high for ESOL but low by ABE standards, they generally go into a low-intermediate reading and writing class which I taught for two years. Higher-level students who already have a high school credential (and sometimes college as well) in their home countries often entered our transition to college program.
As we all know, these students are very different from native speakers in the same classes. In his research on low-intermediate adult learners, John Strucker noted the following distinction between native speakers and ELLs (English Language Learners):

  • Native speakers tended to have relatively stronger "meaning-based skills" [like comprehension and vocabulary] as compared to "print-based skills," [for example, word recognition] while non-native speakers exhibited the opposite pattern. Chall (1991) reported similar findings.
  • Many second-language speakers in ABE classes had surprisingly low levels of oral vocabulary in English (GE 2 to GE 4), despite their fluent levels of conversational English. Similarly low levels of oral vocabulary occurred among some inner-city young adults who were native speakers. Strucker, John. "What Silent Reading Tests Alone Can't Tell You: Two Case Studies in Adult Reading Differences," Focus on Basics, May 1997. http://www.ncsall.net/?id=456

So the question is, how do we cope with these learners with different needs? At my center, teachers are mostly left to our own devices. In the lower-level classes, where student need is universal for vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension instruction, concentrating on those is easy. At higher levels, it gets more complicated. In my GED class, using "The Lord is my shepherd" to demonstrate metaphor, my ELL students didn't know the word "shepherd"; in my college class, my Spanish-speaking students didn't know the word "rhyme."

One year in the transitions class, I tried to differentiate the instruction, having the lower-level ELLs work with an ESOL teacher for an hour of the 3-hour class. They learned the same vocabulary words but in contexts they could understand, and their writing assignments and grammar instruction paid attention to more specific ESOL issues in which to this day I have not been trained. We learned that while we could expect these ELLs to learn the words, we couldn't use the same tests; their tests needed to be much more similar to the examples they used in class. Native speakers and higher-level ELLs could be expected to know the words in different contexts. I also gave some readings at different levels - either different materials or in many cases short stories for which I provided both an adapted version and the original, like O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." Except for the fact that all the students were exposed to great American short stories, I can't say that any of these techniques worked particularly well.

So I'm still hunting for a "process" that will help ELLs to transition into ABE and college classes. I imagine many of you have much better ideas than I do. I'm looking forward to hearing about them!

Regards,

Wendy Quiñones


Hello...I'm Kathy Ellithorpe. My teaching situation is a unique one-I teach at an alternative school in Southern Colorado. We are an online and onsite school for adults and at risk students. We have a student base of about 300-most are adult and returning students. It's so interesting to see that the difficulties we face in our adult ed. program are found everywhere.

Like you-the academic skills of our students are varied. Some read at a GE8-9 but writing is typically at GE2-3. Math falls well below expectation as well. Usually GE1-3. Where do we begin? We have a combination of computer learning programs and books. It takes a while for many of the ELL and even native speakers (as adults) to have the courage to tackle a computer-but once they get the hang of that they enjoy that as a method of learning. The ELL's have a harder time and need much more one on one time with a teacher and a book.

Retaining our learners is a problem. Many adult learners are transient and just don't "stay put" long enough to realize much success.

Kathy Ellithorpe


Hello, Everyone,

My name is Pam Ferguson and I'm an ESL instructor and department chair of Basic Skills (ESL & ABE) at Yakima Valley Community College in Yakima, Washington. How great to have our work in transitions here at YVCC referenced in the Assessments Resources!

Torchlights in ESL: Five Community College Profiles

See Yakima Valley Community College for description of how the ESL and ABE/ASE faculty collaborate

Please note, if you read this publication, that NRS levels for ESL have changed since this report was written. Old NRS levels were ESL Levels 1-5 and YVCC started transitioning students in Levels 4 and 5, with concurrent enrollment in both ESL and ABE classes. Now, with the NRS changes to ESL Levels 1-6, YVCC starts transitioning ESL students in Levels 5 & 6. So, essentially, it's the same practice with different level numbers.

Thanks for your consideration!

Pam Ferguson


Hi Pam,

Welcome - it's nice to have a representative from a program being highlighted in our discussion! We welcome your thoughts!

Marie Cora

Assessment Discussion List Moderator


Hi All,

Our program is a small (under 200 ADA) adult school in southern California. I concur with Wendy in that the majority of our ESL students do not presently have a desire or any self-determined need to transition to an ASE program. The majority of our transition program is aimed toward transitioning ESL students into higher level ESL classes as they progress in language acquisition. This, to us, is actually a bigger problem than transitioning them into ABE/ASE. We have found that most Hispanic students in the ESL programs are very reluctant to change instructors, whether it is due to transition or teacher turmoil. To help encourage transition and language acquisition progression we have developed a program of instructor-assessed competencies, in addition to our standardized test scores, to determine if a student is really ready to transition to the next level of instruction. This program is also highly dependent on the instructors communicating with each other on the readiness of their students to enter the next level.

We do have a transitional ABE/ASE course that we call a Pre-GED instructional course. Since we are a small agency we enroll both transitioning ESL and ABE students in this class and provide a heavy emphasis on English language arts. We use a combination of both traditional direct instruction and computer based instruction and we have also found, like Wendy's program, that transitioning ESL students like the computer based instruction (once they are familiar with it) as they can work at their own level and repeat lessons as much as they feel is necessary to gain mastery.

David Williams

Principal

Beaumont Adult School


David,

This sounds good to me. How happy are you with the results? And people may be interested in how you developed the instructor assessed competencies. Clearly the available standardized tests aren't adequate for this purpose, and I think many programs have adopted some version of your approach.

Forrest Chisman


Dear All -

Here at the Del Mar College Department of GED Instruction all students must be reading at the 7th grade level or higher. We are part of a CO-OP that implements tiered instruction. The Adult Learning Center focuses on students reading between the 4th and 6th grade level. The Corpus Christi Literacy Council focuses on students with a 3rd grade reading level and below. During our 12 hour mandatory orientation all students are given a Locater Test (1st day) and TABE Test (2nd day). The two exams contain a Reading section, Math (math computation/applied math), and Language Arts. The exams are then given to our test assessor who determines the academic level each student is functioning at. All students reading at the 7th grade level or above are allowed to register in our program and the remaining students are divided among the CO-OP members that can specifically meet their needs.

The Del Mar College Department of GED Instruction no longer serves ESL students. However, we do have some students that at one time were ESL students and have remained with us over time and are functioning as well or even better than some of our English speaking students. In fact, several have transitioned into college level courses at DMC. There is an ESOL Program at DMC that specifically serves ESOL students and eventually mainstreams with the rest of the student body.

Our classes are divided into two tracks; Track II and Track III. Both classes teach the same material needed for the GED exam, but the Track III class is taught at a faster pace and students are introduced to college level material.

We have developmental labs, expanded academic classes, and a Friday only math lab which runs outside of our usual class schedule(s), all of which allow students to get extra instruction.

Our current pass rate for first time test takers is between 99% and 100% and our average test scores are among the highest in the United States.

Last year 72% of our student body transitioned from our GED program and into college.

Charlene Salazar


Charlene-

I'm curious what regulations your state has for those that wish to take the GED test. Can students "just" sign up to test and bypass your system without preparation? 99-100% pass rate is extraordinary and the fact that you have a track for GED prep which includes college prep is enviable!

Phyllis Bonneau

Regional Coordinator

EASTCONN Adult Services


Charlene,

The ideas of a collaborative and tracking are fascinating. But they raise the question of whether students who enter at low levels of ability make it through the system. Do you know what percentage of students who start at the Literacy Council and the Adult Learning Center enroll in your GED program and obtain GEDs? Also, how do you select students for Tracks II and III, what percentage are in each, and how do they differ in their personal profiles?

Forrest Chisman


I'm the GED Coordinator for an adult education agency in Missouri. We understand our mandate to be serving adults with a need for basic or secondary-level education whether or not they are working toward a GED credential. Among the things we're doing to expand the perception of what we do is offering a Transitions to College class. We have what I think is an excellent class that combines a lot of information/conversation about college issues with higher-level reading, writing, and math, and the few students who have completed it agree. However, we have a lot of trouble recruiting for the class. Students want to do it, but they have transportation problems or schedule issues and can't commit to the eight-week attendance requirement. We serve seven school districts, so trying to offer a class in a central location is difficult.

We are considering changing models and having our Transitions teacher, who is also an ABE/ASE instructor as well as a community college English teacher, do the traveling. She would hold one Transitions to College session per month at each of our sites. She would address issues such as time management, financial aid, the work load, and so forth. Then we would hope/expect that the demand for academics beyond the level required to pass the GED Tests would increase system-wide, and all our sites would be working on academics with Transitions students.

We might pilot this model for a few months to find out whether having the teacher providing a teaser onsite would increase interest in and commitment to the eight-week class, or alternatively, whether the traveling teacher could provide enough information about college and the transitions academics could be done on an individual basis so that the new model would address our need to provide support for students transitioning to postsecondary education.

I would be interested to hear any feedback, suggestions, or cautions you all might have about our experience and our thinking here. Thanks!

Debra Morris Smith


Debra,

Kendra [see contact info below] can explain more about how our eight-week intensive college transition program runs. I think the recruiting works much more effectively at the adult education center site because each AEC knows its student populations and can present the benefits and buy-ins powerfully.

Kendra Rodriguez

Project Manager

Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN) Initiative

Colorado Community College System Foundation

9101 E. Lowry Boulevard

Denver, Colorado 80230

720-858-2787 (office)

303-620-4094 (fax)

Stephanie Moran


At the Community College of Denver, we have a summer program called College Connection that transitions GED/HS grads to college. It's an intensive/accelerated 8-week program. We are fortunate to have a Navigator that helps students navigate the college system.

College Connection, in addition to instruction in math, reading and writing, offers a 1-credit college course, AAA 101 - College 101: Student Experience, where students get further instructions on how to succeed in college. They also do a career goal exploration. Part of this exploration is connecting students to advisors that would guide them in their next "journey" in the following semester, if they choose to register for classes.

Also, our subject area instructors schedule a student/teacher conferencing regularly to make sure students are on track. Through these meetings, we learn a lot of things about the students, including personal issues. We deal with these issues when we can and if necessary, we refer them to professionals on campus.

Ranee Cervania

Curriculum Specialist

Ready for College - Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN)

Colorado Community College System


At our site we TABE test our entering students. This gives us a general idea where they are academically and just what areas need to most work. Most community colleges use the Accuplacer (see thread entitled 'Accuplacer').

Kathy Ellithorpe


Hi Marie:

I've been busy reading down the many facets of this discussion: teacher/student challenges with algebra (see thread entitled 'Math and Transitions'), the role and reality of online learning, how tests like the Accuplacer (see thread entitled 'Accuplacer') and Compass created a "narrow door". I'll comment on a few of them but I thought I would just mention something about models first.

One way to decrease the likelihood of being overwhelmed by all this is to think in terms of models of transition. There are many, many out there. The five that we've focused on at the National College Transition Network (NCTN) are the ones in our models paper (here's a brief review we did for a conference in Washington State:
http://www.collegetransition.org/workshops/WA/ModelsHandoutv3.doc)

The models we discuss in the paper are:

  1. Advising
  2. GED-Plus
  3. ESOL/ESL
  4. Career Pathways
  5. College Prep

Each has the same goal: to prepare students for postsecondary education. And they share many of the same content (e.g., all include some focus on what the K-12 system refers to as "college knowledge" and preparing students for the college placement test) but the delivery is different.

For example, the Advising model relies upon one-to-one and small group counseling by someone familiar with adult education students' transition needs as they transition into college. Many adult education programs partner with their local college to provide this service through a designated counselor/advisor at the college or adult education center.

Depending on its level of intensity, it can be effective. Some programs follow students for a year before they arrive in college and then through the first year of college. The magic word here is "intensity."

Getting a dedicated advisor is key. Adults, in particular, like the 1:1 help with problem-solving but keep in mind that many advisors/counselors may end up being assigned to 1000 students.

Another model that folks are often familiar with is the career pathways model. Many adult learners are looking to enter more promising employment and, while the math has been a challenge for many of the health care and technical careers, the contextualized nature of study is very motivating. The folks from Washington State can maybe comment on the I-Best model, but I'll include a link here, just in case:
http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/college/d_basicskills.aspx It combines basic skills with postsecondary-level technical training. In the planning process and classroom you will find both an adult educator and the technical instructor. This has been a hard model for rural and small programs.

Lastly, I'll mention the College Prep model which is an intensive, semester's work located between completing the GED/ELL and college. Students attend class up to 12 hours per week and focus on reading, writing, math, digital literacy, placement testing, and all that "college knowledge." Much of what is on our website is based on this model. The state of Maine has decided to use this model and has funded 20 adult education centers around the state to provide this service to adults. See http://www.maine.gov/education/aded/dev/transitions.htm

Cynthia Zafft

National College Transition Network

www.collegetransition.org


In my program, we do sometimes take people who have diplomas/GEDs but low skills -- but only if we have room. We are not funded to improve people's basic skills once they have the credential.

Wendy Quiñones


All -

At Del Mar College are students are introduced to computerized tests through the computer software known as PLATO. PLATO allows them to take practice tests in all of the five subject areas found in the GED exam. Every Thursday our students also take what we call OPT'S (Official Practice Tests). When a student has mastered a subject, they are allowed to test in the computer lab with a proctor who records their score(s). When a student tests in all five subject areas and reaches a combined score of 2500 or higher, they are then given the green light to take the official GED exam and given a scholarship to pay for the test.

Charlene Salazar


Hi Charlene,

I love that you have students take GED practice tests through PLATO. Here in DC we also use PLATO. After reading your post, I looked to see if we had the option to have students take practice tests but it doesn't appear to be available. Do you know what steps need to be taken to add that ability to PLATO?

Thanks so much for you help,

Jessie Stadd


Charlene,

What kind of preparation do students receive? Is it one-on-one or class format? How much instruction time do they get (if they do) before they are allowed to do the practice test? How much time do they spend on the practice test before they master a subject? Does the mastery of a subject depend solely on the practice test?

Ranee Cervania

Curriculum Specialist

Ready for College - Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN)

Colorado Community College System


I have the impression (based on inquiry and what I've seen at CCD) that GED sites are generally a lab format -- one-on-one tutoring.

I'm doing a survey. Please let me know which format you follow at your GED sites--classroom, i.e., regular classes are held or LAB, i.e., one-on-one tutoring.

Thank you for your participation.

Ranee Cervania

Curriculum Specialist

Ready for College - Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN)

Colorado Community College System


We use a combination of one-on-one and lab. Also use computer programs and peer tutoring...Byron Syring DELTA Center...Colorado

Kathy Ellithorpe


We offer small classes M-R (Monday through Thursday) in all 5 GED subjects and also have ABE-level reading and math classes as well as our LMB reading program.
Afternoons are 1:1 tutoring as are our evening classes.

We also have Guided Instruction in all 3 morning slots where a student basically works 1:1, take practice tests, registers for the test, gets whatever brief counseling for the GED/college/etc. s/he might need. Works great for fast trackers, some older students who don't want to be with a youthful crowd, and those with LDs (learning disabilities) who need a quieter space.

Stephanie Moran


Thanks for your response, Stephanie.

I have a few more questions, though.

  1. How small is 'small'? What is your minimum number of Ss? Maximum number of students?
  2. Since there are 5 GED subjects, does that mean you offer 5 separate GED classes for each subject area?
  3. If so, how long is a GED class?
  4. Are these classes offered the year round?

Thanks,

Ranee Cervania


We have managed classroom settings for morning, afternoon and evening classes. When our students go through a six-week session and still need additional remediation, they go to a one-on-one targeted instruction setting.

Kay Combs

GED Coordinator

Center for Lifelong Learning

Georgetown, KY


Hi Kay,

Are your six week sessions broken out according to educational levels? How do you handle the students if they have not made any progress within the 6 weeks?

Brigette Satchell

Assistant Dean, Programs and Instruction

Gloucester County College


We have pre-GED and GED classes. Anyone who tests below a 5.0 GE in Reading and Math on the TABE are in pre-GED classes. Everyone else is in a GED class. Typically our Pre-GED class size is small so these students can be served in a classroom and individual basis based on their needs. If the GED students have not progressed at the end of the six weeks, they have a choice of repeating the class or receiving individual targeted instruction. Contrary to popular opinion, most of the students opt for the classroom setting again. It is the student engagement and relationship part of adult education that I believe allows students to want to be with the students they have formed a relationship with over the six-week time period.

In the Pre-GED class, we look at the six-week time frame mostly for post-testing purposes, but there is not a standard time for their educational obtainment. Some of these students are very low-level readers and they know they will be in this classroom environment until they progress. Amazingly, we have had almost the same group of students throughout the school year and they have low absenteeism, high motivation for achievement and consistently ask for homework.

There are many other students we serve that cannot be in the classroom setting because of home and work life. We partner with KET (Kentucky Educational Television) and for $40 they receive the set of GED Connection books and we arrange for them to meet with an instructor weekly to catch up on homework, review any issues they having, etc. In addition, we document hours they are working through homework they turn in. When they have achieved the ability to take their GED, they receive a $40 voucher which pays for their GED test. So, they really aren't loosing any money; they have a set of books that the instructor has in the classroom and many times instructors can assist the students over the phone or on-line. I hope this helps.

Kay Combs

GED Coordinator

Center for Lifelong Learning

Georgetown, KY


At our center, students get nearly all their instruction in classes of up to 12. Those who need it can request a tutor, which we will supply if we have enough.

Wendy Quiñones


Kay used the phrase "contrary to popular opinion" when she talked about the students who want to remain in a classroom setting. I'm interested in finding out more about this "popular opinion" and why it leads teachers to believe that students prefer individualized instruction in workbooks.

Thank you,

Dianna Baycich


I would say regarding 1:1 vs. small group instruction, different strokes for different folks. Most of our students do like being in a classroom, but fast-trackers just want the quick version and then take the GED and move on with other goals. The students who seem to respond best to small group are the ones who perhaps never before truly experienced being a part of a *successful working* group, and they know they are valued in our classes, their opinions are taken into account, and their intelligence is recognized and made note of in comfortable, public ways. These students often need more "breathing space" as well as content/skill improvement, and our centers are the perfect place to take time. I'm not talking about "mascots" who don't make progress-just people whose lives need a "clean-well-lighted place" where studying is part of the larger healing/learning environment.

Stephanie Moran


Assessment Colleagues,

Although the Transitions discussion is now over, here's an article that may be of interest. Midland College in West Texas has combined adult basic and developmental education. The merger is intended to ease the transition of ABE students into college. The Dean in charge was formerly a director of adult basic education.

http://tinyurl.com/brvryj

David J. Rosen

DJRosen@theworld.com


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Challenges and Resources

Good Morning to all,

My name is Lydia Grinnell. Thanks for all the interesting conversation! I work as a Higher Education Specialist at the Crittenton Women's Union. I work in two of their programs specifically GED and Workforce Development; however I also provide my services to our Young Parents program as well as our Housing guests. In my position I teach both groups of my primary clients weekly as one of the goals of my position; the goal of the GED and Workforce Development programs is not only to prepare but also to expose students to careers, college, and the possibilities and value of higher education. I also provide one-on-one counseling to those students looking to go to college or training after our program.

Of the difficulties I face, there are many.

  1. students wanting to go back to school that have defaulted student loans and no money to pay them back
  2. students with low level skills (mostly GED recipients) that fall into developmental classes
  3. students who have been out of school a long time and get denied acceptance to a university (even with one student that has her Associates Degree from 17 years ago and had a 2.4 GPA)
  4. students with children that don't want to be separated from their children
  5. students that have children and are in need of childcare AND to work and go to school
  6. students with lack of or no support at home

My thoughts on transitioning students to higher education or work is that there are not enough "transitional supports" available to all. I often refer my students to a college prep program; however it is the only one in the area and operates at night when students do not have childcare available. I also run into a bump with the large amount of students I find with defaulted student loans from "career schools" of which they left due to unsatisfactory conditions or pregnancy, incarceration, etc, etc.

At the moment, at my organization we do not have the funding for a full fledged transitions program, so all we have is my position as well as a career specialist who works on placing students into jobs and internships as well as teaches job readiness. Between our two positions we cover a lot, but due to constraints, find it difficult to do as much as we would like. I am not a certified ABE teacher and neither is the career specialist. We teach in our areas, though often to students simply preparing for their GED or a job, and hence our positions become persuading those not interested to be interested in learning what we are trying to help them learn. Self-sufficiency is our mission and it is not an easy one.

I found the articles very interesting and helpful, thank you!

Sincerely,

Lydia Grinnell

Academic Specialist

Crittenton Women's Union

Education and Workforce Development


The biggest obstacle I have found is documentation. While students can apply to the college and register for classes, they cannot apply for financial aid. I have been looking for scholarships but haven't had any luck so far.

Getting buy in from different departments to support the transitioning ESL student really helps.

The profiles of the colleges were very interesting.

Jennifer Barber

English as a Second Language

Grays Harbor College

Aberdeen, WA


  1. What seem to pose the biggest obstacles for your program when trying to successfully transition adult students from one education level to another, or from education to the workforce? What does your program try to do about this?
    The biggest obstacle for my program when trying to successfully transition adult students from one education level to another is persistence and motivation. Attendances at classes are inconsistent. What we try to do in our program to address these obstacles are varied. We have managed enrollment so that we have a cohort of students going through the program. We try to communicate often with instructors, coordinators and students. We occasionally bring in guests from the community to address to the class about careers and other issues. We are trying to set up a student support group to hold regular group sessions where students can get emotional support. We have approached our funding partners to support high achieving ABE students in taking post-secondary certificate classes. We have reviewed and rewritten our course guides using the CASAS content standards.
  2. What resources have you found helpful when trying to successfully transition a student? How have they been helpful?
    We are a CASAS state and we use it to measure student progress and determine class placement. We have used this system successfully in ABE, ESL and ASE.
  3. Please comment on the Introduction and/or Recommended Preparations for this Discussion, found at the announcement URL above.

I look forward to learn from the guests and the discussions.

Barbara Jacala

Guam Community College


Barbara,

You have done about as much as you can do, as far as I can tell. Let's face it, many ESL students aren't going to progress very far on their first try, because the skills of most of them are so low, and it takes so long to get much of a payoff. Managed enrollment helps. It's best if it can be done in high intensity and/or short module classes that help students get a sense of making progress. Also contextualization of workforce or postsecondary material from the beginning appears to help - think of where they might be going as soon as they start. Also I believe that personal learning plans and MUCH more investment in guidance/counseling help a great deal to motivate students. Some programs have "recovery" efforts that reach out to students who have "stopped out? Finally, I think the ESL curriculum needs to be reviewed to include more emphasis on helping students become self-directed life-long learners. Most won't learn most of their English in the classroom, so ESL should have as a goal helping them to learn better and more outside it.

Forrest Chisman


Hi Barbara,

Although you note that persistence and motivation is a frustration for your program, it sounds like you are trying a range of efforts to curb this - I especially like that you host community members. Perhaps there are ways to expand the most successful activities you are using now to keep the students coming to the program. I know that student persistence is a common issue for many programs.

Marie Cora

Assessment Discussion List Moderator


Everyone,

Small programs that can not set up separate transition classes must often get very creative. I've been collecting data on local programs that have some promising practices in place when it comes to transition from ESL to ABE/ASE. One program in central Texas (Community Action, Inc. in San Marcos) has such an obviously good practice in place, you would miss it if you weren't looking for it! The Kyle Learning Center uses a teacher exchange between ESL and ABE/ASE classes to "wean" reluctant ELLs and move them on to ABE/ASE. See Literacy Links, Volume 11, no.1, April 2007, "Building Bridges to the Next Level - A Successful Experiment" by Jan Greening and Lee Williams (www-tcall.tamu.edu; then click on quarterly publications). Talk about a confidence builder!

Barbara Tondre

Texas LEARNS


Thanks, Barbara, for letting me tag on to your email.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support adults in this transition journey. There are several types of collaborations that I know of that have been very, very helpful along the way. Here's just one example.

In El Paso, several adult education centers created a consortium that began by just talking about ESL-to-college transition for their upper level students. Some centers were small, some were large. Together three centers, with support from El Paso Community College, developed and piloted what was eventually called a "pre-transition" program because they felt students needed to be better informed about the option of college before they decided to commit the amount of time/energy/family goodwill to such an endeavor. It ran at San Jacinto Adult Learning Center. Almost all of the students stayed on for another semester to focus on reading/writing/math for a college setting, then matriculated to college or university. Working separately this would not have happened when it did.

Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

National College Transition Network


Yes, the best solution for small programs seems to be to share resources to create a transitions program that will serve all of them, or to share faculty to deliver transitions courses in all of them. Alternatively, they should refer students to larger programs nearby. This shouldn't be hard, but people in these programs are so overwhelmed with other responsibilities that they usually can't manage it. State TA should reach out and help them in this.

BTW, there seems to be an assumption by some people in this discussion that ESL students must be transitioned to ABE/GED if they are to make transitions. That's not self-evident to me. The ESL curriculum can be enriched. In fact, given the skills problems and learning styles of ESL students, that may be the best way to go. I'd like to see some discussion of that from ESL folks.

Forrest Chisman


  1. The low skill level of many students trying to transition from GED to college may be the biggest barrier. We are part of the SUN grant/College Connection grant here in Colorado, so we are in the middle of doing exactly this-working in an intensive 8-week program that is attempting to help our GED grads accelerate their skill levels in reading, writing, math, study skills, critical thinking-and learn how to "do college" as well as explore career options. Our students are dedicated, but many nevertheless lack more sophisticated skills. One of our grant goals is to help them successfully pass through their current remedial course, and if they are at the 030 or 060 level, to perhaps skip over the next one into the higher 060/090 or into credit-bearing courses altogether.
  • Study skills of students-many GED students are episodic in their attendance and can still pull off a solid GED score, but college demands consistent and focused show-up-and-suit-up skills that may be unfamiliar if not downright foreign to GED grads.
  • Another barrier is that some teachers perceive their primary role as helping students earn the GED and although such teachers often support post-GED studies, they don't want to push students or focus on higher-level skills. This creates a de facto tracking system, and it may be that centers will need to formalize such tracking so that students who know they want to go on to post-GED studies can work with those teachers.
  • Resources: Having GED teachers who also teach as adjuncts for community colleges is hugely helpful because we understand both systems and what is required for a student to be successful in a college environment; we also can tutor and advocate in a way that teachers who teach at only one level may not be able or willing to do as effectively.
    • THE SUN/ College Connection grant has given us time and funding to develop curriculum, to work in close collaboration with other teacher/team members, and to introduce this approach to the community colleges.

    Stephanie Moran

    Durango, CO


    Hi Stephanie:

    In your post, you mention the role of the teacher, especially the additional skill set that GED teachers need in order to teach transition-related skills. I wonder if you would say a few words about how you decided what to include in your transition program and how the GED/adjunct teacher perspective was included.

    Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

    National College Transition Network

    World Education in Boston


    Cynthia, Colorado was one of 4 states to earn an OVAE grant specifically to help transition GED grads into college successfully, with a target age of 18-24. We take Ss outside that age range, but only those who make gains in the age range are counted for the purposes of this grant. The grant charges us with helping Ss make gains in their remedial classes, and if they score in one of the lower of the three courses, to zoom past the next level, the idea being to save them time, money, and frustration. Of course, if you are familiar with the Accuplacer (see discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer'), then you know that this is a hard road to hoe. Our fall students made real strides as readers, writers thinkers, and computers, but they did not all make vast leaps on the Accuplacer. The grant also expects us to do a lot with career exploration and teach study skills. I am having a terrific time with the Career Goal Exploration Project that I've put together.

    This is an 8-week intensive course taught M-R (Monday through Thursday), the English/reading from 8:30--10:00 and math to 11:45. Students attend study sessions in their weak subjects for 2 hours minimum every week. We have a "Navigator," not a teacher, who recruits and functions to reduce non-academic barriers--someone that at least in theory the students may bond with and go to when trouble of any sort arises.

    As it happens, my colleague Nan and I both have extensive college teaching, and we believe deeply in the need for education well beyond the GED for people who want to live a reasonably decent life in terms of the usual amenities, so we were a perfect fit. I don't think students would do as well in the college course with a teacher who wasn't familiar with college coursework, expectations, workload, etc.

    Did this answer your question adequately? I am flying this week and trying to keep up with these discussion replies!

    Stephanie Moran


    Cynthia,

    I just wanted to comment on the role of the teacher and what skills GED teachers need for transition related skills. We are currently operating a transition to college class in conjunction with our local community college. Higher level math skills seem to be the main focus of this class and the learning barrier most adult students struggle with the most. It is critical that Transition teachers have college level math skills.

    The community college uses the Compass test to assess students and if they score too low they are immediately put into remedial classes. They still have to pay tuition for these classes thus using up their financial aid. Our instructor is using the materials that they use in the remedial classes as well as cross referencing with the Compass test to bypass the remedial classes. Many students are doing this successfully and are then still coming to class for tutoring and support once they enter the non remedial credit classes.

    We are working on a duel credit program so that students get credit on their transcripts for taking our transition class which is free. We are a state funded adult ed center offering ABE, GED, ESL and transition classes.

    Nickie Nolting

    Workforce Development Facilitator

    Professional Development Facilitator

    GED Chief Examiner

    Columbus, IN


    Dear Stephanie,

    Like others, I'm intrigued by your description of the SUN program. How do you focus on the higher order thinking skills in your 8-week intensive program? What kinds of tasks or projects are students asked to undertake?

    Hillary Major

    Publications Coordinator

    Online Courses Technical Facilitator

    Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center


    I do an awful lot of foundational work to make sure that every student understands the language of critical thinking/reading/writing, e.g., infer/inference, topic vs. main idea vs. major details. I use a textbook, Critical Reading, Critical Thinking by Pirozzi, Starks-Martin, and Dziewisz, that has short selections across a truly wide swath of subjects, so the Ss get a great deal of bang for the buck-getting the reading/thinking piece and being forced to read more widely simultaneously!

    I also use several articles from national columnists-Friedman, Harrop, a piece about "Are Kidneys a Commodity" from a Newsweek column-and really teach the hell out of them re summary, paraphrase, concession/refutation, implications vs. stated ideas-I really am trying to do a whole lot more with much less-intensive work. Ss do actual vocabulary work as well based on word parts/families so that they are forced to examine words far more closely than most have been accustomed. This intensive course ends on March 5 so I'll have more time at that time to share some materials; feel free to email me at that time and I'll pass on what I have done.

    Stephanie Moran


    WOW!!!! A discussion group that I can really use and hopefully add too (or is that to?)....Perfect example in my room this evening...a young lady who completed her H.S. diploma in adult ed., last week in my classroom and GUESS WHAT???? She can't be admitted into our local college unless she brings up her reading score! I have spent months helping her with FASFA, Admissions, Virtual Classes, etc.

    I am the G.C.D.F. (Global Career Development Facilitator for Adult Ed., in our county plus I am the administrator for any Virtual classes, and much, much more!

    Finding time to communicate with the discussion group will be difficult, but, this is one group that I most certainly need to be involved with...

    I have built a portaportal site which I am more than happy to share with all...as I find helpful links I add them as often as possible. BUT, always remind everyone that if any links are inappropriate or request a fee, please let me know.

    http://guest.portaportal.com/cwsmith

    You can also build one of your own if you are an educator by registering at www.portaportal.com

    I will answer the questions (provided as prompts) as soon as I can and ask for input from other teachers here at Howard Adult Ed., in Georgetown County. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Calette W. Smith

    Career Transition Specialist &

    Virtual Learning Coordinator

    Georgetown County Adult Education, SC


    We have advanced ESOL students who keep coming back because they want to improve. However, their CASAS score is too high that we are not seeing any more gains and they are therefore showing up in our reports as failures, i.e. continued in the same level or left the program before completion. I am thinking that we should try to move them over to the postsecondary developmental English courses. We are also considering offering an academic ESL course to transition such students to postsecondary. What are your thoughts?

    Barbara Jacala

    Guam Community College


    We have an ESL to ABE Transition class for those exact learners. High ESL learners were often not ready for an ABE or GED class so we developed the Transition Class. Most students are in the ESL to ABE Transition class for one or two semesters. We developed a set syllabus, but certainly exercise some flexibility.

    Elizabeth B. Sinnes

    Adult Education Programs Coordinator

    Charles County Maryland Public Schools


    Hello, we have the same problem....the ESOL class is too high to make gains, but the students either don't want a GED or aren't ready....would you share your syllabus? What is your class size and how many of your students yearly obtain skills to earn a GED? I am the Supervisor of AE in Williamson County TN. We are trying to help our students advance to the GED.

    Thanks,

    Rhonda Booker Long


    My thought is: Do it! In terms of transition to postsecondary, there are only three strategies I know of: 1) gradually transitioning them to a GOOD ABE/ASE program, 2) Providing credit ESL with co-enrollment options at the post-secondary level, 3) providing "career ladders" that allow students to get near term payoff by enrolling in integrated VESL programs at the intermediate level and then, hopefully, recovering them for pre-collegiate ESL later. All of these are hard, but all of them work to some extent. Personally, I believe that ESL programs should incorporate the elements of credit ESL as the highest levels of non-credit. I also think that they should adopt personal learning plans and devote FAR more resources to guidance/counseling to help steer students through these various pathways. I know that's asking a lot, and that many programs lack the necessary resources. However, I would rather see fewer students served well than a lot of students served badly. Also, learning plans guidance, counseling, etc. help separate possible transition students from students who are looking for only life skills == and to encourage the life skills students to expand their horizons.

    Finally, many students do appear to re-enroll in certain courses - apparently because they view this as a social experience. Many programs put a limit on how many times a student can take a particular course and stage interventions when the limit is reached.

    Forrest Chisman


    In response to several requests to share the syllabus we developed for the ESL Transition to ABE class, I am sending some details. Although we have had a transition class for 3 years, this is the first year we have treated it as a 16 week class with a syllabus. It was developed by two current teachers with 25 years of combined experience in ABE and ESL.

    The class meets 3 hours, twice per week for for 16 weeks. Most students move to an ABE class after one semester, but some have been enrolled in the Transition class for a second semester. The class focuses on both math and reading/writing, but with less emphasis on speaking than the lower level ESL classes. Students must score between 215 and 225 on the CASAS Reading 185 or GE 4-8 on the TABE for class placement, in math they take the CASAS 33 but are not required to have a specific score. CASAS is used for all pre/post testing. Students also write a sample paragraph from a prompt.

    The texts currently used are:

    Weaving It Together Book 2 (Heinle) and

    Pre-GED Mathematics Skill Workbook (New Readers Press).

    Computer software is used to enhance the curriculum and used weekly by all enrolled students during class time. The computer lab is also available before or after class, if students wish to stay. Software programs used are Aztec, Skills Tutor and Web Quests.

    Math skills include but are not limited to:

    Place value, whole number operations, reading graphs, rounding, introductory fractions, basic measurement, math word problems, identifying operations, calculating miles per gallon, shopping/finding percent

    Language Skills Include but are not limited to:

    Compound sentences, inference, scanning for details, topic sentences, map skills, subject/verb agreement, punctuation, writing complete sentences, supporting sentences, plurals, reading graphs and charts, plural possessives, reading labels, homonyms, reading for details, commas, parts of speech, using a dictionary/thesaurus, writing a narrative, sequencing,

    I hope this is helpful. By the end of this semester we will refine the existing syllabus and would be happy to share it with those who are interested.

    Elizabeth B. Sinnes

    Adult Education Programs Coordinator

    Charles County Maryland Public Schools


    I think as we go through this discussion, we need to keep in mind that ABE/GED students and ESL or ESOL learners are two entirely different things. I teach both and have different approaches to both. It has been my experience that GED/ABE learners who are NOT language learners are generally with me because for one reason or another they didn't finish high school and are now wanting to do that. MOST of them have had learning problems throughout their school careers that were addressed poorly or not at all. For many of them academic recovery is the answer. Sometimes beginning at very elementary levels with basic skills. Most ESL and language learners face very different barriers to completion of a GED or high school diploma. Only one being the language barrier. Again-we begin at the beginning. Reading and verbal language usually far surpassed written language. Math is usually very good to whatever grade level they completed in their native school. This is a huge thing that we begin. Each at his/her own level of understanding and grade equivalent. I don't know if there we are in a "one size fits all" educational field. The only path to success is individualized instruction. Constant contact with the students. I have cell phones and work numbers for all. If they don't show at class I am on the phone with them wondering why. I chase them down in the grocery store and lure them back to class. I make friends with all of them and have had dinner in their homes. I make instruction as personal as possible.

    Ellithorpe, Kathy

    For some discussion of the differences between working with ABE/GED and ESOL students, see Wendy Quiñones' post in the transcript entitled 'Program Profiles'.


    Hi,

    I have been managing a transitions program based at a community college for 9 years. Here a few suggestions/strategies that adult secondary programs and even all ABE/ESOL adult programs can implement that do not utilize large sums of money.

    First, start at the beginning levels to help the students become independent learners, it has been my experience that students become overly dependent upon their teachers and staff at programs in giving them the information. When they are in a transition class and are asked to research topics, the students have not developed these skills. And we know how to research and find information is a skill that is not just academic but a life skill.

    Next start early and talk about life beyond the GED either in post secondary education or a technical trade.

    Give homework. I found that the students were shocked to find out how much homework is expected in college. But before you start giving homework, discuss with the students time management strategies so they can plan their study/homework time. The transitions teacher has the students fill out a 24 hour clock of their daily activities and often it is 30+ and that is before homework time is added in.

    Provide longer reading passages. In college there is a lot of reading expected and GED /ESOL students struggle because they have not yet developed the reading muscle.

    Toni Borge


    Hi Toni - welcome! Bunker Hill Community College is another of the programs profiled in the resource Torchlights that can be found in the Recommended Preparations.

    Glad to have you with us!

    Marie Cora

    Assessment Discussion List Moderator


    Toni,

    Amen! CAAL received recommendations along these lines from all the better college transition programs we studied, including the one at Bunker Hill. Everyone should take them VERY seriously.

    Forrest Chisman


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    Counseling and Mentoring

    I am the Transitions Liaison for the Del Mar College Department of GED Instruction. When I was hired for this position there were no guidelines. I was given the opportunity to design it in any fashion that I wished just as long as the job was successful and it got done. As a former GED graduate, I thought to myself what were the things that helped me move into post-secondary education. The first 2 things were motivation and support.

    When students step into a different educational arena it can be very intimidating for them; scary. Fear can make students turn and run in a different direction. A direction that will often not include a college education. So I told myself that when I met with a student, I was going to do everything in my power to motivate, support, and encourage these students. I try to make my students feel comfortable and confident and I do that by informing them of my educational journey of GED student to college graduate. I don't sugar coat anything and let them know that it will be tough and challenging, but so very rewarding in the end.

    Changing a student's "I can't" mind set to an "I can" allows them to start peeling away the layers of fears they have developed. I tell my students that there is no way they can move forward if they have one foot stuck in the past. Whatever it was that led them to this GED program doesn't matter anymore. They are here to get a GED, enter college, and/ or workforce and they must focus on the here and now.

    Another thing that works for me is making sure all our students know who I am. I teach new student orientation, attend awards assemblies, do classroom visits, and eat lunch with them whenever my schedule permits. So by the time a student comes in for a transitioning appointment, they already know me and feel comfortable talking to me.

    Knowledge is my best resource. I must be knowledgeable about everything the transitioner is going to have to deal with:

    1. Knowing all the key people in every department on campus(s)
    2. College Majors - does Del Mar College have associate and certificate programs in the students field of interest
    3. Admissions requirements and placement tests such as the THEA and COMPASS
    4. Tuition Costs
    5. Financial Aid - What is it and how do I apply for it?
    6. College Advising - Placement test scores and will the student have to enroll in remedial courses, degree plans and class schedules.
    7. Registration

    Availability is also key. I have an open door policy and make myself available to all our students day or night. For example: If a student is trying to register and doesn't know where to go or who to talk to, they can call me on their cell phones and I will walk them through the whole process over the phone. You have to let your students know that you care and you are there.

    If you have any other questions, please send them my way.

    Charlene Salazar


    Charlene,

    One of the things we are trying this year to increase motivation and persistence among our GED students is to provide mentors. We had our first training last night, and I shared with them your insights about motivation, support, and letting go of the past. In my experience, these are precisely what GED students need most! Thanks for sharing.

    Wendy Quiñones


    Hi Charlene,

    Thanks very much for your description - it's clear that the counseling aspect of your program is a crucial component and a successful one. It sounds like you are an inspiration, as well as a dedicated worker. My hat is off to you!

    Marie Cora

    Assessment Discussion List Moderator


    Regarding Charlene Salazar's role as Transitions Liaison, the students at your school are so lucky to have someone like you to help them! I am a former ABE/GED teacher and currently Assistant Professor of English at a community college, where I teach developmental level Reading and Writing. As a GED teacher, I saw my GED grads struggle with a variety of difficulties when they went to college, including understanding financial aid, paying for books, knowing how to navigate the schedule, knowing that they would still have to pay for a course if they stopped attending a course but did not officially drop, time management, etc., etc. The expectations in college are very different and most students didn't know how to navigate in this new environment. Now as an Assistant Professor where I teach students right out of high school, as well as GED graduates and adults returning to school, I can say that without a doubt, support is the most important factor that students need to succeed. Another thing that causes difficulty is the lack of alignment between various tests that students have to take, such as the Accuplacer (also see discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer'). I think that transition programs can definitely help. Having worked in both ABE/GED, I am very interested in this discussion and look forward to reading everyone's comments.

    Jac-Lynn Stark, Boston


    Again, the SUN program here in Colorado (Success Unlimited/College Connection) is designed exactly to address the challenges that Jac-Lynn delineates. Is anyone on this discussion from the other Colorado sites (in addition to Ranee) or the New Jersey, North Carolina, or Kansas sites who can speak to how the GED transition to college program is working at your institution?

    Stephanie Moran


    Personally, I think every program with more than a few hundred students should be required to have a transitions liaison. And smaller programs should share one. The value added for students is immense. Also it allows teachers to do what they do best: TEACH!

    Forrest Chisman


    In a perfect world, Forrest. Money is the issue with so many smaller programs. Many are volunteer programs and have a hard time finding funding to pay for basic needs. Let alone a transition coordinator. AND with the current funding cuts that we all face what programs there are may be lost in part or completely. Adult literacy is just NOT on the top of the priority list in many states. A transition specialist would be great...but, sadly, not always possible.

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Good morning everyone,

    My name is Jennifer Duhamel. I work for the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas. I am part of the external evaluation team for the OVAE grant and have had the pleasure of visiting the 7 sites in Kansas twice so far. I thought I'd write to let you know some of the ways in which Kansas is helping students transition from adult education to post-secondary settings.

    Kansas, like CO, NJ and NC, received funding from the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) to increase student transition. Seven pilot programs across the state link up adult learning centers and community colleges. Each of the 7 sites is unique but they have many components in common.

    All offer more advanced academic content as well as learning strategies, time management and goal-setting. Many sites have developed transition classes, hired transition counselors or work closely with counselors from the community college. They provide students with information about post-secondary programs (degree and certificate) or help them to find it themselves.

    A very important component, and mentioned many times in this discussion, is the support provided to the learners. Staff and instructors provide one-on-one guidance throughout the transition process. They walk students to take the college placement exam, to the financial aid office and to meet college instructors.

    These committed staff members meet with students frequently to discuss goals and any obstacles to those goals. Some counselors and instructors even keep in touch with students by cell or text and are ready at all times-day or night-to help with homework, a college application or to give words of encouragement.

    The formula to increase transition seems to include high academic standards, goal-setting, guidance and support.

    Jennifer Duhamel

    Center for Research on Learning, University of Kansas

    Lawrence, KS


    Greetings,

    Though late in the discussion, I wanted to at least raise the issue of student and alumni leadership as having great potential to support transitions from GED to college. In NYC, we have seen this work on both the programmatic and systemic level.

    At Bronx Community College, a campus based GED program, Future Now, identified the lack of positive social support networks as a key impediment hampering outcomes for their students. They also saw high levels of internalized oppression and low levels of resilience and life skills as obstacles to successful college transition.

    In response, Future Now established a peer mentoring component to improve GED graduation rates, as well as transition to, and retention in, college.

    Club IMPACT (Improving My Progress at College Today) is a learner-led club founded by Future Now graduates who have successfully transitioned to college. IMPACT members lead college orientation sessions for all incoming Future Now students and are responsible for intensive mentoring services. Club members routinely reach out to their peers and provide mutual support.

    This model has worked exceptionally well in the two years since Club Impact was established. Future Now GED persistence and graduation rates have dramatically increased, transition to college has tripled and one semester college retention rates have nearly quadrupled at 81%.

    At the systemic level, we have recently established a Transition to College Internship (T2C) as part of an innovative collaboration between the Mayor's Office of Adult Education and City University of New York (CUNY). Now in its second semester, the internship brings together alumni from GED programs located throughout the CUNY system.

    Interns work closely with campus-based literacy programs as mentors and motivators to improve persistence, graduation rates and transitions to college. The aim of this collaboration is to support the growth of peer leadership and sustainable learner-led networks amongst adult education students and alumni while improving program outcomes including transitions.

    Though too early to evaluate the impact of the T2C Internship, response from students and programs has been very positive. The Internship has also served as an incubator for a recently founded learner-led group, the Adult Education Alumni Alliance, which already has had an impact on a larger scale by helping to shape policy, curriculum and program structure.

    Our experience is that GED alumni welcome the opportunity to partner with programs in authentic leadership roles, are eager to 'giveback' and are uniquely positioned to support, mentor and motivate other learners to see the GED as a stepping stone not a stop sign.

    Katy Taylor

    Director of Program Support

    Mayor's Office of Adult Education

    New York City


    Dear Listers:

    Mentoring is really helpful but not always easy to arrange. One "model" (I'm into models), group mentoring, is written up in the promising practice section of our website. It describes, in detail, four monthly mentor meetings and was written by Gylean Trabucchi, Mentor Coordinator for Project RIRAL ABE-to-College program in Pawtucket, RI.

    http://www.collegetransition.org/promising/practice5.html

    I hope you enjoy reading about the practice. Gylean can answer any questions and, I'm sure, listers have many other good ideas on developing and sustaining mentoring relationships for adults in transition. Have people experimented with phone or online mentoring?

    Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

    National College Transition Network


    Hi Cynthia,

    We are just starting a program for our GED students at the Community Learning Center. Thanks for the resource.

    Wendy Quiñones


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    Hybrid and Blended Models in Transitions Programs

    Assessment Colleagues,

    I have some questions for the guest experts and for others who work in transition from adult secondary (GED/ADP/EDP) to post-secondary education:

    1. What is the range of models of current transition programs? Are they all separate transition classes? Are some ASE/GED classes that are beefed up with transition content? Does anyone use a blend of online instruction and face-to--face mentoring (for example 2- 3 hours/week of one-on-one or small group mentoring accomianied by 6-10 hours a week of online transition self-study)? Does anyone use a pure distance learning transition model? Are there other models?
    2. Given the thin resources available to support separate transition classes, how can adult secondary education programs add an affordable transition component? What strategies are you thinking of?
    3. I have been thinking about a design for a blended transition model -- face-to-face mentoring in combination with a highly-structured online transitions curriculum. How does that idea strike you? Does it already exist someplace? Is anyone using it now? How is it working?
    4. Thanks.

      David J. Rosen

      djrosen@theworld.com


    Hello All,

    The GED-i project is currently working on a Transitioning Guide to help programs and instructors move students from the adult education distance learning or hybrid learning classroom to either the workforce or higher education environment. The topic of transitioning the GED-i student was a presentation at several regional conferences and professional development conference calls so that we could base our guide on practical applications from the field.

    Our experience and lessons-learned in this endeavor indicate that program / administrative leadership is critical to the success of the student. A program must have a documented set of processes and procedures related to transitioning expectations that every staff member is familiar with.

    There are two different, and distinct, areas that need to be considered. These include both the academic skills and the 'soft' skills. These soft skills require exposing students to the culture of either the workforce or the college classroom. The student needs to develop organizational, time management, and conflict resolution skills. Academically, a student must score high enough on the college placement test to 'land' in college courses as opposed to developmental education.

    So - what are some specific strategies:

    • Distance Learning Education: Most colleges now have courses online so the barriers for transportation, childcare, and work schedules can be minimized. However, students must be exposed to technology integration and distance learning while in the adult education classroom.
    • Placement tests: Many of the college placement tests are online or computer based. Students need to know how to take a computer-generated test. This can be a strong part of the distance learning integration.
    • Time management: Classroom instructors or intake staff members can work with a student in order to develop a learning plan. This plan could be "I will study on Monday evening from 7 -9. My sister will watch my children." The learning plan is evaluated as to its effectiveness on a regular basis by the adult education teacher and the student. This move the students thinking towards planning to study and how to plan to study and how to re-evaluate if a study plan is not working.
    • Culture: Exposing students to the workplace or higher education culture was another transition strategy shared. Our students oftentimes do not have the life experience to know how to have an appropriate dialogue with a co-worker, instructor, or supervisor. This experience can be provided in the traditional or online classroom through discussion or writing. For example, in a distance-learning environment, a scenario can be placed on the discussion board and students can be required to write responses to how the situation should be handled. Or, the teacher can email the student the scenario - and the student can write a reflection on how to best address the problem. This strategy is building background knowledge and life experience that the student can draw from in order to be successful either in employment or college.

    These types of strategies can easily be integrated into any adult learning environment not just the at-a-distance or hybrid. We would be interested in fielding questions and also hearing what others are doing to transition their adult education students who are learning online to the workplace or to higher education.

    Crystal Hack

    GED-i Project Director


    David,

    Funny you should ask. Here in RI we are in the planning stages of designing an integrated model for Transitions to College (TTC) and External Diploma Program (EDP). Participants will be earning a high school diploma along the pathway to preparing for college through our Pawtucket TTC program. These two programs have been working along side each other, but exclusively, we require the learner to complete the EDP before participating in TTC. In an effort to be more efficient in preparing the learners for academic college readiness, we will integrate the academic part of the TTC with the demonstration of skills needed to earn the high school diploma. The academic secondary reading, writing, math, and metacognitive skills need to be demonstrated (competency-based assessment) for EDP will prepare the participants to be college ready. Since EDP uses all the components of competency-based assessment, learners are more motivated to learn what is needed to learn and see immediate results of the learning. (As an aside, let me say, this approach works particularly well with ELL since it is not a timed test and the learning is scaffolded) They will have earned a high school diploma and completed TTC at the same time.

    Since this pilot will combine both programs we already know we need to be creative in determining how much actual time is required to be in class, and at the same time we do not want to cut corners for either program. Many of our participants' schedules do not allow them to spend more than about eight hours in class and for some this is even too much. It is expected that most participants will need to remediate their basic academic skills. With all this in mind, we know it will require a blending of online self-study with face-to-face class instruction and assessment time.

    This is still in the planning stages, but since we have already been working with the processes of these two programs, I am very optimistic about the results. I believe we will end up with an effective model combining high school completion and transitions to college.

    Donna Chambers

    RI EDP Coordinator


    One thing we have found to be true for most of our GED Ss is that a purely online program does not work-if they could have learned on a computer alone, they would have done an online HS completion program. Our students face such a myriad of obstacles that with the rare exception of the true computer-loving-student, our students need us to help them navigate higher-level coursework. A hybrid course may work, but only if it meets f2f (face-to-face) about as often as not.

    David's #2 question is a great one for us all to consider because the transition grant we have has made developing curriculum easier to manage.

    Stephanie Moran


    As a teacher in an onsite/online program I have had very little success with online programs. As a rule, GED students have had academic struggles. Reading and math are the two subject areas that they have difficulty with. That is the general reason for non- completion of high school. To put a GED student in an online only program is risky at best. They need MORE one-on-one and face-to-face instruction. Not less...

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Absolutely-thanks for extending my line of thinking, Kathy.

    Stephanie Moran


    In seeing much of what's currently available online for GED students, I wholeheartedly agree with you. However, I do believe that as educators get better at online course delivery and instructional technology, things will change for the better.

    I'm currently teaching an online class for Adult High School students using the learning management system Blackboard as the backbone for delivery and communication, but we also use instant messaging, video conferencing, Facebook, Google Docs, VoiceThread, etc. as a means of creating a viable online learning community, as a means of presenting collaborative and individual projects, as a means of peer review, and as a way of enhancing communication among students and instructors alike. Unlike f2f classes, I can communicate with my students any time, any where and they with me. (It's amazing the number of 16-25 year old literacy students who are totally connected in a digital world!) I have had many more conversations with my online students than I would have been able to with the same group f2f. Even though the course has parameters necessitated by program audit issues, performance measures, learning objectives, etc., I use social constructivism as the primary impetus behind teaching and learning. It's working very, very well and we hope to replicate it as soon as we gather the resources necessary for curriculum development and other related costs.

    I need to add that it's imperative that online students are assessed properly and determined to be "distance learning ready". Even students whose placement tests scores are high will not fare well if not also distance learning ready.

    Melinda M. Hefner

    Director, Literacy Support Services

    Basic Skills Department


    I hope that I didn't come off sounding totally against online learning; several years ago, I taught an adult ed course here in Colorado designed for adult educators new to the field, and I think it's a fine way to learn for those who relate to the format, are highly motivated, and are independent learners. Your course also sounds highly interactive, and that's a big plus with younger students in particular. For students who don't fit the model I mentioned, though, I think that many online courses wind up being moneymakers for a company and don't serve our students as well as the 1:1.

    The SUN program that we're working through has a two-hour study session M-R (Monday through Thursday), and it is hugely important to help students work through issues that they need 1:1 or peer tutoring to grasp more fully. I know that online classes also offer this and sometimes even require it, but the bonding/cohort factor has been quite phenomenal; many of the students who were cohorts last term are still taking classes together and working together outside of class. Do you see that happening with your online students?

    Stephanie Moran


    Part of a successful transitions program prepares the student for the new environment, weather it be workplace or college related. With most colleges offering a diverse set of courses in an online format, developmental education included, providing students with experience in an online course could provide them with valuable experience and skills for higher education.

    I think the distinction needs to be made about the type of online instruction being provided. Purely online education has been found to be effective for many adult learners. It depends, often, on how the online curriculum is being integrated in the overall adult education program.

    • Does the online curriculum meet the needs of the student?
    • Is the online content appropriate for the students math and reading level?
    • Is it a self-study or a teacher facilitated course?

    Adult education students will have much more success with a teacher-facilitated course and that success could be a stepping stone for college courses.

    Kathy Olesen-Tracey


    If you know of any GOOD online GED courses I would appreciate the info! Our site has looked for several years and tried a few with no success...thanks!

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Selecting an online course for adult literacy students depends on your program's goals and the delivery method. For example:

    • Do you want an online course where the students will be accessing on site in a computer lab environment where a teacher is present?
    • Will it be used with students accessing via a distance?
    • Is the curriculum appropriate to both meet your instructional goals and transition the students from one level to the next -ABE to GED, GED to Higher Education or the workforce?
    • What are the features and tools in the online course that will help students take ownership of their own learning?
    • What are the features and tools that will allow you as the instructor to guide the student through the learning process and prepare them for new environment in higher ed?
    • What form of professional development is available for instructors and program administrators?
    • What are the types of user support (help desk) that are available?

    These are some of the important questions to consider when integrating -or developing- an online course for adult learners.

    As far as a GOOD curriculum, I taught in the adult education classroom for over 10 years and then had a transition of my own when I began working with the GED-i project. http://www.ged-i.org

    Kathy Olesen-Tracey


    The Del Mar College GED Program does not offer on-line classes. In my opinion, the majority of GED students are not disciplined enough to carry out an on-line class and the fact that many of them do not own or have access to computers is another obstacle. There is no better instruction than sitting in class and be able to communicate with your teacher face to face. I believe once students get into college and have a more structured academic plan an on-line course may be something they can commit to and handle.

    Charlene Salazar


    Hi Charlene:

    My favorite way to learn is face-to-face in a classroom, but that's me... Right now I teach a reading/writing/study skills course online for nurses' aids getting ready for college. And these students have to go through another "narrow door" called the TEAS test (don't get me started).

    It has been a big surprise. Many of the students have computer expertise and many don't. Some of the students (including those with the least experience online) clearly see the advantage of being able to go over information again and again, send their questions to me via email...without asking in front of an entire class. This has been particularly true for students in the math course. Some students prefer a hybrid, so we have face-to-face orientation and are working on study groups/tutors at their nursing facility. Others will try developmental education because they are looking for a classroom experience, with a better awareness of what college requires. We'll see how it turns out.

    As many people have mentioned, it's the match we all are looking for, including matching both the ability to access the learning environment and learning supports...online or face-to-face or both!

    Cynthia Zafft


    Charlene,

    Sometime back in the 1970's I was on an airplane sitting next to a Caucasian gentleman reading a book in Japanese. I greeted him in that language in which I am somewhat functional. He said, "Oh I don't speak Japanese, I just read it." Of course, in a pictographic language, he could look at the script and read it directly into English. We got in a conversation with the usual American first questions, "What do you do." I told him that I taught English as a second language. He replied to the same question from me, "I work for IBM and it makes me sad to tell you that you will be replaced before too long by computers."

    Here it is, almost 40 years later and I'm back in the classroom after some administrative adventures, teaching English as a second language to immigrants. I absolutely believe that for the majority of people, particularly language students, their teachers will never be replaced. The direct human interaction between teachers and students, as well as students with their classmates, still seems to be far more of a successful learning adventure than people with machines. In over four decades in this field I have only met three non-linguists who have actually learned English on their own. One was a Buddhist monk in a temple in Thailand with lots of time to think and learn. This is not a question of "discipline," whether we are talking about computers, audio devices or whatever. It is humans working with other humans.

    Ted Klein

    www.tedklein-ESL.com


    Group,

    I firmly believe that as we plan transitional strategies for our adult learners, they need to experience in our classrooms the same educational environment they are going to find in higher education. The integration of technology in a planned, efficient, and organized manner helps students both obtain their GED credentials AND develop the skills required to transition to higher education.

    One of the barriers I saw in my 10 years in the classroom and advising students who are first year college students is that they do not understand the expectations required to be successful college students. I felt my role in the adult education classroom was to provide the best classroom experience possible - and these classroom experiences were both traditional face to face and at a distance.

    The key here is selecting the right curriculum that matches the needs and skills of the learner. If we don't teach them the skills to have a structured academic plan (even in a face-to-face classroom) then the students are extremely under-prepared for college.

    Also - I have to disagree with the 'no better instruction than sitting in class and be able to communicate with your teacher face to face.' Often times, our students need to learn the skills to communicate in both an educational and professional environment through the use of technology. They will be communicating with supervisors in the workplace through email or webinars. They will be communicating with college teachers through email, discussion boards, instant messaging software - and if we don't prepare them to use these resources in the adult education classroom, then all of the best transition plans may fail as our students enter the next level of their education or professional life unable and unprepared to meet the challenges.

    The problem is not online learning - it is how online learning is being used. Some students thrive in an online environment who may not succeed in the traditional program.

    Kathy Olesen-Tracey


    Good point-How are we learning right now-from each other? Maybe a hybrid of onsite/online would achieve the best results?

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Kathy, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It is vital that our students learn a variety of technology skills in the classroom not only to prepare them for the education environment in higher education but in the 21st century workforce. Using email with the teacher to send homework, learning to attach documents is important, (my niece is taking a pre-calculus class at one of the community colleges here and all the homework is online), having students email discussion, using pod casts, creating YouTube videos, create a class Facebook page, class presentations using PowerPoint, etc.

    We need to move beyond just teaching our students basic computer literacy. Our students need to become comfortable word processing their papers, I found that students passed in handwritten papers, I returned them to let them know that in college handwritten papers were not accepted and to resubmit a word processed document. One transitions skill they need to know is to be proficient in self editing their papers.

    Toni Borge


    I agree with Kathy, and we do address technology in our Transition program by having Students first navigate our community college email system and doing really simple tasks/assignments in an online course environment. They also do basic research on careers via the internet because there are several really phenomenal .gov and .org sites. We are a computer-based world with very few businesses remaining off the grid.

    That said, it would help greatly if technology were more fully supported at the state level and a tech piece expected as part of a GED curriculum; it's not currently, yet being technologically versed if not proficient is certainly a standard for most graduating seniors.

    Stephanie Moran


    All -

    Every classroom at the Del Mar College GED Program is equipped with a computer for each student. We also have a computer lab. They are introduced to all kinds of technology. For example, one classroom assignment was to create a pamphlet about the GED Program at DMC. The students did such a wonderful job. In fact, that student pamphlet is used by our program as an advertising tool. If you can't get a student to commit to coming to class everyday, how are you going to make them commit to an on-line class that they know can be blown off or ignored. Our upper level students (Track III) are all prepped for college because we have integrated college level material into our curriculum. Every classroom is equipped with a cart of books from the college bookstore. We teach to obtain a GED certificate and beyond. We strongly emphasize that a GED certificate does not have to be the end of one's educational journey.

    Charlene Salazar

    Transitions Liaison

    Del Mar College

    Department of GED Instruction


    Hello All,

    I am so glad to see this part of the discussion taking place. I had serious concerns earlier with the negative comments related to online learning's effectiveness in teaching our students and in transitioning them. I am glad others are sharing their views of online learning as a vehicle for the successful transition of students from adult ed to higher ed or the workplace.

    I am in the process of drafting a response to what I saw posted on online learning on this discussion prior to now. I think I will finish my draft and share it after I see what others have to say on this topic. I don't want to restate what Kathy, Toni, and a few others have said so well.

    I can breathe a big sigh of relief...I am glad to see posts in support of online learning skill building as a necessary piece in the transitioning for our adult education students.

    Warm regards,

    Crystal Hack


    Hello All,

    As we close this very active discussion, I would like to discuss technology integration and online learning as it relates to successfully transitioning the student to either higher education or the workforce. Distance Learning is a viable solution for many adult learners who are balancing education with work and family. I recently had a discussion with a young man who was not able to attend traditional face-to-face classes. He searched the Internet and found a program that charged him over $500.00 to take his GED classes online. Unfortunately, this was not any type of reputable company. He was out a great deal of money to receive a worthless piece of paper that said, 'Congratulations, You now have your GED.'

    Distance learning has a place in the adult education classroom, and our students are actively seeking this alternative. So, how can we get distance education initiatives to be successful and provide the skills necessary for a student to transition to higher education.

    First and foremost, there need to be processes and procedures in place that help intake staff members and instructors appropriately place a student into a distance- learning environment. A student who is not motivated to come to a traditional class will not be motivated to be an online learner. We help our students succeed when we provide the learning opportunity that best fits their skills and ability. Students who are not ready to be GED students are not the target audience for distance education. However, students who have transportation barriers, child care barriers, or even work barriers that don't allow for the time to come to class can, and do, succeed in an online environment.

    Here are some things to consider.

    • There is an audience actively seeking distance education because they need to have this alternative. I do not support pulling successful students out of the traditional classroom where they are learning and growing to put them in online. I think that is a recipe for disaster. I do support marketing to this audience that you have not reached before. As shared in my example above- our students are actively looking for this alternative. As the job market and economy continues to face uncertain times, there are many people who will be looking for options to their GED courses. These students may thrive in an online environment, and we need to get them to our programs so that we can help them transition to higher education or other job opportunities.
    • Processes and procedures need to be in place for implementing distance education. You have to know what you are doing so you can lead your students. Programs must decide the criteria and guidelines for student participation, identify alternative plans for students who don't meet the criteria, and plan the orientation to distance learning. One of the screening questions or criteria could be that the student plans to go into higher education or into a workplace that involves use of technology.
    • Learning online does not mean learning alone. Programs need to determine who will teach the course. Teaching via distance education is a different skill set than teaching a traditional classroom. The online teacher has to be someone that believes students can have success online and also see the connection between the skills the student is building and how they can be incorporated into higher education or the workplace so transitioning can become an intrinsic part of the students overall online learning plan.
    • Expectations for teaching online need to be developed. Teachers need to know that using discussion boards, having online office hours, engaging students through online chats are all expectations of the distance learning environment. Additionally, the teacher needs to know how to make the connections between what is occurring in the online environment and how it connects to higher education or the workplace.
    • An orientation process needs to incorporate both the technical aspects (navigating the system) and instructional (learning plans) plan that connects how your program's approach to online learning fits with the student's desire to continue beyond the GED.
    • Enrichment activities need to be integrated into the online environment. These include online discussions with college or career counselors, Internet exploration with sites like http://www.bls.gov/OCO, writing prompts that deal with daily life skills such as time management, team-work, and goal setting.

    All of these elements about provide an overview of the processes and procedures that need to be integrated in order for online and distance learning to be successful. To understand how critical the integration of technology with instruction, and integrating online / distance learning with our students, check out the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHiby3m_RyM

    This was shared on the national professional development listserv last month.

    I want to wrap up by stating GED-i is a not for profit curriculum that is written by teachers for teachers. Its training staff is a group of teachers who use GED-i effectively with students everyday. This is not a post to promote GED-i. This is a post to promote a distance learning option at your program, as it will serve both you and your students well as they make transitions in education and in life.

    Kathy Olesen-Tracey


    Our college is moving to electronic communications and the big task is to get all employees and students to use it. All students are given access (login and password) when they register. They are tasked to add and drop classes online as well as check for news, announcements, student enrollment status and participate in class discussion through a class homepage. In the first week of class, we bring in the IT instructor to go over online navigation and assist individual students. Faculty are asked to include use of the homepage (we call it course studio) in their syllabi. When I noticed that students did not fully participate in the use of the homepage, I shared with them the YouTube video on pay attention that was offered by one of the NIFL discussion members. I think the importance of using digital communication is gradually sinking in their minds. We hope we are preparing our students not just for our island needs but for the world.

    Barbara Jacala

    Guam Community College


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    Accuplacer and College Developmental Courses

    In our state we also find that the low academic skill level of GED diploma recipients is, if not the biggest barrier to post-secondary education, at least a very major one. A huge majority of GED students end up in college developmental courses from which they never emerge. The un-indicted co-conspirator in all this is the ACCUPLACER, the placement test that all applicants to Massachusetts state colleges must take. Our data shows that while GED grads do very well on the reading part of the ACCUPLACER and quite well on the Writing in terms of avoiding developmental courses, on the Math they do very, very poorly. There is no correlation between GED math and ACCUPLACER/college Algebra: a person can get an 800 on the GED math test and still test into developmental math at a community college. I am working with GED math teachers around Massachusetts to develop a GED curriculum that will allow students to pass the GED test with all due speed and also pass the ACCUPLACER math test.

    Tom Mechem

    GED State Chief Examiner

    Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts


    Tom is, as usual, correct. My concern is that some students could and should be able to gain a certificate or, perhaps, even an Associate's without a knowledge of algebra.

    I have a Ph D and slogged through three grad course in statistics. However, if you put a gun to my head and ordered me to solve an equation with two unknowns I would tell you to shoot me.

    I was a Tenured Full Professor at the University of Nebraska as well, and managed world-wide customer research for IBM without knowing how to solve that sort of equation.

    Perhaps, the problem is with the curriculum and not the learners.

    Roger Berg

    Plymouth, MA


    Writing from Bunker Hill Community College Boston one of the 5 colleges profiled in Torchlights in ESL; I can confirm that the majority of GED and ESOL students place into developmental math. That said, 90% of all students who enroll in community colleges in Massachusetts place into at least one developmental course. And this is the trend nationwide.

    From my experience there are a number of factors that play into developmental placement; one that Tom mentioned is the lack of alignment between the Massachusetts Adult Curriculum Frameworks and community college math or English curriculum - and between Adult Ed ESOL and community college ESOL curriculum also. It also should be noted a large number of high school graduates who pass the MCAS - Massachusetts state K-12 competency test also test into developmental classes, again lack of alignment between the secondary education and community college curriculum is a factor. Steps are being taken to address this issue.

    Another factor is test taking skills. Students need to learn how to take a computerized test. The test taking strategies we learned about skipping the questions you know and then go back or review the questions after you have completed the test can't be done on a computerized test. Also many students do not take the time to read the directions carefully. You can't go back and correct on a computerized test.

    Instead of thinking how to get students to pass Accuplacer, I would recommend the focus should be on what math and English academic skills that are required to place into college level classes and adapt the curriculum to address these deficiencies.

    Toni Borge


    I would just add to what Toni has said about test-taking skills a point about the differences between the GED test and the ACCUPLACER with regard to the penalties for getting a problem wrong. We know from the research that the most-missed questions on the GED test are Pythagorean Theorem problems. However, there is only one of these on the GED math test, maybe two (out of fifty questions). Miss the Pythagorean Theorem question, get a 760 or whatever on the Math test, and head off to MIT. But the ACCUPLACER is a computer-adaptive test. The ACCUPLACER algebra test (which you have to pass in order to avoid developmental courses) starts you off with a medium-difficulty question, but if you get it wrong, you sink to a lower level from which it is more difficult to get yourself back to an even keel. Every wrong answer drops you further into the abyss, and I believe that if you get three in a row wrong it shuts you down and tells you, "Don't call us, we'll call you." So the ACCUPLACER requires a completely different test-taking mindset.

    Tom Mechem

    GED State Chief Examiner

    Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts


    Touche-just one more of the many maddening aspects of the Accuplacer.

    Stephanie Moran


    After reading what Tom wrote that "I believe that if you get three in a row wrong it shuts you down and tells you, "Don't call us, we'll call you." I asked my program's transitions advisor to check with our assessment director if it that is the case. He found out that Accuplacer doesn't stop with wrong answers. In the case of math, the test might stop after Arithmetic, at BHCC the placement rules have been set so if a student scores very low on Arithmetic, they will not get the Elementary Algebra test, but they will get the entire Arithmetic test."

    So it will depend on how each assessment center sets up their placement protocol to determine if a student will get the Elementary Algebra test or not.

    Toni Borge


    Thanks for that clarification, Toni. The thing that worries me about that scenario is that there is evidence to show that strong arithmetic ability may not be a good predictor of strong algebra skills and that in fact it may hinder the development of algebra skills. From a teaching standpoint, this calls into question our traditional sequence of math instruction whereby arithmetic comes first and arithmetic skills are seen as a prerequisite for algebra, but it also makes it problematic as to whether students' performances on the ACCUPLACER Arithmetic test are good indications of where they should be placed vis-a-vis algebra. There are some community colleges in Massachusetts that start students on the Algebra ACCUPLACER test and only if they do poorly on that do they take the Arithmetic test, rather than vice versa.

    Tom Mechem

    GED State Chief Examiner

    Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts


    "Instead of thinking how to get students to pass Accuplacer, I would recommend the focus should be on what math and English academic skills that are required to place into college level classes and adapt the curriculum to address these deficiencies."

    While I agree with Toni to a degree, as long as the Accuplacer is the required assessment/entrance exam, I'll continue to change my teaching to fit it better (impossible as that test seems to be to "teach to"). As an example, the GED Language Arts, Writing texts do offer many sentence Construction Shift-type questions--which are also found on the Accuplacer-- so I am having my remedial Ss practice these-taken right out of my GED text.

    Stephanie Moran


    I would suggest that you try using the SAT review text instead of the GED. I would think it'll be more challenging.

    Ranee Cervania


    Our students don't need more challenging work-I do that in my regular teaching-they just need practice with the test format.

    Stephanie Moran


    Here are some Accuplacer practice tests your students can take to prepare for the Accuplacer. And for teachers who are not familiar with the Accuplacer, you can see what types of questions are asked and include them in your lesson plans.

    These sites are from Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. Another resource is to ask the assessment center of the community college in your area. Here at Bunker Hill CC, the assessment center provides web sites and students can go the website to practice before.

    Accuplacer is a College Board test. You can check out the site for more information on it. http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/accuplacer/how-works.html

    http://www.osuit.edu/academics/forms/pretest_arithmetic.pdf
    http://www.osuit.edu/academics/forms/pretest_algebra.pdf
    http://www.osuit.edu/academics/forms/pretest_sentence_skills.pdf
    http://www.osuit.edu/academics/forms/pretest_reading.pdf

    Toni Borge


    I think you're (Tom Mechem and Toni Borge) both right. Let's face it, GED math isn't college math. More importantly, most ESL programs have no systematic way of factoring math at any high level into their curricula - and that's 45% of all AE students. The GED problem can and should be easily as Tom suggests, and it's amazing that it hasn't been. That's the easy part. The ESL problem requires a complete rethinking of ESL program structure to create pathways to college tracks that include math along with college level English skills. Remember, that most colleges in most states don't require a GED for admission. But they do require a high enough level of math to pass the Compass or AccuPlacer. Hence, especially for ESL students, the GED may be optional, but teaching high levels of math to those who are college bound isn't. I consider this a major problem for the ESL field.

    Forrest Chisman


    After reading what Tom wrote that "I believe that if you get three in a row wrong it shuts you down and tells you, "Don't call us, we'll call you." I asked my program's transitions advisor to check with our assessment director if it that is the case. He found out that Accuplacer doesn't stop with wrong answers. In the case of math, the test might stop after Arithmetic, at BHCC the placement rules have been set so if a student scores very low on Arithmetic, they will not get the Elementary Algebra test, but they will get the entire Arithmetic test."

    So it will depend on how each assessment center sets up their placement protocol to determine if a student will get the Elementary Algebra test or not.

    Toni Borge


    I would like to respond to Tom's comment: "A huge majority of GED students end up in college developmental courses from which they never emerge."

    At the Community College of Denver (CCD), we have a program called FastStart@CCD. (You can do a Google search for more info). Basically, it is our answer to this problem of students not emerging fast enough from developmental courses and losing their motivation to move on to college level courses.

    The program combines two developmental courses, e.g., REA 060/ENG 060 (Intermediate) and REA 090 / ENG 090 (Advanced) in one semester. The intermediate level is completed during the first half of the semester and the advanced level during the second half. In other words, students are able to complete these four developmental classes in one semester, helping them move on to college level classes. We also offer math combinations - 030/060; 060/090 and 090/106.

    During the first week of classes, if students realize this intensive program is not for them, the case manager transfers them to a regular-paced class. Students who don't pass the first half of the semester are not allowed to continue and have to wait for the next semester to complete their developmental classes, most likely, in regular-paced classes.

    FastStart was piloted in the Fall of 2005. In the Fall of 2006, a section of reading/English combination was added. In the Spring of 2007, a new combination was added-REA 060 / REA 090 / ENG 090. Most of the students in this new combination are NNS (non-native speakers) of English.

    The 4-subject Eng/Rea combination runs for 3 hours twice a week. The 3-subject combination runs for 2.5 hrs twice a week. The 2-subject math combination runs for 3 hrs twice a week.

    For more information on this program, you can contact the coordinator, Lisa Silverstein at lisa.silverstein@ccd.edu

    The CCD College Connection program was modeled after FastStart.

    Ranee Cervania

    Curriculum Specialist

    Ready for College - Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN)

    Colorado Community College System

    Denver


    What makes a full day?

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    That will depend on how many credit hours the student wants to register for. Students usually choose one combination--either the reading/English or math. In other words, if they choose the reading/English FastStart combo, they choose a regular math class and vice-versa.

    Ranee Cervania


    Like Ranee Cervania, I am responding to Tom's comment: "A huge majority of GED students end up in college developmental courses from which they never emerge."

    At the Community College Baltimore County, we have been concerned for some years about the low success rates for students placed in our developmental writing course. A study we conducted in 1993 showed that only 26% of students starting in our developmental writing course ever passed ENG 101. Resolving to improve this statistic, in 2007 we began offering a pilot alternative to developmental writing: the Accelerated Learning Project or ALP.

    Students who are placed in developmental writing and who volunteer for ALP are allowed to register for designated sections of ENG 101. Each of these sections comprises 12 students placed in ENG 101 and 8 ALP students. The same 8 ALP students, during the following class period, meet with the same instructor in what we refer to as a companion course. Here they discuss what is happening in ENG 101, work on short writing assignments related to the longer papers they are writing in ENG 101, talk about ideas for papers, work on grammar problems, and work on revising their writing. In addition to these academic topics, in the companion course we also talk about problems they may be having outside of school and about successful behaviors in college.

    In the first three semesters, we have offered 20 sections of ALP involving 160 students. The results have been spectacular. The success rate in ENG 101 for ALP students has consistently been greater than 56%. And we now have data on a handful of students (29) who passed ENG 101 and attempted the next course in the sequence, ENG 102. Of the original group of students who attempted ALP in 2007-8 (74 students), 26% (19) have passed ENG 102. For the corresponding group who took our traditional developmental writing course, only 10% have passed ENG 102. These latest data are very encouraging because they indicate that the positive effect of ALP may extend longer than just one semester.

    We are studying the ALP program extensively: we plan to follow the students in the program for four years to see whether the positive effects follow them to degree completion and/or transfer. But we are also conducting extensive surveys and focus groups to determine exactly what it is about ALP that produces these results. That data won't be available for a couple of years, but preliminarily, we think at least some of the following are the major causes of the positive results:

    • Being allowed to take ENG 101 increases student confidence.
    • Being allowed to take ENG 101 reduces the negative attitude caused by not receiving credit for the developmental course.
    • Being integrated into college-level ENG 101 increases students' sense that they are part of the college.
    • Taking ENG 101 and the companion course in a cohort of 8 students and the same instructor increases affiliation among the students and between the students and the instructor.
    • Taking ENG 101 with students whose writing ability placed them in ENG 101 helps ALP students improve their writing and their student skills.
    • Students experience their instructors more as "coaches" whose primary role is to help them succeed than as "judges" who stand in the way of their succeeding.
    • Students in ALP receive increased individual attention and instruction tailored to their individual needs.
    • Instruction in grammar, punctuation is more effective in the small ALP sections.
    • ALP decreases student classroom behaviors that impede success.
    • Students receive assistance with such non-academic problems as financial, medical, family, legal, transportation, or difficulties at work and, therefore, are less likely to drop out during the semester.
    • Students in ALP become more motivated to learn grammar, punctuation, and usage.
    • The ENG 101 class provides a context in which students can apply what they are learning in ENG 052.

    Details are available at our web site: http://faculty.ccbcmd.edu/~padams/ALP/indexa.html

    We are eager to locate other schools that would be interested in adopting ALP and would be happy to provide assistance in doing so. Contact me at the email below.

    Peter Adams | Professor of English
    Community College Baltimore County


    Bravo-I see the student support/mentoring piece at work here, and it does breed success.

    Stephanie Moran


    Good afternoon,

    As a person who has always preferred looking at spreadsheets to reading a daunting document of any length, I understand math anxiety in reverse. We all have our comfort zones. However, the reality today is high demand, high paying jobs demand skills from all academic areas.

    We often find our transitions students have a math deficit, similar to the comments posted today. Our program uses the concept of "dual enrollment or co-enrollment". ACCUPLACER scores may reflect a student is ready for transitions or even an entry level college course in one area but not another...the other is usually math. The student may go on to transitions in all but the math and take an ABE or pre-Algebra course.

    We have found this approach to keep students interest high, allows them to continue to work toward attending a college program, and receive the assistance in a weak area.

    Brenda S. Gagne, Director

    Noble Adult & Community Education

    North Berwick, Maine


    I coordinate the transitions program at Quinsigamond Community College, and we allow students to retake the Accuplacer twice with no questions asked and then additionally with an advisor's permission. When I was preparing a student a few years back, she took the Accuplacer on a Monday and placed into basic developmental English and math classes. On Tuesday, she took it again and placed into intermediate level classes. On Wednesday, she took it again and placed into college-level English and math classes. For some, the content of the test has nothing to do with a student's ability to obtain a higher score, and the issue is more so about becoming comfortable taking a computerized test.

    Kirsten M. Daigneault

    Coordinator

    Future Focus Transitions Program

    Worcester, MA


    I have had a similar experience with testing. I once did a study where we looked at students who were currently enrolled in college, had above a B average, and who took either a TABE or CASAS assessment. We found that a majority scored below the equivalent of a 10th grade reading or math level - which would have precluded them from entering a non-degree based LPN program. In other words, we had some students working successfully towards completing an ADN or BA who would not have been allowed entry into an LPN program based on test scores.

    Laura Chenven

    H-CAP National Coordinator


    When my 17 year-old daughter took the Accuplacer last Fall, she hadn't be trained in how to be successful with a computer adaptive test. So, her initial score was very low because she didn't recognize that getting questions at the same difficulty level means that she was giving incorrect answers. Confirmation that she was answering correctly would come from getting questions that are increasingly more difficult. She used this new information to change her response pattern, and passed at college level.

    Michael Tate


    This is valuable information that should be passed on to our students. Thanks, Michael.

    Ranee Cervania

    Curriculum Specialist

    Ready for College - Colorado Success UNlimited (SUN)

    Colorado Community College System

    Denver


    Back to top





    Math and Transitions

    My concern is that some students could and should be able to gain a certificate or, perhaps, even an Associate's without a knowledge of algebra.

    I have a Ph D and slogged through three grad course in statistics. However, if you put a gun to my head and ordered me to solve an equation with two unknowns I would tell you to shoot me.

    I was a Tenured Full Professor at the University of Nebraska as well, and managed world-wide customer research for IBM without knowing how to solve that sort of equation.

    Perhaps, the problem is with the curriculum and not the learners.

    Roger Berg

    Plymouth, MA


    Bravo, Roger. Just put me in the shooting line. I have made it very well thank you without the knowledge of math beyond basic algebra. I probably did have the knowledge at one time-but as the old saying goes..."use it or lose it" In most daily lives higher order math is just not necessary. Problem IS with the curriculum-not the learners...

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Data released by ACE re the GED suggests that a 500 score equals the median for over 8,000 high school grads. Shouldn't community colleges be able to develop programs that lead to better jobs in a global economy without trying to have a fully-funded math department?

    When I was with IBM (1999) another manager client confided that a manager across the hall asked her how much would be a 5% raise be for an employee earning $40,000? This manager was probably earning six figures ten years ago.

    I am not advocating innumeracy but I am advocating programs that make demands that recognize the current world of work.

    Roger Berg

    nqr@max.com


    And now they're talking about putting calculus on the GED??? I never went past geometry as a high-school sophomore, and as I tell my students, I have lived a long and happy life without math. That goodness, we have separate math teachers at my center!

    Wendy Quiñones


    Good morning!

    What a great discussion! I've been attempting to follow it while balancing other things right now, and I'm so glad I have because many of the points that have been made really speak to our system of education delivery. How long has algebra been taught in 8th and 9th grades (after basic arithmetic)?

    I'm passing along this link sent to me by a coworker on what's going on in K-12 with regard to teaching algebra. The link is for an algebra webinar, and it was in the EdWeek Update

    Cheryl Pyburn

    Team Leader

    Adult and Community Learning Services

    Malden, MA


    Hi Kathy, Roger, and everyone,

    While I also am math challenged, and I feel competent in my daily math skills, I guess I would argue that all this depends entirely on the context and the needs of the student. There are an awful lot of careers and jobs that depend on the individual having a good command of higher order math, and there are a lot of people interested in this type of math (some who do not even realize it).

    But perhaps this is what you are saying - that maybe if the curriculum were better constructed, like a ladder say, then the people who do want to pursue math will, and in greater numbers.

    Is that what you're saying?

    Thanks,

    Marie Cora

    Assessment Discussion List Moderator


    And to support you, Marie, I come back to my pet obsession of the moment, which is the ACCUPLACER: without sound algebra skills, GED grads are doomed to the abyss of developmental math courses and/or an often futile struggle with college-level math. (See discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer'.) Other states with different college placement tests have the exact same problem. So lament it or not, algebra is the world our students must be able to navigate through to access post-secondary education and training.

    Tom Mechem

    GED State Chief Examiner

    Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts


    Tom, you articulated my own thoughts very well! Thank you!

    GED level algebra is actually quite basic and is generally perceived as a fundamental math needed by all students. It has many simple, real-life applications even though some may not think of the calculations used as being algebraic, i.e. recipes, drug dosage calculations, purchasing, painting and wallpapering, etc. Teaching/facilitating the connection between algebra and real life applications often helps de-mystify algebra and decreases the angst that some students have when they "hit the algebra wall". Additionally and, in my opinion, as important, skills necessary for mastering algebra are among necessary 21st century skills, i.e.

    • problem solving
    • accessing, processing, and synthesizing information
    • critical thinking and reasoning skills,
    • abstract thinking,
    • self-directed learning, etc.

    Just a few thoughts to offer....

    Melinda M. Hefner

    Director, Literacy Support Services

    Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

    Hudson, North Carolina


    Marie-Thank you so much for your comments. After a 23 year teaching career at all grade levels I do know that math as a whole is the subject we seem to struggle with the most. As an adult educator for the past 8 years, I know that math is the one subject that my students actually fear. Whether this comes from past experience, i.e. failure, or just plain old math anxiety - the one subject that adult learners almost always need the most help with is math. We start at the bottom of the ladder with them. My approach is actually one using the ladder metaphor. "If you miss a step on the ladder it's difficult almost impossible to make it to the next level."

    As an educator (not a math major) I do wonder just how much math is enough math. Just where do we draw the line as far as math education goes in most career education? Is it valid to assume that a general business major needs as much math as an engineer? Or even the same kind of math? If a student learns that kind of math and does not use it on a regular basis, will he/she lose what was learned? It has been my experience that as adults we retain the kind of math that we use the most. Do we need to construct curriculum to address careers?

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    Math is the favorite subject of my children. One child went to University Laboratory High School in Champaign, Illinois where she came across math author Donald Cohen. He teaches math to children and has been successful in teaching them calculus at elementary level. His website is http://www.mathman.biz/ Maybe we could use his strategy in adult education?

    Barbara Jacala


    Like it or not, colleges require a reasonable level of math including algebra for entering students. Otherwise they go into developmental math. So we should just "get over it" and figure out ways to teach this to GED and ESL students. If we want to change college admissions requirements, that's a separate crusade. In fact many people think they're too low - including me.

    Forrest Chisman


    Forrest, et al,

    I am a good example of "beyond math challenged." I was the oldest person in my high school graduating class, primarily because of algebra and geometry. I started out in the university in zoology. I had to quit, because of failure to balance freshman chemistry equations and inability to take such required courses such as biochemistry and genetics. People kept saying that it was an "attitude thing," as I was already publishing in the field of herpetology, while still in high school. I was able to change majors to English/Spanish in the university and fortunately was permitted to substitute Latin for required math. I got my degree finally and after going into ESL didn't even think about graduate school because of the math portion in the GRE. I have had a very good career in ESL, have published articles and textbooks, done management work and am functional in several languages. Years after all of this started I was at a TexTESOL meeting in San Antonio and the subject was right and left hemisphere predominance. I took a test and turned out to be fourth from the end on the right side group of some 80 people. When they did a results analysis, it turned out that I was a creative person who saw things, including new languages, holistically before details registered properly. There is probably an empty spot on my left hemisphere area! This explained everything to my satisfaction. Left hemisphere predominant persons have step-by-step minds and become engineers, scientists, etc. Right hemisphere predominant people are abstract artists, natural musicians, etc. and learn everything differently. In a long career, I have fortunately never had to use anything beyond elementary arithmetic. My wife keeps the checkbook, as she is predominately on the left side, because even at that level I mess up. The problem is that we are in a left-hemisphere education system. One of the factors that should be considered is hemispheric testing of all school children and adults and adjustment of their curricula and goals. That could solve some of the problems. Persons who are in the middle of the right/left predominance usually do O.K. if they have motivation also. Persons who are far right or far left will all have some areas of weakness. By the way, I had some really competent math teachers and tutors, who I inadvertently drove crazy.

    Ted Klein

    www.tedklein-ESL.com


    Ted,

    Over 100 years ago the Committee of Ten decided that algebra and geometry developed "thinking muscles or skills" and should be part of the high school curriculum. Some people still subscribe to that outmoded theory. Now, Brain Science is in its infancy but we still know that there are many kinds of learners. The question remains are the "answers" of 100 years ago the answers for all learners today.

    Must we place barriers that prevent learners form reaching their potential? What percentage of GED recipients finish community college (CC)? Without the math roadblock how many might finish CC? What percentage of CC students need math not arithmetic to succeed in their chosen careers?

    One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons shows two 13 year-olds at their school lockers and one of them explains to the other, "The job I am going to have hasn't been invented yet."

    Roger Berg

    Senior Strategic/Community Planner

    Literacy Program at the Plymouth Library

    Plymouth, MA


    Thanks Roger, great information. Who was the Committee of Ten?

    Michael Tate


    "National Education Association of the United States Committee of Ten"

    Eliot, the President of Harvard with some other academics and some prep school headmasters decided what should be taught in high school.

    In my opinion, most academics are hot to change others, but loathe to change what they do themselves. Old quip: It is easier to move a cemetery than change a college curriculum.

    I have witnessed first-hand the horse trading that goes on when a new program or department major is developed. It is not pretty!

    As someone else noted: Academic politics are so brutal because the stakes are so small.

    Roger Berg

    Senior Strategic/Community Planner

    Literacy Program at the Plymouth Library

    Plymouth, MA


    How much math is enough? For adult education students, enough to get into college without placing in developmental math. Those who pursue majors requiring more math skills will take advanced math classes in college -- as they now do.

    Forrest Chisman


    How much math is enough? Getting into college without placing in developmental math is a pretty tall order. Many high school graduates are doing developmental math - so I sometimes wonder why we would expect ABE/GED students to get "enough math" in our courses to bypass developmental math.

    I also wonder about the ladder metaphor. I appreciate the Adult Learning Standards in Washington state, which emphasize four components across all levels: numbers and number sense; patterns/functions/relationships; space/shape/measurement; data/statistics.

    When I taught math, and realized that you can introduce basic algebra concepts to even the lowest level math student, while you're teaching arithmetic, that opened a whole new way for me to think about teaching and learning math. Learning the multiplication facts is useful, but not a gate-keeper to higher level math. You can approach learning the facts via the times table, which has an array of fascinating patterns. I really see math as recursive, versus a ladder.

    Debbie McLaughlin

    Seattle Central Community College

    dmclaughlin@sccd.ctc.edu


    Agreed Deborah...I am the mother of two relatively high functioning high school students. Both placed in developmental math at their chosen Universities. Both went to community colleges for recovery of their math skills and were glad for the opportunity. They needed it! I think it is a lot to ask a GED student-but what are the alternatives? What are the choices? We just don't seem to do a good job at math education or maybe it's more an issue of creating the necessary bridges from secondary to post secondary expectations. May be that's where the answer lies...

    Kathy Ellithorpe


    I agree wholeheartedly!

    Cynthia Roe

    Instructional Specialist, Adult Education Programs

    Carroll Community College

    Westminster, MD


    Hi Forrest! Thank you for participating on the listserv and for your years of leadership.

    With the technology we currently have, we could customize instruction for students (on-line or face-to-face). Then, I think Forrest's question would be appropriate.

    When most of our schools are focused on standardization, "how much math" really is an accreditation question. We teachers and administrators decide for students. And, if what we do here in Washington is representative, if we err, we err on the side of too much math rather than just enough.

    Here, we have decided that algebra 2 is the standard for every high school graduate. Do you see people in the near future needing that skill level? Is there a parabola in everyone's future? :) I'd really like to hear what you have to say about student assessment's role in program evaluation.

    Michael Tate


    Well, I think erring on the side of too much of any kind of education is always a good idea. After all, it's EDUCATION. But you're right that, in AE, the level of math taught is practically speaking a certification question: enough to get them into college for students seeking to make transitions, enough to help them handle VESL programs, if they go that way, etc.

    With regard to student assessment and program evaluation, my views are TOO well published. See for example ANY of the reports that bear my name under the ESL section of the CAAL website (www.caalusa.org). Basically, I don't think there is any way in which we can know what we are accomplishing, let alone improve it, without longitudinal (5-7 years) records of student performance. And the only way to get THESE is by pre-testing on entry and post-testing at each semester break (or equivalent) and probably more often. Most standardized assessments aren't considered valid by their publishers until about 60 hours. But I find that many (most?) teachers don't think those tests accurately reflect what they teach and what students learn -- in part because of curricular differences, and in part because of inherent limits of the tests. I think they're right. Thus, many (most?) programs use locally constructed tests/metrics for program management purposes. I think that's okay as long as they are well-constructed to reflect curricula, and as long as the curricula are linked to some external validator (like state curricular guidelines and/or college entry requirements). I think it is very problematical if the program relies on individual teacher assessments alone. The teachers in a program should collegially agree on performance measures -- perhaps in collaboration with other local/state programs. At best that's a stopgap, however -- although it's better than the available alternatives. What we really need is a Manhattan Project to develop a more flexible assessment system (not a single test) for ALL of AE.

    Forrest Chisman


    We, at SABES (System for Adult Basic Education Support), have been working diligently to improve the teaching of math to adult learners and while I am far from an expert on math, I have learned a great deal from our math leaders regarding the usefulness of learning algebra. While on the surface it may appear that learning algebra is unnecessary in order to succeed in post-secondary education and in life, I have learned from our Math Leaders that in learning how to do algebra, we actually are learning algebraic thinking, which is a critical thinking and problem solving skill needed to succeed, not only in college, but in life. My non-expert take on this is that algebraic thinking will enable you work with a few unknown variables to figure out what might happen if x or y occurs. So beyond getting a GED and passing the Accuplacer, algebra serves a very important function.

    On algebraic thinking

    Carol Bower

    Director, Northeast SABES

    Northern Essex Community College

    Lawrence, MA


    Carol highlights a common perception among people who are less familiar with math - that algebra is working with unknown variables. It's true that much of the process of algebra deals with variables (known and unknown), but its underlying principles have to do with recognizing and finding patterns and making predictions based upon the patterns.

    Knowing how to describe a pattern as an algebraic expression can be a very useful and sometimes enjoyable tool. But recognizing patterns and learning to make predictions based upon patterns have many applications beyond passing the GED and Accuplacer and other school situations.

    Susan Kidd

    ABE Professional Development Coordinator

    State Board for Community & Technical Colleges


    I used the following title a lot when teaching math: Helping Low Achievers Succeed at Mathematics (Derek Haylock & Marcel D'Eon, Springboards for Teaching). It's geared to the math of grades 2 - 8, and has a ton of interesting, engaging, hands-on activities for students. I still have materials I made based on recommended activities.

    Debbie McLaughlin

    Director of Basic & Transitional Studies

    Seattle Central Community College


    Hi Carol and other Listers:

    Regarding math and SABES, here is an interesting take on the math dilemma from Tricia Donovan, also at SABES:

    From Tricia:

    (begin quote)
    I just read a piece by Arnold Packer (SCANS: Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills) in which he argues that how we structure math classes and curricula needs to change completely -- he calls for Empirical Math -- learning math through projects geared to meet the roles we will play as adults in this country. He thinks it's more likely the majority will encounter spreadsheets than second degree algebraic equations, and he notes our lack of success with the math academic ladder proves that it's not working. As Einstein said (paraphrasing), 'The repetition of an unsuccessful action over and over again with the expectation of new outcomes is the definition of insanity.'



    We shared some of the Packer piece in this quarter's SABES Math Bulletin. I'd come down on the side of those who think the type of mathematics we require is specific in its applications, and not of general use. Even those of us who succeeded grandly in manipulating symbols and expressions in Algebra II, Trig, and Calculus forget it all and wonder what it proved. I'm rambling, so will stop. Math Bulletin link



    SABES "Training Leaders in Adult Basic Education"



    Tricia Donovan, Ed.D.

    SABES CRC

    World Education

    44 Farnsworth St.

    Boston, MA 02210

    617-482-9485 x3785

    Fax 617-482-0617

    (end quote)

    Cynthia Zafft


    The comments regarding "how much math" are interesting and that's an issue subject to continued debate. I wonder, however, if it could become a moot point if we identified "GED" classes as Adult Basic Education classes and all prospective college students who don't fare well on the Compass or Accuplacer were referred to ABE, regardless of whether they have a high school diploma. Any student who doesn't score adequately on a college placement test could use this free service...and the additional academic knowledge. I'm not suggesting there's no place for developmental courses, but Adult Basic Education courses can be an important bridge for "good high school students" to gain college-level foundation skills.

    I had the good fortune to attend the NCTN (National College Transition Network) conference in Rhode Island last November (2008)...a terrific opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge on a range of topics within the transitions umbrella. In particular, the session by Pam Meader of Portland, Maine, entitled Algebra as the Gatekeeper, offered strategies for helping students develop algebraic reasoning and improving "sense making vs. symbol manipulation".

    Additionally, Donna Miller-Parker and Sara Baldwin of South Seattle Community College gave an excellent session entitled Our Mission is Transition. They discussed the multi-level approach used in their basic education program to encourage students' transitions to further education, of which a student transitions portfolio was an important component. Faculty learning communities were also vital to their approach.

    I wish I had more time to write on all I gained from the conference, but both of these sessions were exceptionally valuable!

    Joyce Winters

    Professional Development Specialist

    NWRC/Owens Community College

    Northwood, Ohio


    Thank you, Joyce, for your kind words. I have been slogging through two days of comments and do need to address the algebra concerns addressed on this listserv. The Center for Occupational Research and Development states that algebra is the "language of technology". I believe algebra is critical for our adult students but the way that algebra is taught needs to be changed. As one person noted, we do not have to wait until a formal algebra class to introduce our students to algebraic thinking, patterns, and functions. Algebra needs to be applied, hands on and developed conceptually. Students need to be able to recognize patterns, derive formulas, understand rates, analyze trends, and construct graphs.

    Case in point: I had a fisherman in my algebra class a few years back that needed to be retrained as he had broken his back and couldn't fish anymore. He received a letter from the government explaining how they were going to buy him out. It included a very complicated algebraic formula. Without some knowledge of algebra, this fisherman would have felt intimidated. Instead he felt empowered to at least question what the government was doing in this buyout plan.

    Another student was involved in insurance and began to understand the various graphs from her company, especially involving rates of change. Still another finally understood statistical process control sheets she received from her worksite.

    My point is without some algebraic understanding they received from my algebra course, they probably wouldn't have made those connections.

    I teach for Portland Adult Education in Portland, Maine. In Maine, our adult education sites are connected to K-12 programs rather than community colleges. For our students we do offer two levels of algebra classes that students take either for high school credit or for college transitions. Students in our program who complete their GED are encouraged to take these classes particularly if they are college bound.

    Most students who successfully complete our Algebra Part A and B courses have passed the Accuplacer Arithmetic and Elementary Algebra tests and start college level math courses at our community college.

    The Adult Numeracy Network will be doing a day long presentation on algebra and algebraic thinking at the pre-conference session of COABE for any on the listserv attending COABE in April. NCTN will also be sponsoring a strand during COABE in which I will also address algebraic thinking.

    Pam Meader

    Past President of the Adult Numeracy Network

    Portland Adult Education

    Portland, Maine


    In a previous post, Donna Chambers referred to Tom Mechem's identification of the math that is tested on the Accuplacer (see thread entitled National External Diploma Program). What are those, and how do we get that info?

    Thanks,

    Ramsey Ludlow

    Oxford / Buckfield Hills Adult Education

    South Paris, Maine


    What Tom has done and what we can all do is look what is being tested on the Accuplacer (for example) or what is required in college math and make sure that our adult math curriculum is covering the gaps, between the GED or the NEDP (National External Diploma Program). For example, NEDP does not test for algebra, but rather tests for contextual real life arithmetic. When the learner sees x's and y's on a test, he/she is likely to "freak" even though they could answer a similar question if it was presented in a real life problem.

    Our NEDP Plus will introduce math concepts the way they are offered on a standardized test. Exponents, variables, right triangles, and the quadratic equation are not currently required for NEDP, but will be covered in the NEDP/TTC (Transitions to College) in order to graduate. This is just an example and I am sure Tom could offer more.

    Donna Chambers


    Ramsey, et al.

    Well, I can tell you what in my amateurish way I have done. For a number of years part of my job has been to make presentations to GED teachers and program directors regarding what skill sets are needed for success on the five parts of the GED tests. As you know, no one can see the GED tests, so it's hard for teachers to know what to teach or what it means that one of their students got a 410 on the Writing test, and so on. The GED Testing Service in Washington provides us with valuable information on the most-missed questions (based on their analysis of every test taken world-wide since January 1, 2002); we have the GED Item-Writing Manuals, which give valuable insights into the philosophy of how the GED questions are formulated; and we pester the GEDTS at every opportunity for more info. Teachers have found this to be valuable for the most part.

    Lately I have focused more on the Math because it is the main reason for GED failures and it is far and away the main reason that GED grads end up in developmental courses.

    Last spring, after it finally sunk in that GED grads were not getting anywhere near as far as they needed in post-secondary education, that a great majority were wallowing in (mostly math) developmental courses, that poor performance on the ACCUPLACER math test was one of the main reasons for that, and that there was no correlation between a GED math score and an ACCUPLACER algebra score, I took the ACCUPLACER Algebra test (something I recommend everyone interested in this subject to do). And I almost threw up, not just for myself, trying to battle through it, but for our GED grads, knowing what it was going to look like to them. So I took the ACCUPLACER dozens more times and I have put together another presentation for teachers and program directors which talks about the differences (in philosophy, in how the test is presented and taken, and in the skills sets needed) and starts the dialogue as to how we can create a GED math curriculum that prepares our students to pass the GED tests, do well enough on the ACCUPLACER to avoid developmental courses, and succeed in college Math classes.

    (Here's a brief example: if the GED test wants you to use the formula for the area of a rectangle, it will create a "real-life" situation in a word problem, somebody building a patio or whatever, and the answer will be what our GED students consider an "answer," "460 square feet" or something like that. On the ACCUPLACER, the rectangle will have a width of "x" and a length of "x + 3," so the area will be (I can't type the exponent, but...) "x2 + 3x" and all the multiple-choice wrong answers will be in that form, more or less.)

    These presentations have been great for me because of the tremendous enthusiasm and input from the teachers, "Well, here's a difficulty you present and here's how I address that in my class." And the discussion this week has been fabulous in that respect as well: so many dedicated people and so many fantastic ideas I can hardly steal them all.

    If anyone were to e-mail me off-list, I could send you my PowerPoint presentation: one man's opinion, a work in progress, but perhaps food for further thought.

    Tom Mechem

    GED State Chief Examiner

    Department of Elementary & Secondary Education

    Commonwealth of Massachusetts


    Thanks so much for your work and offer to share it, Tom. Has anyone also done this kind of work with the Compass placement test?

    Joyce Winters

    Professional Development Specialist

    NWRC/Owens Community College

    Northwood, Ohio


    A couple of years ago a group of ABE math teachers from Washington State looked at the content of CASAS Life Skills and Employability, the GED and both the COMPASS and ASSET Numeracy/Pre-Algebra tests. If anyone would like to see the crosswalk they created, I'd be glad to send you a copy.

    Susan Kidd

    ABE Professional Development Coordinator

    State Board for Community & Technical Colleges


    Yes I would love a copy. I am part of an adhoc group in Florida and we are working on these issues.

    Robin Matusow

    Rehabilitation Instructional Specialist

    Miami-Dade County Public Schools Regional Operations


    Hi Robin:

    I was wondering if the GED-Plus project in Florida is a resource for all adult education programs in Florida. Their website is a wealth of information on the model (e.g., implementation guide, newsletters, discussion board, etc.) and has a curriculum resource guide that is the biggest compendium of study skills I've ever seen.

    GED-Plus College Prep Program website: http://www.floridatechnet.org/gedplus/

    Cynthia Zafft


    My understanding is that it is available to any institution that wishes to adopt it. I would contact Bonnie Vondracek-Goonen at bv3008@aol.com to discuss it. She was one of the contacts for us in Miami. At this point I do not believe we have the program up and running.

    Robin Matusow

    Rehabilitation Instructional Specialist

    Miami-Dade County Public Schools, FL


    This has been an extremely useful and informative session -- in particular the discussions around the math issues.

    I, like many GED teachers, was drawn to the field as a writer / reader / English major type. Teaching math has a way to recognize patterns - is very intriguing. I could see that some students would respond to that more than to the arithmetic approach. Success in life often stems from the ability to identify patterns in data and events, and then make decisions based on that new interpretation of information.

    However, the texts that we use are not set up to teach math as skills in recognizing patterns. And that is an issue. Even people trained in math don't necessarily have the experience to explain how to recognize patterns. While McGraw-Hill and Steck-Vaughan have ancillary material around pattern recognition -- the mainstay texts focus on arithmetic and computation in the context of the types of real life problems that people face. Does anyone know how they are planning to address this issue?

    I appreciate the links that different people gave us to websites that have that pattern recognition focus.

    Also -- a great way to teach multiple variables -- is to set-up problems for selecting cell phone services.

    Given the importance of this issue, I would like to suggest an independent session on how to assess progress (both for the teacher and for the student) in incorporating the pattern - recognition portion of algebra into the earlier ABE math courses.

    Thank you all very much for an illuminating discussion.

    Gail Bundy

    Native American Multi-Cultural Education School

    Denver, CO


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    GED in Spanish

    Does anyone have information/words of wisdom about the GED in Spanish?

    Jennifer Barber

    English as a Second Language

    Grays Harbor College

    Aberdeen, WA


    Hi Jennifer and everyone,

    Last year we held a discussion on Strategies for Innovation in Community College ESL - which also focused on transitions. One of the threads of discussion was focused on the GED in Spanish - it was quite a lengthy thread I recall.

    Here is the URL to the transcript of that discussion - you will see a list of the threads and one is entitled Spanish GED.

    http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/assessment/08passingthetorch_trans.html

    Hope this helps,

    Marie Cora

    Assessment Discussion List Moderator


    We tried to do a GED class in Spanish but had few qualify as most could not test into the GED level, and most who did could not produce documentation. We had two instructors as everything but writing had to be in Spanish but the ESSAY has to be English. Contemporary has a good GED Complete text in Spanish.

    John B. Willetts

    Instructional Specialist at Baltimore City Community College


    We have offered it at Miami Dade College for two or three years, but even here we have gotten a tepid response. The students taking it usually do so because it fulfills a job requirement or because they are older people who want to set an example for children or grandchildren. Although it is recognized by the State of Florida and by MDC, it is of no benefit to students who plan to attend college classes taught in English.

    Susan Dow


    We have had many Spanish speaking students who wanted to explore that possibility --especially the young ones who were raised in the U.S. -- and have only recently left high school. They think that they could pass without studying if they took the GED in Spanish -- so we give them practice tests in Spanish. In every case, the students soon realize on their own that they didn't have enough knowledge to pass the GED in Spanish. And it is a good place to have the discussion about the need for studying - and the need to become skilled in English.

    I might also add that as teachers, we do steer the conversation towards the importance of spending time working in English. And I usually give the Social Studies pre-GED test.

    We believe that the toughest barrier for the Spanish speaking students to pass -- is the Social Studies Test. Unlike the GED Science prep texts -- which assume no knowledge of key vocabulary -- and define everything -- the Social Studies GED texts do not have the same level of sensitivity to how much vocabulary is used in Social Studies that students do not know.

    I'm wondering what other people have found.

    Gail Bundy

    Native American Multi-Cultural Education School

    Denver, CO


    Jennifer,

    At Centralia College we offer a class to help facilitate materials and instruction to students who need a GED and aren't proficient enough in English to do it in English. We also see it as a service as many companies have the GED as a job requirement. It is a part of our ESL program. You have to be an ESL student in order to work on the GED in Spanish because our mission is to teach people English.

    We have placed GED prep materials in the college library so that students may check out books for study. We have pre-tests and they also do their actual testing here on campus. We are fortunate that one of our instructors was raised in Mexico and actually got his GED through the migrant program here in WA state in the late 90s. He then went on to The Evergreen State College to earn his bachelor's degree. He actually started as a level 4 ESL student in about 1995. He's worked in reforestation and on a chicken farm so the students relate to him very well as most Hispanic people here work in agricultural jobs. He serves as a great role model for others.

    You also are in WA State and know that because of House Bill 1079, people who are WA State residents and have earned a high school degree or a GED but don't have legal documentation in our country, may attend college classes at their own expense, paying in-state tuition. Many students wish to continue their education and are willing to pay.

    Judith E. Aguilar

    ESL Coordinator

    Centralia College

    Centralia, WA


    We have some experience with it. Wisdom might best be sought elsewhere

    Jim Schneider

    Scott Community College

    Career Assistance Center

    Davenport, IA


    Jim,

    I asked my Spanish-speaking ESL students recently, who were talking about the GED in Spanish, what they would do if they were managers of a local retail store in Austin, Texas and they had a choice between two native speakers of Spanish to hire to be salespersons. One had taken the GED test in English and the other in Spanish. They talked about this and all decided, after some discussion, that they would rather hire the person who had taken the GED in English to prove that they were truly bilingual and could comfortably deal with both English and Spanish-speaking customers, as well as handle the paperwork. In the long run, our ESL students' successes will be based on their abilities to deal with two languages in our environment. It is possible to live here and not learn much English, but the best jobs will be for the persons who show the most linguistic flexibility. The same thing goes for English speakers here who are functional in Spanish. In some cases, they get extra pay for that ability.

    Ted Klein

    www.tedklein-ESL.com


    The Spanish GED® Tests is a direct translation of the English version. Five more minutes are allowed are on each part because of the number of Spanish words required to convey the English translation.

    B.J. Helton


    Our Spanish-speaking students who take the GED in Spanish, also take the sixth English proficiency test. That way their GED certificate is issued to them without stating that they did their GED testing in Spanish. The students who are a level 4 ESL student can pass that test. We also tell them that even though they have the GED, they can still go into our ABE all English classes to continue to improve their English.

    Judith Aguilar


    A student may take the test in Spanish and then if English is required for postsecondary or employment, the student may take test in English. Not so, in the reverse unless they are going to another country and have to prove Spanish comprehension.

    B.J. Helton


    We have received some private funds to develop and deliver Spanish GED preparation sessions since the State of PA Adult Ed program will not fund such prep classes. The pass rate for the three test sessions we have conducted so far is less than 50%. The program director always makes clear to the participants that it's a great achievement to obtain the GED in Spanish, but they must continue their studies for competency in English language reading, writing, speaking and listening.

    I essentially see obtaining the GED in Spanish as a way to demonstrate a significant achievement and instill some motivation and excitement for postsecondary education; also, it's useful for job purposes and it's important to show if the individual has the goal of entering college....especially if they don't already have a high school diploma from their native country.

    In a special grant program I direct focusing on a comprehensive college prep program (called Project Success) for GED completers, I admitted three young adults (from the Dominican Republic) who had obtained the Spanish GED. They were also graduates of high school in their country; they have been in the US for less than two years. They still need lots of help to enhance their academic and everyday English language skills, so they are currently enrolled in credit ESL developmental courses.

    I realize now it was probably a waste of their time to obtain the Spanish GED since the college would have admitted them with proof of their native country's high school graduation, and they probably would have done OK on the Accuplacer (see discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer') using the "Ability to Benefit" option to obtain their financial aid. (The financial aid folks tell me a high school diploma from a foreign country is not recognized for an individual to received federal and/or state financial aid). All community college folks need to be familiar with the "Ability to Benefit" option. Unfortunately, it's not heavily promoted.

    For similar situations in the future I would focus on helping these folks to aggressively prepare for the Accuplacer placement test using such tools as A+dvancer (notably the diagnostic function), tutoring, and other effective instructional approaches.

    I am pleased to report that all three of the Latino students earned 12 credit hours in Spanish by taking the College Board's CLEP test. It was a great motivator for them to earn these credits as they begin their pathway to college. We need to encourage as many motivated Latino folks as possible to consider taking the CLEP Spanish test. It's a great way to help them get on a successful path for college studies.

    Peter P. Balsamo, Ph.D.

    Chief GED Examiner and Director of Community Outreach

    Director of Project Success Grant

    Luzerne County Community College

    Wilkes-Barre, PA


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    Transitions and Students with Disabilities

    Just out of curiosity, do any of your programs specifically address the needs of students with disabilities? If so, may I ask how?

    Robin Matusow

    Rehabilitation Instructional Specialist

    Miami-Dade County Public Schools

    rmatusow@dadeschools.net


    All -

    The GED Program at Del Mar College has a Learning Difficulties Assessor (Dan Zamora). He surveys students during orientation about any learning difficulties or problems they may have had growing up or in school. If students obtain a score of 12 or higher off the thirteen question survey, they are eligible for his services. Students are not obligated to use Mr. Zamora's services which are free of charge. Even if a student scores below a 12 and still feels they may have a learning problem, they may meet with Mr. Zamora. LD screening is done through PowerPath. PowerPath screens for key breakdowns in learning that result from difficulties in vision and hearing, scotopic sensitivity, information processing, attention difficulties, and phonological processing skills. All the data that is collected during the screening process is entered into the PowerPath software and then a report is generated. The report includes: Analysis of Screening Results, Recommended accommodations with targeted skills, and curriculum and or work place activities. Students can then develop a personal learning plan.

    Charlene Salazar


    Good morning! I have been very interested in the conversation this week as I will be facilitating a pre-conference session at COABE for NAASLN (National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs) on transition programs and the underlying issues re: long-term learning barriers that, if not acknowledged, identified, and addressed, will likely interfere with successful persistence and limited learning success.

    We would really like to have you participate in the pre-conference dialog and, what will no doubt, be a learning-filled day of meaningful conversations. The highly interactive session will model facilitation techniques that can be used to 'change-up' transition classes and move them to a learning community. Representatives (from state-level administrators to instructors to learning specialists) from 5-7 states will be presenting their experiences.

    I am interested in finding out if:

    • anyone is looking at brain-based and functional learning challenges as underlying barriers to persistence,
    • how these challenges are being addressed,
    • other than universal design - how programs are engaging transition students and helping them become their own personal advocates so that they can know how to adapt college learning environments to meet their unique learning needs
    • how learning communities are being created and used in place of either the learning center or traditional instructor-led learning modalities?

    I have been working with some programs to begin looking at transition students' learning challenges. To date, our data base is small to date, but very interesting and more data is being collected every day.

    In our preliminary data on transition students, the demographics of the group looks like:
    average age about 27; 50% female; 80% high school graduates; 50% receiving public assistance; 64% were identified as LD in school); native English speakers.

    Our screenings found:

    • About a third of the group wears glasses.
    • When screened for vision functions (normed, standardized screening), those who had glasses were asked to wear them during the screening, here is what we found:

      • 33% had difficulties with distance vision (seeing a black/green board)
      • 50% had difficulty with near vision (seeing written materials at reading distance), and
      • 50% had difficulty with binocular vision (using two eyes together for sustained reading, etc.)

      When screened on a standardized and normed auditory function screening - using an audiometer,

    • Nearly 80% had some hearing loss
    • On a standardized self-rating scale for attention challenges:

      • 33% self identified having moderate to severe attention challenges (impulsivity, distractibility, hyperactivity, difficulty focusing to complete tasks, difficulty with taking feedback as personal criticism, etc.);
      • an additional 55% identified themselves with mild to moderate attention issues

      On a standardized self-rating scale for Visual Stress Syndrome:

      • 81% identified that they had moderate to severe visual stress syndrome - i.e., eyes want to close under bright lights, there is too much glare from white pages with black letters, words and numbers move and/or swirl on the page, can't stay focused on reading materials as longer lengths of time make the words begin to go fuzzy, can't keep track of responses on bubble sheets for standardized testing, too much glare from 'normal' contrasts on computer screens, difficulty copying from a workbook or board to paper, etc.).

    Interesting? What are you finding?

    Laura Weisel


    Such interesting questions, Laura! Our LD specialist, who appropriately teaches our lowest-level reading classes, also found sleep deprivation to be a serious issue -- some of her students (and, I suspect mine) slept only 3-4 hours a night but had no sense that this affected them negatively. She put together a whole sleep curriculum to deal with that.

    One of my students this year has a pretty severe version of the vision issues you mentioned. We managed to find a developmental ophthalmologist who takes her insurance; now the problem is to get her to make an appointment, as despite her obvious problems, she insists that she sees "well enough."

    Wendy Quiñones


    Wendy, might we get the sleep curriculum or contact info? I suspect that many Ss could benefit from knowing about this phenomenon.

    Several years back, studies came out saying that teenagers should start school at 9 or 10, not 7 or 8. Me, too!

    Stephanie Moran


    Laura's NAASLN studies confirm other studies that have made plain just how many students suffer from vision and hearing problems, problems that may often misdiagnosed as an LD or low intelligence. See the article "Who Belongs in College: A Second Look" by Carlette J. Hardin. A study by Hiett in 1987 showed that after screening was done, "65% of the students enrolled in developmental courses had visual problems that had never been detected. Another 54% of the students had a hearing loss, while 41% of the students had both visual and hearing problems. Is it such a shock that these ignored students encountered academic difficulties?"

    Stephanie Moran


    Dear Laura, Wendy, Marie, and Fellow Assessment Listers:

    One of the NCTN members works with several prison systems around the country. As part of beginning an educational program, prisoners had their vision tested. Many, many had vision problems that had gone undetected and untreated prior to entering prison. It's hard to fathom how these physical issues of vision, hearing, sleep deprivation factor in to educational problems.

    I want to say "thank you" to everyone who has contributed and followed the discussion this week. It is usually impossible (or is that virtually possible?) to get such specific answers to the questions raised. I appreciate the time people have taken to participate.

    I look forward to reading on...

    Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

    National College Transition Network

    www.collegetransition.org

    www.collegeforadults.org


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    National External Diploma Program

    Hi All,

    I am the Program Coordinator for Academy of Hope and Beyond Talent's Pathways College Preparation Program, currently Washington D.C.'s only college prep program for adult learners. Unlike states where adult education programs are housed in community colleges or public schools, the district relies on community-based non-profit organizations such as ours. In addition to Pathways, Academy of Hope offers ABE/GED classes and Beyond Talent offers peer-mentoring to non-traditional graduates.

    Pathways follows the College Prep model and is comprised of three month-long modules: writing, math, and college prep & career development (applications, financial aid documents, etc.). Our Pathways students are primarily GED or EDP (External Diploma Program) graduates, although we have had several high school graduates in the program. All enter the program with generally weak math skills. Most will attend our local university, UDC, or neighboring community colleges in Virginia or Maryland, all of which use the Accuplacer (see discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer'). Prior to starting, most of our GED and EDP graduates placed into remedial math classes.

    While all of our students need extra work in math, we have found that GED graduates generally have higher math skills than our EDP graduates. Our GED graduates have some understanding of algebra (at least of its existence!) but that is not the case for the EDP grads. EDP learners entering the program scored in the 210s and 220s on the B level math CASAS. As a GED instructor, I had always felt that the less rigorous math requirements of EDP were a benefit and allowed students to earn a credential who otherwise might not. However, as a college prep program coordinator, EDP is doing a disservice to its students who believe that since they earned an actual high school diploma they are prepared for college. I understand that EDP is now in the process of revamping their competencies to increase the amount of math required. For those students who are interested in pursuing higher education, I do believe this is a positive step.

    Thank you,

    Jessie Stadd

    AoH Program Coordinator, Pathways College Preparation Program

    Lifelong Learning Coach, Academy of Hope/Beyond Talent


    Jessie,

    Thank you for bringing up the issue of the less rigorous current NEDP (National External Diploma Program) math requirements. As you mentioned, CASAS is in the process of revalidating the competencies, but we cannot wait for this work to be completed. Here is how we are planning to address this in RI to be fair to the NEDP graduates who are planning to move on to college or other post-secondary programs through our Transitions program.

    All NEDP candidates are informed when they first enter the program that by fulfilling the national requirements they will still need further work to meet the demands of most post-secondary programs. Since our pilot will blend both TTC (Transitions to College) and NEDP, candidates will fulfill the NEDP math requirements as a first step and a base. This math is basic arithmetic. Our combined National External Diploma Program/Transitions to College Program will have the additional requirements of learning, practicing and being assessed in the math that is being tested on the Accuplacer (see discussion thread entitled 'Accuplacer') (which my good buddy, Tom Mechem, has so painstakingly identified.) This is targeted scaffold instruction that requires competency-based assessment (no one gets by without demonstrating understanding). You might call this NEDP Plus, since these participants will be going beyond the NEDP competencies to earn their diploma. The reading and writing will also have increased rigor. What we will be doing is adding RI Transitions to College requirements to the NEDP requirements. This work does not change the existing NEDP requirements, but offers additional activities beyond for our Rhode Islanders.

    Massachusetts Adult Diploma Program has a similar process in that all diploma participants must meet the state MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System for high school graduation) competency determination before a diploma can be awarded. In many ways, these graduates are more ready academically to transition into college because they are required to demonstrate understanding.

    I hope this helps.

    Donna Chambers


    On behalf of the National External Diploma Program, I would like to respond to the Adult Education Math and Accuplacer discussion (see discussion thread entitled 'Math and Transitions'). Since CASAS assumed responsibility for the NEDP in 2006, new Diagnostic testing procedures were established which require NEDP. Applicants to score at least a 236 in reading and a 225 in math on CASAS assessments before they are eligible for participation in Generalized Assessment. Programs are required to prescribe remedial assistance for individuals not meeting these standards. The 225 (Advanced Basic Skills) standard was set as an interim measure. As new performance assessments are implemented this math standard will increase over a several year period to the minimum score of 236 (Adult Secondary). Individuals scoring in the 210s and lower 220s are functioning at ABE levels too low to benefit from the program. Agencies awarding diplomas to such individuals are not following prescribed national policy.

    Nationally, data on NEDP participants'entry level skills during Diagnostics reveal a different portrait of NEDP participants: Mean math score of 235.1 (Adult Secondary) Mean reading score of 246.3 (High Adult Secondary) NEDP has recently introduced a Core and a Core Plus concept to the overall program structure. All NEDP sites must adhere to the Core requirements. Additionally, some state and local agencies may have further requirements. In these cases, states can set additional standards and requirements which exceed the basic Core requirements. These additional requirements should be coordinated through the national NEDP office for review. For example, states with high school exit exam requirements are able to expect NEDP clients to meet the standard they impose as an additional condition for receiving a diploma. States can also set a higher scale score standard for diagnostic math and reading before entry into Generalized Assessment, if deemed appropriate.

    NEDP, as with a majority of high school completion programs across the country, is working diligently to ensure that its clients are fully prepared for the world of work and to enter credit-bearing courses in postsecondary institutions. To this end, NEDP has just completed an extensive national competency revalidation process, the first step in revamping the existing NEDP applied performance assessments. These new competencies are more comprehensive and more reflective of the trend toward more rigorous high school graduation standards and address 21st Century skills. NEDP is currently redesigning assessment tasks to reflect these higher standards. We anticipate that the majority of this work will be completed in the next 18 months. I would be happy to provide any additional information on the National External Diploma Program (jharrison@casas.org).

    As project director for the NEDP, I would like to underscore our full commitment to producing universally recognized quality high school graduates who are fully prepared to transition successfully to postsecondary education and training programs.

    J. R. Harrison

    CASAS

    NEDP Project Director


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    Delayed Feedback with GED Scores

    I'm interested in others' experience and views, and perhaps relevant research and data, on the motivational effect of prompt feedback of assessment results and the discouraging effect of delayed feedback I teach GED Distance Learning in a California adult school with a very tight budget, and one of our ways of saving money is to send in a student's GED reading, social studies and science tests together for scoring, not singly as the student takes them. This means that a student might start out taking the reading test, then do preparation in science and take that one, and finally prepare for the social studies test and take that one. Only then are the students' 3 tests sent off for scoring. The rationale is that this saves on the cost of answer sheets, postage, fees and handling. The result is that a student might wait several weeks or a month or even several months before getting any results at all.

    While I have regretted this practice, I now have subjective and anecdotal evidence of the very positive motivational effect of feedback. In December of 2008 we were required to send in all GED tests for the year for scoring, whether or not a student had taken the "big three." Every one of my students who received results in January was enormously happy and motivated to realize that s/he had received passing scores. Already, in less than a month, I observe renewed commitment and perseverance on the part of those students who now realize that they have passed one or two tests, and know that they CAN pass others. Receiving those passing scores, sometimes after a wait of several months, has been a major incentive to students to keep their appointments and persevere in their GED preparation.

    As I prepare to lobby for sending in students' tests for scoring individually as they take them rather than waiting until they taken the 3, even if it means a slightly increased fee, I would be grateful for your input on this topic.

    Ann Veronica Coyle

    Watsonville/Aptos Adult Education

    Watsonville, California


    Are you talking about all GED® students or just ESL GED students?

    B. J. Helton

    BJ.Helton@ky.gov

    I am talking about English language GED students, those with skills high enough to enable them to succeed in an Adult Secondary Ed class.

    Ann Veronica Coyle


    I totally agree that delayed feedback is likely to be discouraging for students. We are fortunate to have a good relationship with a nearby testing center, so we can call for results a few days after students take the tests. We all love that!

    Wendy Quiñones


    Dear Ann and All,

    It's inconceivable to me that we would ask students to take tests and wait for their scores for any extended period of time-no question that motivation would fall dramatically. Search other areas where you can cut costs, or go to an understanding donor for funding specific to this expense since getting test results is so crucial to keeping a student's motivation strong (rarely do our students fail a test and they almost always do quite well in the sense of being pleased with their scores).

    As others have pointed out, one of our greatest barriers is episodic attendance, and if we were to delay test results, I am sure that attendance would become even spottier.

    Stephanie Moran


    I think that the word "inconceivable" perfectly describes how I feel about the unfortunate scenario that Ann described. Delaying test results goes against even the most basic of educationally sound principles and common sense. Thank you, Ann, for taking this up as a cause on behalf of your students.

    Melinda M. Hefner

    Director, Literacy Support Services

    Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute

    Hudson, North Carolina


    Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon of having students take each of the GED subtests individually, you should check with your state GED administrator. Some states have a provision for taking all the subtests before retesting on any subtest. The GED Tests are considered a body of knowledge and while they be divided for testing purposes the intent is to master the entire body and not concentrate on one at a time. Secondly, if taken one by one the student may not achieve the overall average and then will have to go back to each test and improve the scores. There is a big difference in the minimum score of 410 and 450.

    B. J. Helton


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    Assessing Non-Academic Skills

    Hi All:

    As a parallel discussion to the math placement test, I would like to ask everyone how they assess non-academic characteristics and skills that may play a role in student academic success or failure (e.g., long-range goals, realistic self-appraisal, support network, self-concept, leadership, community involvement, etc.). And, how you use that information to guide program development to help students build those skills.

    I'm thinking of the work by Sedlacek ("Beyond the Big Test: Noncognitive Assessment in Higher Education) and some of his studies of nontraditional student populations with unique cultural and life experiences. These "noncognitive variables" seem to be better predictors of persistence in college than just looking at traditional test scores of verbal and quantitative abilities.

    Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

    National College Transition Network


    It might be worth looking at some testing usually done with persons with disabilities participating in a vocational rehabilitation program. Some of the tests administered by the psychologist (vocational interest and aptitude) as well as test administered in the context of a work evaluation speak to the motivation and persistence of the individual in both work and academic areas.

    Robin Matusow

    Rehabilitation Instructional Specialist

    Miami-Dade County Public Schools


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    Low Reading and Writing Ability

    I would like our discussion to also address low reading and writing ability. We tend as a nation and as educators to focus so highly on weak math scores, but the truth is that when adult learners have serious reading deficiencies, they are in far worse danger of dropping out of college because most courses are reading-based. Just think about how overwhelming an intro biology textbook is for poor readers. What do your programs do to help in this arena? I know that many schools used a computer-based program-I used one myself when I taught developmental reading several years back-but I found it pretty worthless and switched my approach to the nuts and bolts of reading comprehension, fix-up strategies, and using real-world newspaper and magazine articles to reinforce these skills.

    Sephanie Moran


    Hi Stephanie:

    I know you will get a lot of good feedback on this issue. Here is a Research-to-Practice brief on our website written by Lauren Capatosto called "Recoding and Fluency Problems of Poor College Readers." Lauren worked with John Strucker last summer to do this literature review and focused on what does and doesn't seem to work based on the research on poor college readers...a group that will sound very, very familiar to you.

    http://www.collegetransition.org/promising/rp8.html

    Cynthia Zafft, Senior Advisor

    National College Transition Network


    Stephanie,

    I hear you on low-level readers! Two resources that I've found helpful: First, the NIFL website, Assessment Strategies and Reading Profiles (http://lincs.ed.gov/readingprofiles/), which discusses the different kinds of issues that poor readers present, along with some assessment tools and strategies for teaching. Second is the NIFL publication, Applying Research in Reading Instruction for Adults by Susan McShane. You can download it here or order it free directly from NIFL (it's quite large for downloading, I think -- over 100 pages). It is a treasure of information and strategies for all levels.

    As you go through all this stuff, though, it's useful to bear in mind the comment from John Strucker, a leading reading researcher, that decoding and vocabulary are 80% of comprehension. Sort of helps us hack a path through the thicket of need.

    Wendy Quiñones


    Yes, I'm familiar with John's work-I think he was the primary author on a huge manual designed for middle school teachers that I borrowed several years back from a middle school principal friend of mine. I retooled my GED and college classes accordingly. I think GED teachers often give short shrift to vocabulary, and while students can still pass the GED without much depth of vocabulary, a lack of understanding word parts and the essential quality of developing vocabulary really hurts such students when they try college courses.

    Stephanie Moran


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    Undocumented Students and Financial Aid

    Here is an exchange that may be of interest to some of you in this discussion.

    Forrest Chisman


    Forrest,

    I was wondering about the show-stopper...what to do about undocumented students and financial aid. Forrest...are you going to say something about that by the end of the day?

    Cynthia Zafft


    Cynthia,

    I wish I knew WHAT to say. They're not eligible for Pell Grants or state aid in any state I know, although I suspect some slip in through false ID's and "don't ask/don't tell" policies. A few colleges have a few "scholarships" for them. That's all I know. Do you know more?

    Forrest


    They get in-state tuition in some states...somewhat of a help if you are at community college...and, some colleges have student support funds that pay for programs (e.g., one free course after finishing a transition component). Some community foundations and giving circles have flexible scholarship funds...but, as you say, the picture is not good. AccessEd, the Women in Government publication just came out today. Here is what they had to say:

    "Existing federal law pertaining to in-state tuition for undocumented students is ambiguous, and Congress has repeatedly failed to pass a measure such as the DREAM Act that would support states' rights to offer in-state tuition to these students. As to the future, the new administration and Congress should be more favorable toward passing federal legislation that would clarify states' rights to offer in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students. If Congress fails to enact such legislation, it is highly unlikely that educational opportunities for undocumented students will improve." (AccessED, Women in Government, Winter 2009)

    Not an uplifting message.

    Cynthia Zafft




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