Assessing Distance Education Students: Participation, Progress, and Achievement - Discussion Transcript - Assessment Discussion List


Assessing Distance Education Students: Participation, Progress, and Achievement
Discussion Transcript

Discussion Announcement | Guest Participants | Preparation



Discussion Topics


The Appropriate Student; Readiness and Support for Distance Learning


Dear Colleagues,

Please join me in welcoming our guests Drs. Jerome Johnston and Leslie Isler Petty. This week, we will be focused on the topic:
Assessing Distance Education Students: Participation, Progress, and Achievement
Overview

This LINCS discussion will focus on using assessment in distance education programs, what works, and what the challenges are as well as suggestions for addressing them.

Our guest participants are from the Project IDEAL Support Center at the University of Michigan. Project IDEAL is a consortium of 25 states that are working to build effective distance education programs for their ABE students. Since 2002 the Project IDEAL Support Center has provided member states with technical assistance for program planning, teacher training, program evaluation, and assessment. The Support Center develops training materials, online courses, and Web-based research tools that member states use to manage and improve their programs. Center staff have written policy papers on core issues in distance education and promoted communication among states through online community building, collaborative conference presentations, newsletters, conference calls, and an annual workshop devoted to sharing best practices and building the skills of state staff involved in distance education.

Full information on this discussion, including bios of our guests and recommended preparations for this discussion can be found at:

http://LINCS.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/assessment/10distanceEd

Please review the announcement, suggested resources, and join our discussion now!

Marie Cora

Assessment Discussion List Moderator  





Colleagues:

To open our discussion, please share:

What questions you have about assessing students in distance learning situations?

Thanks and looking forward to your posts!

Marie Cora

Assessment Discussion List Moderator  





What do programs do to insure that students are appropriate for distance learning or are all students allowed to participate?  

Nancy Rotarius, Ed.S.

Educational Specialist

Lansing, MI  





To answer that question, we follow NRS guidelines with required assessments (Pre- and Post-TABE) taken on site.

Alice Champagne

St.Charles Parish Adult Ed.

Louisiana





Since there are no NRS approved assessments for computer literacy, the Casper College ABE/GED Center was prohibited from giving computer classes. Many adult students lack keyboarding skills and basic knowledge of computers.

Rick Burgin

Casper College

Wyoming





This is staggering.

Is it possible that computer work can be integrated into ongoing/other classes? Many programs allocate computer time to "regular" classes so that learners can gain/strengthen needed skills.

Otherwise, why not just say out loud: we don't care if these learners ever gain more than basic and rudimentary skills.

Janet Isserlis

Adult Education Professional Development Center

Rhode Island





Nancy:

This question is one of the most difficult faced by agencies, or the teachers/counselors who work with learners considering the distance option: how do you select adults who are likely to succeed studying at a distance?

The Project IDEAL Support Center recommends that teachers use an interview at intake to explore a number of factors known to be related to success. (The interview is included in the appendix of the Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners available for download at projectideal.org) The interview questions ask about the learner's disposition (how organized they are, whether they feel a need to be part of a classroom or have a teacher explain everything to them), the time available to study each week, and the resources available: a place to study and easy access to the technology that is at the heart of their distance program -- computer and Internet access in the case of an online distance program.

Massachusetts has a more extensive interview protocol that they are trying out this year.

The Center also recommends that agencies develop a contract that captures what the learner has agreed to do in the way of independent work -- the amount of time the learner agrees to study each week, confirmation that they have a place to study and that they are familiar with the curriculum products that form the self-study materials for the distance course. The contract should also state what the agency or teacher agrees to do to help distance learners succeed.

This is the best we can do with assessment. In the end, distance learners face the same challenges in life as classroom learners. Whether the learner persists at their program depend on a lot of factors that can't be measured ahead of time.

Jerome Johnston

Director, Project IDEAL Support Center





I believe there are several critical assessments that need to be in place to determine if a student is ready for a distance learning. This includes determining the students academic skills, technology skills, and technology access. The first step is to determine what the reading level is for the distance learning curriculum. Then, using a formal assessment tool such as TABE or CASAS to determine if the student's reading level is appropriate for the distance learning curriculum. The second level of assessment should determine the student's technical ability and access. If the student has very limited access to the technology, then they are probably not going to be successful - as participation in any learning environment requires organized access. Also, if student struggles with the use of technology, then learning content becomes extremely difficult.

Kathy Tracey





All very good points

My earlier comments were made with the assumption that an agency/ teacher has done all of the usual intake assessments they would do for a learner applying for a classroom program, including the testing to determine reading/math level. If the student qualifies on these grounds then the agency needs to find ways to assess technology skills (assuming the distance curriculum is online), contextual factors (a place to study, access to the technologies needed for the distance curriculum), and motivational factors.

Jerome Johnston





Karen,

Project IDEAL has always stressed that distance learning is not necessarily a "good fit" for all students, and I think you've captured many of the issues that should be considered in making that determination. However, as Jere mentioned, in addition to having the necessary academic and technical skills, many of the Project IDEAL states report that study skills, ability to work independently, time management and organizational skills are crucial for students to succeed studying at a distance.

We've found that teachers have become creative in how they assess student readiness for distance learning. Some require students to complete the type of survey included in the Project IDEAL Handbook of Distance Education, others make this determination based on conversations with the students. Other teachers will send information, including forms to be completed to the student via email; if the student can't complete the form and return it via email, there technology skills are not considered to be appropriate.

But as was also mentioned yesterday, it is critical that we provide counseling to more other options for students if distance learning isn't the best choice for them.

Leslie Petty





I teach an online GED course, and I require all students who are enrolled in that course take the Online Readiness Assessment call SmarterMeasure. I also interview the student to determine if he/she is ready, which includes a list of rules that a student must follow while enrolled in the course. Of course, if the student is not ready for online courses, he/she can always practice in our computer lab until his/her skills are polished enough to enroll in a true online course.

Amy Denney

Chattahoochee Technical College

Appalachian Campus





We use the TABE as a pre-measure and we send the students a Survey/Contract to help them assess their strength for success in online study. We send an Orientation PowerPoint and ask for a reply to the Quiz (at the back), so we know they read through it.

Karin Miller

Miami Dade College





I believe there needs to be a placement plan and an alternative placement plan beyond the initial assessment. When we assess students for online learning or distance education - it is possible that they 'screen out' of the opportunity if they don't have the appropriate skills to be successful. For example, if your distance learning option is for students reading at the 9th grade level and the assessment discovers they are only reading at the 6th grade -the student won't be successful in the curriculum. Or, if the student is reading at the appropriate level, yet the assessment for their technology skills indicate that they are not ready for distance learning, there needs to be an alternate placement plan ready, such as a referral to the traditional classroom or to a meeting with a tutor.

Kathy Tracey

GED-i Project Coordinator





Amy:

I was unfamiliar with SmarterMeasure, but I just looked it up. Do you have any trouble having students "sit" for the 20-40 minutes it takes?

Do you use it with adult ed students (ESL or GED prep) as well as students who want to enter higher ed programs? Has it been a good predictor of performance and persistence?

Can you given a few examples of the rules you tell students they must follow?

Jerome Johnston





Jerome,

Thanks for the inquiry. I will attempt to answer all your questions. Additionally, I will attach my online rules for all to use/steal/throw away.

1. I feel if students can't sit for that amount of time, then they might not be a worthy candidate for online studies. Most students who request online studies don't mind completing this assessment.

2. I use this with ABE/GED students after the students have taken the TABE assessment. I have like this method plus an informal interview and found it to be a good predictor of performance.

3. Here are some of my rules. They are short, sweet, and to the point.

Online Class Rules

  1. You have enrolled for an online course. This means that 95% of your coursework will be ONLINE.
  2. If you do not have access to a computer with the internet, please choose another method of instruction.
  3. Online courses take time and energy, and I expect you to dedicate part of your day to online studies.
  4. Please click the following link and complete the test for online course readiness. Once I receive an email of the results, then I will activate your account. Please include your email address in the comments section. http://www.chattahoocheetech.edu/index.html?lmenu=academics&content=academics\Online%20learning
  5. Please email me the results at adenney at chattahoocheetech.edu
  6. You will be required to complete AT LEAST one hour per day of studies OR 7 hours per week. Since I am an online student as well, let me stress the importance of not waiting to complete work until the last minute. You will only accomplish stress and anxiety, not true academic learning.
  7. Another responsibility you will have with your online studies is to contact me once each week by calling, emailing, or coming by the learning center.
  8. After you complete your studies and 30 online hours OR after you complete 60 hours of study, you will need to schedule a final exam.

Amy Denney





I teach GED both online and f2f. What everyone has said is right on the money -- academic and tech skills need to be at appropriate levels for any DL program.

What seems to be infinitely more difficult to assess are the students' motivation, self-discipline, and organizational skills. No matter how much we stress the need for these things, no matter how closely we work with them to set up a study plan and study schedule, no matter how much they say they will do whatever is required, many many students -- the majority? -- are unable to carry through. I hate the feeling that we may be setting our students up for (another) failure, but I sure haven't found an accurate way of judging these attributes.

Wendy Quinones





Wendy,

At the time of intake can you identify those who are likely to fail? If so, are you comfortable turning down their request to study at a distance?

One strategy that might help is to start your distance learners in a classroom program. In the classroom program you can have them use the distance curriculum product under your supervision in a lab (this counts as face-to-face contact time), then as homework (this doesn't count as contact time), and watch how well they do. Move them to independent work slowly, providing support along the way. If they demonstrate the kind of responsibility and self direction you think is necessary, switch them to distance. If they don't, and their life circumstances don't allow them to continue in a classroom program, then it's not the right time for them to take up their studies.

Does this sound like it might help?

Distance is definitely not an option for every student, and we should all be cautious about making the up front investment if it appears unlikely the investment will pay off.

Jerome Johnston





Excellent ideas-we can tell so much more in a short f2f (face-to-face) meeting with the right questions asked by both parties.

Stephanie Moran





Jere,

The problem is exactly that -- we CAN'T tell at the time of the interview who will fail, because the students "yes" us to death. In my experience, some are simply playing us because they need to please someone else about "trying to get a GED," while others have the best of intentions but not the best of skills that are required. Academic and technological skills are not the issue here -- self-discipline and persistence are, and those are things sadly lacking in many of our students. Which again gives me only greater respect for the students who do make it through.

And while what you suggest as a plan is wonderfully pedagogically sound, it is not possible either in my program or the way the DL program is structured in Massachusetts. I hope others can benefit from it.

Thanks,

Wendy Quinones






A couple of thoughts...

  1. Does the contract notion add anything? Sure, the distance candidates say yes to the several things you ask them regarding making commitments. But, distance teachers in several states report that it helps if the student sees on paper their commitments (hours per week of study, a place where they will do their study, frequency with which they will communicate with the teacher, certification that they are familiar with all the curriculum and comfortable with the technology required). In addition, the student and teacher both sign the contract. Do you think this would add something significant, or do you think the student would view a contract the same as just saying yes?
  2. In DC the distance ed teachers feel they face some unusual challenges with their students. In a recent training we explored the idea of finding out from the DL candidate who in their life space supports their returning to school to get their GED and then eliciting their support.
    1. Do a "force-field" with the student, identifying those in their life space who support their getting a GED and those who don't support it or are indifferent.
    2. Identify one person (friend, relative, child) that is supportive. Ask that person to come to the agency for one meeting. In the meeting review the student's goals and commitments: study so many hours a week, report to the teacher once a week by email, etc. Then, get contact information for the supporter and permission to contact the supporter if the student falls down on their commitment.
  3. How about purposely building a support group of 2-4 distance students. Create small assignments that require collaboration. Example: everyone does a writing assignment and exchanges it with the others for critique. I realize that this type of exercise would require a bit of training, but we need to see how we can tweak our delivery system to maximize support for those in need.
  4. You say that your state wouldn't permit giving a student some time in the classroom and then switching them to distance if and when they demonstrate that they have the skills and motivation to study at a distance. If the idea is compelling enough, perhaps the state simply hasn't thought about it. I recently conducted the distance training in your state (MA). I get the sense that the state is trying hard to figure out what it takes to make the distance program grow. It's worth putting the idea on the table for consideration by state person in charge (Jola Conway) and the distance coordinator, Eunice Snay.

Hmmm. I got a little carried away. Respond to any one of the above thoughts.

Jerome Johnston





I believe the contract notion will clarify expectations for both the student and the instructor. It lays the foundation for student success. Consider this scenario - a student registers for a distance learning course. They access the content occasionally, maybe once every other week. They believe they are engaged in the course because they check it out once in a while. A program is expecting daily access from the student. A learning contract that details expectations can ensure that the disconnect between expectations is overcome, and identifies the steps needed to be an active and engaged learner.

Building a support network in online learning (as in the f2f environment) is key in the retention of students. To add a question to that - how can we use the positive elements of social networking to help build a shared community of learners.

Kathy Tracey





Hello everyone. It's been a few years since I taught GED classrooms, but I have continued to volunteer tutor a few GED-hopefuls over the years (I've been teaching 99% ESOL for a few years now, and there are GED overlaps there, too, of course).

But reading Wendy's note, it occurs to me that it's when I hear stories of *changes* in one or more of the items Wendy lists (tech skills, study schedule that works, study plan with a mentor that checks in or a learner who checks in with his/her mentor, improved/different organizational patterns, better/different place to study, increase in number of days one studies, access to a computer, access to the internet, confidence in using the internet, access to library, number of times visited the library, and so on) -- it is when one or more of these happen that observable improvements seem to occur.

So, the idea occurs to me... if a thorough list of "how I study" (who with / what / when / where / why / and what you eat before and during studying / what you do before and after studying / what the sound environment is during studying / what you "see" around you when you are studying...

If a thorough list like this were generated (via classroom brainstorming activities? note-taking practice activities?) and then completed by the learner, and dated. (Many of us, I suspect, already include some sort of similar activity as part of goal-setting planning.

But the most frequently I have done these is initial / middle / end of sessions.

What if this were a weekly required assignment? to start with a fresh chart, complete it and write a blog post about it, and to review at least one classmate's blog and comment and reply to at least one classmate's blog post. Then, they would be "making it public" (which often helps goals become reality), exercising discipline with weekly practice, giving you (and others) eyes on their writing ability, reading something, and hopefully nurturing some peer-mentoring and metacognition which just might lead into action.

Has anyone tried something along these lines?

Certainly in my ESOL work, blogging or creating other online interaction possibilities has generated many, many unexpected positive progress spurts.

If the teacher's technical skills or confidence are not advanced enough to manage a simple blog then this is a great time for the teacher to find someone who can help their class, and for the teacher to be (and to model being) a learner, too -- completing the same task assigned to the students.

Thoughts? Reactions? Suggestions? Refinements? Questions?

Holly (Dilatush)

Charlottesville, VA USA  





Holly,

This sounds like an excellent on-going learning experience the student (and potentially for the teacher as well). It might be a good way to support students who are engaged in distance learning. But it doesn't address the questions raised earlier about trying to assess if a student has the skills needed before they start working at a distance. It does make me wonder, however, if this might be a way to shift some of the emphasis from pre-screening students (which is challenging at best) to supporting students. What implications does that have for teaching and learning?

Leslie Petty





Hi Wendy and Jere and Others,

I think we might want to think about this one step before we get the students into the program, actually physically into the building. Prior to any formal assessment, there is a screening process that needs to be in place in order to determine if a student is ready for any of the assessments or surveys to determine actual placement in a distance learning environment. Many programs that I work with actually have some pre-screening activities that take place prior to the student and program meeting up f2f.

To begin, let's explore your programs vision for the distance learning offering option(s).

Ask yourself these questions:

Who is your target audience?

Do you have a target audience, if not that is okay for now and this discussion. But in reality if you do not define who your target is then everyone is your target so you are marketing and promoting to potential students who will not succeed. It is vital that you define who your audience is and tailor your marketing (and disclaimers) to draw in that audience. This is the first step to finding potential students who are closer to meeting your selection criteria. We are not even really at the assessment stage yet. We are at the stage where we are determining who it is we even want to assess for online.

How are you reaching that target audience?

If you have a target audience defined, then the outreach and marketing strategies can be aligned to reach the intended audience and ensure that you are more likely to reach potential students who have the capacity to achieve in a distance learning environment. One field tested strategy is to place a screening type survey on your adult ed or program's website. This screening type survey needs to go beyond a simple self-reporting survey. Here are a couple of samples from programs in IL.

http://www.ivcc.edu/adulted.aspx?id=2884
http://www.mchenry.edu/gedi/index.asp

These surveys are submitted to a coordinator, a lead teacher, the person in charge of your online program (whatever that title may be). The person receiving the submitted surveys then responses via email with a couple of online tasks a potential student must do to be invited in to do the rest of the screening for the adult education program. If you would like to see some sample task emails that are sent to potential students email me (Crystal Hack at chack at cait.org). I can share those with you. This is an important pre-screening of the target audience. This will help you identify those who are looking online for online learning options. This will also help programs see which potential students who submit the survey follow through with the online tasks assigned, another way to help identify students who have the dedication and possible staying power to work online.

Another idea to help pre-pre-screen students is to work with your local libraries to put information about your online program into the GED test prep books they check out to individuals who believe they want to do independent study to prepare for their GED test. Now, I realize that sometimes people who think they can do independent study do not always follow through, that is why this is a pre-pre-screening. The information put in the front of the independent study books checked out from the local library refers these potential students to your website where you move into the phase listed above with the survey I described. Again, this alone does not insure that the student will be successful working to prepare for the GED test online, but it does get you closer to your target audience than you are if you are not doing things like this.

Ultimately, the goal of the pre-screening is to identify that the students exhibit the initiative to follow through with the steps needed to begin the process of assessment for distance learning placement at a program.

If there are questions, this is a great forum for them. There are so many distance learning experts sharing and lurking on this list. This is a great discussion. I look forward to learning more and hearing more questions from the field.

Have a great day.

Crystal Hack

GED-i Project Director






Progress Assessment in Distance Education


Continue to raise questions/issues about intake assessment, but I would like to prompt some discussion about progress assessment with distance learners.

I start with the assumption that most of our adult learners need ongoing support from a teacher. In distance education, the teacher is at a distance and is faced with the challenge of assessing student progress and using the information to decide on what interventions to make.

What distance product or curriculum do you use? What data do you extract from the system to monitor student progress? How do you use the data to decide when and how to intervene in your student's work?

The issue I raise here may be different for teachers in community colleges and those in adult education programs. Community college teachers are more likely to use an LMS such as Blackboard which requires teachers to interact with student work compared to teachers in adult education programs (ESL, ABE, ASE) who are likely to use programs such as MHC GED Online or SkillsTutor that provide instruction (or guidance) internally. The computer evaluates student work and moves the student from lesson to lesson without teacher intervention.

Jerome Johnston





Jere's questions raise additional questions for me:

What do you see as the primary functions of assessment for distance learners? Does it differ from the functions of assessment for classroom learners?

Are there differences between the assessments teachers need to guide instruction and the assessments needed to meet NRS and other reporting guidelines?

Leslie Petty





Assessment in distance learning is not different from that of the traditional classroom. The purpose of formal and informal assessment is to guide instruction. Several years ago - I came across College Assessment Techniques. In my traditional classroom, I used many of the assessment methods listed in the attachment. When I began teaching online, I modified the assessment techniques to fit distance learning. For example, in the traditional classroom - each session ended with students filling out a 5 x 7 note card indicating their 'muddiest point.' In the online environment - I asked the student to email me at the end of every week their 'muddiest point.'

Although the primary function of these types of informal assessment are to help us guide students through the curriculum, facilitate their learning, and provide appropriate remediation when necessary, in distance learning - it can also foster the development of a rapport and build communication between the student and the instructor.

Kathy Olesen-Tracey





Great idea -- a weekly "muddiest point" email. I'm guessing that this helps a lot in figuring out how the student is progressing... or not.

Jere Johnston





It is my experience that learning technology whether it’s used outside of the classroom or blended within it, offers a substantial improvement in assessment practices. The CATs pdf describes assessment based on teaching to groups of students (classes). Adapting those practices to independent study misses the power of what learning technology has to offer.

To be most successful, learners need a feedback system that allows them to alter their learning experience while it’s happening. The model I aspire to is that of a personal tutoring experience for the learner. There’s a notion in learning theory called process feedback that posits that the closer the feedback is to the actual learning experience, the better the learning is. The question then is not how to make pre and post assessment in DL more like what happens in the classroom, but how to find ways to give the student more direct feedback that they can actually use to learn faster.

Technology can offer a substantial improvement to the assessment process. Smart software design can embed learning feedback anywhere in the learning process. Innovative instructional software design can replicate what it would be like to give the student a personal tutoring experience. It can not only give the learner feedback at any point in the learning process which is difficult in a classroom environment because of the logistics of a large group of learners, but the learning program can also be designed to act upon the feedback loops and alter the direction of the learning on the fly.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to get at. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbPqOdYYDeQ

How did this 6 year old learn to dance like this? He did it through looking at videos of other dancers and videos of himself trying to do the moves. Assessment was an ongoing immediate process that allowed him to make quick adjustments to his dance moves. This is what technology can bring to assessment. It can not only speed up the feedback process, but it can give the learner views of themselves as learners they wouldn’t get in a classroom environment.

The are lots of ways classroom assessment techniques can be used with DL. My point is though is to not hold ourselves back by the constraints of the classroom model when thinking about DL and independent learning experiences. Technology can open up whole new ways of helping people learn.

Michael Ormsby  





Michael,

I appreciate your suggestions, but most of our students arrive at our center from jails, treatment centers, homeless shelters, safe houses and referrals from other community service agencies. Many are on probation and getting the GED is a condition of release. The majority of our students are out of work and getting the GED is a last ditch effort to pull themselves out of poverty. If the GED and instruction were not paid for through the generosity of state and local government, our student population would be drastically reduced. Are you serving this population?

Rick Burgin





Even if you are serving different populations, are there any common assessment practices for monitoring student progress that might be useful? Frequent, non-judgmental feedback may be useful to many students (and may be delivered through a computer program as Michael suggests or provided by a teacher in many other ways).

Leslie Petty





Rick,

Yes, we do serve this population in jails, correctional facilities, and community-based organizations. We have a non-internet version that offers the basic instruction but not the links to websites or other student for institutions that cannot have Internet access. Give me a call if you want more information.

Michael Ormsby





I didn't get a response to this item earlier today, so I thought I would re-post it for consideration again. Thursday let's discuss the post-testing issue, though Crystal Hack (see transcript entitled:  “The Appropriate Student; Readiness and Support for Distance Learning”) has already posted some good ideas on this topic.

I start with the assumption that most of our adult learners need ongoing support from a teacher. In distance education, the teacher is at a distance and is faced with the challenge of assessing student progress and using the information to decide on what interventions to make.

What distance product or curriculum do you use? What data do you extract from the system to monitor student progress? How do you use the data to decide when and how to intervene in your student's work?

The issue I raise here may be different for teachers in community colleges and those in adult education programs. Community college teachers are more likely to use an LMS such as Blackboard which requires teachers to interact with student work compared to teachers in adult education programs (ESL, ABE, ASE) who are likely to use programs such as MHC GED Online or SkillsTutor that provide instruction (or guidance) internally. The computer evaluates student work and moves the student from lesson to lesson without teacher intervention.

Jere Johnston





The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Adult and Literacy Education, sponsors a state-wide distance learning program.  The GED component has been up for some years and an ESL component was just rolled out this year.  Literacy agencies have the option of referring students to state-funded instructional staff or providing the instructional support themselves, utilizing common curriculum materials.  In the first option, the local agency is responsible for intake, assessment (pre- and post-) and student contact if they are not following through.  “Attendance” is monitored via computer time.  In option two, the local agency accesses the curriculum and assigns an instructor to set the course of study and monitor progress.

Carol Jones





Carol

Could you say more about how either the centralized agency or local agencies utilizes the information in the curriculum to make instructional decisions. Your description makes it sound as though teachers simply take attendance based on computer time. But -- based on conversations with some of your centralized distance teachers -- I'm sure they use the computer information for more than just attendance.

I "push" for this information because i think that this is one of the trickiest parts of teaching at a distance -- using the information in the curriculum product to judge whether a student is having difficulty with some topic. For example, if you look at the student record in SkillsTutor you can tell the topics where they performed below criterion and/or spent a VERY short time working on the skill. That tells a teacher to follow up with the student to find out the nature of the difficulty and provide additional instruction.

Jere Johnston






Assessment Guidelines


My question would be.....how do we get learners in to take a post test? Getting them in the door and TABE tested is only half the battle....

Thank you,

Kristin Morris





Hello Kristin (and others),

Great question! This is one I hear all to often.

The programs I work with have started to incorporate discussion of the post-test into their online program orientation process. So many times the post-test is used/talked about as an after-thought with students. It is like "Oh my, you have been working for this long online, I need to get you to get in to post-test." The student feels like this is another hoop that he/she must jump through to get his/her GED. In reality that is only part of the case. It is definitely needed for reporting purposes for the program, but the student does not care about that. We need to work with the student to show the value of the post-test for the student.

The post-test, if seen as a part of the student's individual learning plan, takes on much more meaning. Consider this and let me know your thought. Place discussion of the post-test and how it is a key factor in helping both the student and the teacher assess learning progress on the road to the GED test into your orientation conversation with students. Take it one step further and set a projected post-test date so that students know at orientation that they will be expected to come back on that projected date to see what their gains are and to work with the their instructor or a tutor to see where they still have skill gaps and use what is gleaned from the post-test to carve the remaining path to GED test preparation. Another offshoot of this is, once a student is working online and the projected post-test date has been set, the teacher can use that for encouragement such as, "You are progressing nicely. Looks like you are well on target to get into the program to post-test and see the progress you made. And what a great opportunity this post-test will be to get rid of some of those test taking jitters! Remember your post-test date is (place date here)." OR "You are progressing nicely. It does look like we will want to move your scheduled post test date from (place date here) to (place date here). I want you to have more opportunity to prepare and those fractions really tripped us up. Glad you are back on track. Note your new post test date. We will work together to get you back on track for your new post test date. It will be a great opportunity to practice your test taking skills and get rid of some of those test taking jitters! Remember your new post-test date is (place date here)."

The kind of communication sample shared above should happen periodically as teachers work with their online students. This keeps the importance of getting back in to post-test in the forefront and also connects it to the individual learner’s goals. Your main goal here is for the post-test not to be an after-thought but rather to be a part of the expectation of your online learner’s path to GED test preparation.

Crystal Hack

GED-i Project Director






Standardized Testing/Post Testing


There is little or no flexibility in the standardized testing arena: to meet NRS requirements learners must be pre- and post-tested using the state-sanctioned standardized test, which in turn must be on the NRS approved list.

So, what's to discuss? The most difficult challenge in distance education is to get distant learners to go to an approved testing center to take the posttest. Have you or your agency come up with novel ways to increase the number of distant learners who take the posttest?

Jerome Johnston





To add to Jere's question:

Can the required standardized testing play any additional roles? Does anyone have any creative ways in which they use the information from this standardized test arena to guide or improve instruction?

Leslie Petty





Jerome,

You are correct, for us in SC students must pre test on the TABE, have 12 hours before we can even count them, and then post-test after 60 hours on the TABE. But there is more to this than meets the eye.

Last year, we were astonished to look at number and realize that we had "lost" over 400 students between the TABE pre-test and the entering into a class. For us that was 400 students that we could not count for funding.

After talking to other directors, we have changed our approach this year. Our pre-testing takes 3 mornings (4 hours each). I could talk about this at great length but the bottom line is that using the locator and administering the test is not all done at one time. We have a chance to introduce our program to the students through a power point and our Career Development Facilitators also have time to talk to them about career planning and we get them started on the WorkKeys program.

I was hesitant about this at first because I thought our students would not tolerate the mandated 3 mornings. Wow, was I wrong. It has turned out to be more than successful.

I am thinking that our students worried about coming back to school and had convinced themselves that they could do the work. Then we hit them that first day with 4 hours of testing that probably convinced many of them that they were not capable.

At this point, not only are we getting the 12 hours, but students are staying. I can follow this up at the end of the year with better data, but for now it seems to have made a big change.

Virginia G. Simmons, PhD





Virgina,

I think this is a very innovative to incorporate into a crucial part of the learning experience. In your approach, the pre-testing becomes part of an extended orientation/information/support program, rather than a stumbling block. I'd be curious to know if this impacts not only retention, but the likelihood of your students returning for post-testing.

Leslie Petty





We find the results from our TABE tests to be very valuable as a tool to guide instruction.  When students complete the TABE, we go over the results and explain what the numbers mean.  We used to be able to re-test at the discretion of the instructor, so we could show the student the same report and how they've brought their scores up.  Since we are now prohibited from testing a student before 60 hours of instruction, we cannot use this tool to monitor progress as often as we would like.  We have become too dependent on the diagnostics that TABE provides.  Fortunately, the software packages we purchase have correlation with TABE test results, which helps when we make assignments.  Since we can no longer use the NRS approved tests for measuring incremental progress, we must rely on these software packages to provide us with data we can use to help the student achieve their goals. 

SkillsTutor is easy to use and provides the instructor with the scores of each activity, quizzes and tests.  The program has the default setting that allows students to try each activity 3 times with a goal of 80% comprehension.  When I look at a student report, I can tell how much time they spent on each area and whether they met the 80% comprehension in 1, 2 or 3 tries.  This tells me if the student is "getting it".  When a student spends less than five minutes on an activity and repeatedly fails, it doesn't take a brilliant instructor to figure out that this form of instruction is ineffective.  At this point, intervention is needed, so we counsel the student to find out what's going on.  We have many "clicker" students that try to get to the test without studying the material.  I believe they are memorizing the types of questions on the test or the answers that may eventually repeat themselves in the in many attempts.   If a student spends significant time in each subject area and still doesn't comprehend in 3 attempts, they may have been given too difficult assignment or a different instructional modality is needed.

SkillsTutor allows us to increase the number of attempts infinitely, but is rare that we allow students more than the 3 default attempts.  Lower ABE levels will sometimes need more repetition than others, especially in language. How do I know when to check a student’s progress?  SkillsTutor allows me to search for students that have activity using a date range.  Instead of looking at each student, I only have to look at those with activity within the date range I choose.  I also use this tool to remove students from the program.  Since number of students on this program is a financial consideration, I look for students with zero activity within 30 days.  These students are taken off this program, but still remain active in our program until they have 90 since the last attendance date.

It's easy to assume that software will independently guide the student to educational gain. This is a mistake, and I truly believe, like most people on this list, that we must MAKE TIME to monitor students carefully.  Unfortunately, due to the economy, we have more students, but less money to run our programs.

Rick Burgin





For many adult students -- the TABE assessments can be a powerful tool. Many students are accustomed to the kind of assessments - where they take a standardized test -- and received the results months later. For them, receiving their test scores and related diagnostics -- the same day that they take the test -- is a major step forward -- especially when results are immediately tied to developing an individual education plan.

Gail Bundy





Rick,

Your efforts to assess student progress incorporate a variety of approaches, all intended to support and encourage the student. You start using the very first assessment done - the TABE - to set the stage with the student so they can see where they are and where they need to go. The fact that SkillsTutor is correlated with the TABE helps monitor student progress, but I think teachers could do a similar thing with most curricula used at a distance with adult learners (though it might take more teacher effort and may not be as "neat" as working with curriculum already aligned with the test).

I agree that the teacher is plays the pivotal role and your explanation of when you decide to intervene provide a concrete example of how this can be done effectively. Can anyone add to Rick's example so we can generate more options for teachers to consider?

Leslie Petty





Pax et bonum Leslie!

I used excel to "mine" the raw data to find results that my students could relate to, such as how they did on specific grammar points, etc. I then could show them how their pre and post tests compared. It gave them something tangible.

Ciao!

Martin E. Senger 





Martin,

This sounds like an idea that many teachers might be able to use. Letting students see where they've made progress - and where they still need work - can be quite motivational. Can you provide some additional information about how you set this, or possible share and Excel worksheet? Do you see this used any differently when working with distance learners or classroom learners?

Leslie Petty





Pax Leslie!

It was fairly simple. I just "categorized" each of the multiple choice questions into like groups (verbs, punctuation, capitalization, etc), then added up the raw data. for example, if questions 2-5 and 10-15 were about pronouns, I would tally the correct score from only those questions. The hardest part is categorizing them in the first place.

I do have the excel file that I used. It is configured for the CASAS Life & Work Series and the TABE 9/10 tests. If you would like a copy, I'll send it to you off-list. And I would love any feedback!

As for DL, I never used it for that, but I could adapt it to any assessment, f2f or DL.

Ciao!

Martin Senger





Could you explain a little more how you utilize Excel for this task?

Jere Johnston





Pax Jerome!

I assign a category for each question (vocab, verbs, punctuation, etc), then have excel count the number of correct answers (from the raw data) for each category. Quite simple, really.

Ciao!

Martin Senger





I haven't got any takers to discuss post-testing.

I think we are all concerned about how to get learners to come back for the posttest. Someone suggested setting the expectation at the time students are going through orientation. Another contributor pointed to ways to use the standardized posttest as a diagnostic, helping students see where they still needed to study.

Project IDEAL states have done some creative things to get students to come to the posttest: they take the posttest to the students in one area of Arizona. In a distance program where the host agency is 100 miles or more from where students live they trained a local librarian to administer the TABE so the student didn't need to make the long trip back to the host agency.

I've also been wondering about the new GAIN test from Wonderlic (http://www.everythingtogain.com/). It is now on the NRS approved list, but I can see that many states have approved it. It has two features that recommend it for distance

education:

  1. It's only 90 minutes long and doesn't require a locator. Virginia Simmons says her agency sets aside three 4-hour sessions to cover the TABE locator and TABE (did I understand that correctly, Virginia?) Whatever, 90 minutes is a lot less time than most

    standardized tests, and distance students may not be put off so much if it only took an hour and a half.
  2.  It's available online. While post-testing needs to be done in a secure setting, it might be easier in the Arizona example to get a remote confederate (librarian, school counselor) to set things up for an online test than a test that required mailing both ways.

Any thoughts about this? Does anyone have any experience with the GAIN?

Jere Johnston






Using Social Media


I did a DL training recently where a teacher said that her agency set up a Facebook page for the agency and individual teachers set up their own pages for the students in their class. Has anyone on this listserv done that. How does it work? What kind of messages do students contribute? Does it help build community?

Jere Johnston





I love the fact that a discussion about assessment is exploring the idea of student support in such depth!  What role can progress assessments play in identifying students and providing appropriate supports?

Leslie





Re: social networking

Even though our school system has a Facebook page and is on Twitter, we do not have access to those sites during the school day due to firewalls. In addition, we are not allowed to send messages to students using any personal devices (home computers, home phones, cells, etc.). So, since we are "locked out" of our opportunity to use social networking, I have begun to send a monthly email message. This is our way of connecting with our distance learners and others we have not seen in a while. Since I just started this newsletter in September, I do not have data yet to support the effectiveness; however, it appears to be well received.

Alice Champagne

St. Charles Parish Public Schools Adult Education





Alice and Others who are locked out of social networking, we can identify with this and understand your frustration. We were even having difficulty doing any type of student research because so many sites were blocked.

I will tell you that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Our technology teams and leadership have done a 180 degree turn. Maybe close to a 360. We now set up classroom blogs, facebook accounts, all administrators were taught to Twitter, teachers are brought in to talk about what they have done in their classrooms to communicate with student, etc. For some this may be heresy, but we are even telling students to get out their cell phones and answer questions. Their answers are projected and this allows us to have group discussions. Recently, the district purchased iPads for all administrators and taught us how to use them.

Bill Daggett often says that when students leave their technology rich environment and walk into our schools, they are often walking into a museum. I think you will agree with this. Regretfully, when they come to adult and community education it is often an older museum because of lack of resources.

Our program is so concerned about this and we are so interested that we are having a national conference in the spring on integrating technology into the teaching of literacy. We have just reviewed those who sent in a presentation proposal and I tell you there are some exciting things going on out there. We are ready to learn from this conference and the best practices presented.

This is not meant to be an advertisement for the conference, we will do that later. This is just to elaborate the fact that we must look for best practices and encourage our entire school district to do the same. If District X is using cell phones in the classroom and the world hasn't ended, then maybe we can use them.

Virginia G. Simmons, PHD

Horry County Schools  





Virginia,

Social networking is key in the classes and in marketing our programs. Through state grant funds we conducted a GED advertising campaign in Chesterfield Co. with a radio ad that prompted students to text a code. They were then connected to our phones and additional GED information. We increased testers by 400%! This is definitely the way to reach our population of 18-25 year olds.

Deborah Hinton





Text messaging does work. I also think making your full program expectations clearly explained up front makes a big difference and discussing the importance of post testing with the students from beginning to end not just talking about it when it is time to post test.

Chrissie Klinger

Bedford County Literacy Council/CRSD





Texting is a great way to reach students. If they have questions about a homework assignment after hours my students text me all the time asking questions.

Sherri Scott





Deborah,

This is a great idea. I am sending it to my marketing team for us to organize a similar strategy. Thank you.

Virginia G. Simmons, PhD





Virginia,

I agree that technology must be incorporated into our curriculum and assessments. This is the way to reach 18-25 year olds especially! We even used state grant funds and did a social networking GED ad campaign (with radio and text messaging) and increased our testers by 400%!

Deborah Hinton





Yes I agree technology is the way to go with the younger students.

Scott, Sherri





If I can add a thought to this... Yes, our younger students are technologically adept, however, we are also sending our older students into the 21st century world of work. I agree that they are more hesitant to jump into this world, but we are educators. Our job is to teach them and to help level the playing field as they compete in today's job market. We really need a technology plan that delineates types of technology and the movement of different students through this. Maybe we don't recruit older students through tweeting, but we can certainly teach them about it once they are in our classes.

That is why I am such an advocate of integrating technology into our teaching. It should be a natural flow to learn to use facebook and it should be tied into an important lesson that we are teaching. The excitement of following weather information of your native country or having a lesson with a streaming video that is on the smart board and interacting with it is enough to get you involved and ready to use this technology. You don't need to have someone talk about the technology, just use it.

My struggle as an administrator is to bring all my teachers onboard so that they are comfortable with the technology.

Virginia G. Simmons, PhD





quick note --

I have found that 'older' students often learn about different technology tools and potentials from their children. I know that I joined Facebook because it was how I could see her photos, learn what she was up to.

Build on the family literacy angle -- it's often very relevant and often builds transferable skills and confidence.

Holly Dilatush





But the larger question might be - how do we assess the impact that the social networking is having on the intended instructional goals? I love the use of technology and web 2.0 tools in the classroom. Yet, the use of tools such as twitter and facebook / myspace need to be connected to the intended learning objective. So, questions for consideration -as I am very interested in learning from this group - is what gains are we seeing based on the integration of these tools and what assessment are we using to measure these gains?  For example, is anyone seeing an increase of student retention? Increased student completion? 

Kathy Olesen-Tracey






Success/Failure of GED Distance Education Students


Having taught an online class myself to other adult educators, I found that even *their* level of dedication varied considerably. Given the nature of many GED students, it is thus not surprising that the failure rate of GED distance classes tends to be high. Even with f2f classes, keeping our students focused and attending regularly is a challenge, and many of them relate to the computer as a recreational device, not a traditional learning device. The same can also be true of online high schools, which, it seems, too often take the (PPOR or personal) money and run, leaving students short-changed.

Stephanie Moran





I’m an instructional designer and CEO of an online GED distance learning program. You can contact me personally if you need more information. The point I want to make is that we have very different results with our distance learning GED program than I’m hearing in the discussion. Let me throw out some facts to establish the credibility of our findings.

Our home GED study program to individuals outside of the adult ed school system reaches and educates more people for the GED than many whole states do. And we are seeing a fairly consistent success rate of about 80% - success is measured by the number of people who enter the program and get their GED diploma in 6 months or less. And this includes students who would be considered pre-GED in an adult school setting. The average grade level equivalent of our entering student is 7th grade.

I wanted to present a different perspective about the need for pre-selecting students based on their dedication and readiness for online distance learning. Obviously, our students come to us because they have reached the point in their lives where they are willing to do something about getting a GED. And they come to us on the Internet, either through a PC or a smartphone, so they have some familiarity with the Internet. The point I want to make though, is that other than the initial familiarity with Internet in finding us online, they are not required to complete a questionnaire to determine readiness for DL. One could argue that the Internet search process is a kind of selection process. But this is not what we find. On the contrary, the majority of the two million people that come to our websites are not highly motivated students. They are no different from the students who are in adult ed classrooms.

Instead of looking for ways to exclude students, we believe it’s up the the DL program to find a way to teach and build commitment and motivation through success. If one needs to find ways to winnow out the students who are not going to be successful, then the fault is with the instructional design, not with the student. Good instructional design for DL has to be very successful at overcoming poor educational self-esteem, lack of motivation for studying, poor study skills, poor organizational skills, lack of time management skills, and so on. These are teachable skills, and good DL should teach them just as a good classroom teacher would. My point is that if we need to exclude adult learners because we don’t think they’ll be successful with our DL program, then we need a different DL program

Michael Ormsby  





I would like to know Michael, how do you know which of your on line learners obtain a GED?

Barbara Grandstaff





Barbara,

We have a whole set of methods we employ to find this out. Knowing our success rate is crucial for us. Not only is it how we evaluate the value of the service we provide to our home study students, but it's a question Adult Ed teachers and administrators ask when they are evaluating our program.

Here's some of the methods we employ. Each of our students is assigned a personal teacher and mentor. So our staff has a personal relationship with many of our students and we track their progress not only with personal emails and phone calls, but also on our learning management system. We have the ability to run daily reports on how many students have achieved a passing score on the built-in GED assessments in the program and then we follow-up with a call and email to let them know they are ready to go and take the test. We also do surveys with emails and phone calls with our students to judge how we are doing.

Additionally, we encourage our learners to let us know when they pass. They take a lot of pride in completing the course work and going on to pass the GED test and they either send us emails with their results or email us photos of their GED certificate they took with their cell phone. So we are continually getting data on our success rate. Over the last year it has varied from 76% to 85%. Our data identifies three stages of progress: students who have completed our program and obtained their GED diploma within 6 months, students who are in progress and still working on the course work, and students who have stopped. We are curious about the last group and go to a lot of extra effort to find out what is going on and why they've stopped their progress.

Though we work with thousands of adult learners, we've been able to create a very personal learning ecosystem around the learner that supports them and fosters success. Since we - both our actual live teachers/mentors and the various instructional pieces of the DL program - are elements of this learning ecosystem it's quite easy to take the pulse of how the system is performing for the specific learners. What I'm describing is a fairly sophisticated technological infrastructure that is built around the learner to provide both a scaffold to give them a helping hand through the obstacles they face, but also teach them specific skills to develop self-organization, time management, and the desire and capacity to control their own learning outcomes.

I'm sure I've given you more information than you were asking for.

Michael Ormsby





Hi Michael,

One point of clarification on your email- I believe that screening is an essential element of any educational environment, whether that is traditional instruction, blended- hybrid, or at a distance. The point of screening is not to exclude students, but to place them in an appropriate environment in order for them to succeed. We do a serious disservice to our learners if we are not proactive in leading them toward the best decisions about their environment. I can not imagine placing a student in a distance learning environment who has severely limited access to the required technology. In my opinion, this is setting the student up for failure. The pre-screening is a form of assessment. It helps adult education programs present the most appropriate learning options to the student so they have a higher rate of success.

It is very important to know where your student is starting in order to begin the educational process at the right point. The pre-screening and placement 'in' an online learning option is not to keep students out. As I had indicated in an earlier post, having alternative plans in place to guide students who don't meet the criteria to be successful, is a vital element to retaining the learner and helping them reach the point when they can be successful in distance learning if that is their goal.

The point is to use assessment (pre-screening, intake tests, informal assessments, post-testing, the official GED practice tests) to guide learner, not exclude them but to provide them with educationally appropriate instruction. Although I do not agree with your perspective that pre-screening excludes participation, it is interesting to be aware of others differing ideas. Also, I believe that a fee-based tuition program -while credible - draws in a different target audience than those who attend state funded or state subsidized adult education programs. I might be wrong - and would be interested in the input of others.

Kathy Tracey

GED-i Project Coordinator





Kathy,

I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on the importance and uses of screening. When we first started working with distance learning, the question was whether or not distance learning could work for adult learners. We now know that it can - but not for all adult learners. In this sense, it's not really any different from any other educational approach, because education really shouldn't be "one size fits all," but we do tend to place a greater emphasis on identifying students for whom it might be a good fit. As you said, screening should help place students into learning situations where they have the greatest chance of success. From what I'm hearing in this discussion, it sounds as if finding the appropriate screening tools is still a challenge in the field, although many people have suggested approaches that work for their programs.

Leslie Petty






Official GED Practice Tests (OPT)


We really try to push for students to take an OPT with us, to show them what they are in for on the actual exam, explaining that it gives them a good feel for the content and level of difficulty as well as the format of the test. We time it, if they come in person to do it, or if we send them version 'A' (only, that is available to the public), so for online students I either fax it or mail it to them, and ask them to follow directions closely and send their answers by email or instant messenger or by fax (or bring in person). Most send by email, with for ex., Math, Part 1, 1) 2 , 2) 5 ,.... I score it and send feedback as quick as possible, praising them for what they got correct and explaining any missed items, so they can see what the correct choice is, as opposed to what they put. This tool seems to really work well and encourages the students to go book their actual test appointment at a test-site. If they show any areas that score too low, I explain that this tool helps us pinpoint the troublesome zones and we then work to tackle those, with study from the software and/ or referral to certain videos, and/or personal tutoring. Often the review is a real eye-opener and the student will ask for another OPT version on that particular area and they will then score higher as they become more familiar with the kinds of questions they need to work on and as they learn from this process how to handle those. We know the OPT was very successful in the classroom and so I have used it in the online learning environment, although I need to trust the student to administer it to themselves. I find that even if the student scores borderline, but gets praise and believes they can succeed, this often motivates them to take the risk of taking the test and they pass all or most. And if they don't go test (yet), it motivates them to really tackle the areas they need, since I tell them it is like a half-version of the real-deal and offers pretty accurate predictors of how they would do and that by doing it, they can get familiar with what the test is about, how it scores and in becoming familiar, they can get more comfortable and this can help them succeed. I tell them it is a great tool , because it is closest to what they will encounter when they take the actual exam, so they can't go wrong to have the experience of tackling it.

Karin Miller

Miami Dade College





“Studies show” (sorry for the cliché, but it appears to hold true here) that taking even a single OPT tends to raise a student’s GED score—I think it’s an obvious point, but we highly encourage Ss to take a practice test. I think that Delaware may have the highest passing scores in the country in part because they require potential testers to take OPT and that Ss study with them for 6 months if they don’t pass a test—or maybe it’s before they plan to take the initial test. Anyone from DE AE out there?

Taking OPT gives the Ss familiarity with test procedures—so important especially on the writing given that the final version must be written in pen—as well as teachable moments when reviewing errors—allows for a good bit of strategizing.

Stephanie Moran





I live in Delaware but work in AE just over the state line in Maryland. Over the years I have looked into Delaware requirements because we get students that live just over the state line. My understanding is that a student must score 450 or better in every subject on the Official GED Practice Test or OPT before they are permitted to sit for the GED. In Maryland any resident can sit for the GED regardless of the likelihood of passing


Jason Mullen





I have been using the OPT tests for years. Our school has them on the computer and also in paper form. I use them as a guideline for recommending my students to take the test. We have found that if students score a 500 on the pretest, they will usually pass the GED test with a 450 or above. I administer the test the week before the registration date for the GED test. Our under 18's must pass the pretest with a 500 or they are not able to test.

The tests are also available in full-length form--that is 50 questions versus 25. When the students take this particular test, the score is usually equivalent to the actual GED score.

These tests are an eye-opener for the students. It gives them an opportunity to experience the type of questions that they will have on the standard GED test. I find them very beneficial.

Gloria Sward

Flagler Technical Institute




 

The OPT stands for the Official GED Practice Test. It's a half length version of the actual GED test written by the same test writers at the GED TS. There are seven versions of the OPT. They are all in booklet form and available through Steck-Vaughn. The OPT is an excellent predictor of performance on the actual GED test because it is normed with the same criteria. There are online versions of GED Practice Tests that are normed against the OPT that are available. Some are even available on mobile devices. Send me a note or give me a call if you would like more information on these options.

Michael Ormsby





OPT is the acronym for the GED Official Practice Test. The test is given once per month in our program. The OPT is a standardized practice test that mirrors possible questions that may appear on the GED exam. The test takes approximately 5 hours to complete and contains all five sections that are shortened to approximately half the questions on the GED exam. It also includes an essay in which the student is given the prompt.

I proctor the exam in our program and follow the GED policies and procedures reminding the students of the need of a state approved form of picture ID, give them some test taking tips, remind them that they must be on time for the test. I score the test for the students while they are there, give them their scores and an item analysis of what questions they got wrong. The item analysis is divided into the concept areas of the GED exam and most books. I also give them some essay tips to improve their essay if necessary. If they pass, I give them the application with our school code so we will get the scores and can follow up with the students.

Taking the OPT really helps the students have the experience of sitting for a long period of time in which the test is in a timed and controlled environment. It also helps them find the campus and building in which the GED exam is administered. The student usually have a plethora of questions, and we spend some time addressing their questions and concerns. If they don't pass, I refer them back to their class or to enroll in a class during the next registration.

McGilloway, Susan S.





In our program in Michigan we have built in the OPT as part of the program. Over the past 10 years we have found it very effective. When we compare the success rate of non-students who do not access the OPT to our program participants (students) there is a significant difference in pass rate. We have also found the same to be true for students that drop from the program and come back later to "just test"

We also use the OPT as a learning experience for the Official GED Exam. The first time a (student) takes the OPT they will be tested in the same setting, conditions, and have the same instructions as the official Exam. Our instructors have access to the Official GED exam directions, and just adjust the exam times. (Official GED exam direction are not a secret or secured under the same measures as the exam materials themselves) By mirroring the official exam as much as possible, there are no surprises for the students. This has eliminated a lot of anxiety by the students, calculator issues and gives them a non-threating or "fear of Failure" experience.

The exam scores are then analyzed and used to promote instruction in the student's weak areas. Our score requirements reflect the same scores needed in our State to pass the exam.

Jeff McNeal, M.Ed.






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