TABE CLAS-E Spotlight: Victoria College Adult Education in Victoria, Texas

rbojorquez Adult Assessment, Spotlight, TABE 11&12, Texas

Have you considered the advantages of online testing over paper-based testing for your adult English learners? In this in-depth interview, we sat down with Tiffany Johnson, Director of Adult Education at Victoria College, to learn how her program uses TABE CLAS-ETM Online. She shared the benefits of an online format for her English learners, the relevance and usefulness of CLAS-E content, and her thoughts on the future of remote instruction and assessment beyond the pandemic.

ADVANTAGES OF THE TABE CLAS-E ONLINE FORMAT
How long have you been using TABE CLAS-E Online? 
We were part of the pilot program that started in June 2020 and have continued using it since then.

How would you say CLAS-E Online compares to paper-based testing? 
The computer-based test is so much easier for students, as well as the scoring and the time constraints. It’s definitely an advantage to be able to test more than one person at a time at multiple levels. It’s just so much more convenient.

I think one of the big struggles with paper-based testing was having enough space to complete the different parts of the test. With computer-based, you can have one station to deliver individual Speaking tests, and then the student can go join a group and complete the other tests in a group computer setting. Whereas with the paper, it was just such a challenge. When we first started, even before CLAS-E when we started with TABE® 11&12, we had to have three rooms for testing. Students would finish their Locator test and we’d run them to the next room, and then the next room. It required a lot of quick thinking and shuffling of students. So, the computer-based delivery is far more convenient in terms of timing and the number of staff needed. You only need two monitors, one for the Speaking test and one for the group setting. 

You mentioned scoring. How is that different with the online format? 
Scoring is also easier with the online format because you don’t need every test proctor to be a scorer. We use one person who’s an excellent scorer, so a proctor can be someone who isn’t necessarily trained in that skill set. In our facility, we have proctors who make sure the tests are completed and make sure the protocols and security measures are followed, and then we have one person who comes in after everyone has finished to do the scoring. She scores every test, she prints all the reports, and she sends them on their way.

How do your students respond to the online format? 
Another advantage of CLAS-E Online is that the online format is easier for our international students. These students often aren’t familiar with how standardized testing works and how to mark the answers on paper tests. This isn’t something that they did in their native country, especially Mexico. Their lower elementary schools and what we would consider junior high never gave standardized tests. We had many students writing in the book instead of on their answer sheet, or not comfortable writing on the portfolio side. It’s a challenge to get good results when you’re really struggling with the delivery method. Online is easier for them. 

How do you prepare students for taking the TABE CLAS-E Online? 
I love meeting students, especially at the beginning when they’re first starting their journey. That first step is going to set the pace. If you’re a drill sergeant and you have the mentality that this is standardized testing and we must be secure and scare people, I think that’s going to be reflective of the answers they give you on their test. So, we talk them through it, tell them there’s no pass or fail, we just have to see where you are. Then we go through the Online Tools Training, let them get comfortable, and let them practice. 

How important is the Online Tools Training for your students? 
The key to being successful with online testing is definitely preparing students with a session prior to the test. You can’t just walk in the room, throw a student in front of a computer, and say, “Click here and get started.” You have to make them comfortable with the tools, whether it’s remotely or face to face—you want to make sure that they have a good understanding of the computer tools. 

When we go through the Online Tools Training with students prior to testing, I tell them, “I don’t want to test your computer ability, I want to test your knowledge and your skill set. Unless you understand what tools you’re using and you understand how to take the test, then you’ll be at a disadvantage.” I think that was a big difference when we went from paper to a computer-based test.

It sounds like you really focus on building people’s confidence and making them feel comfortable and enthusiastic about testing, which can be hard to do. 
I think it’s all in how you explain it. For example, I tell them that it’s not just that initial eligibility test—it’s the post-test that’s the most exciting. You’ve been in class with us and spent time here, whether it’s for eight weeks or three months. When we send the invitation out to post-test, we tell them that it’s an honor, and we say, “Congratulations, you’ve earned enough hours to take this post-test.” 

Also, these are adults. If they come in at a Level 2 and you’ve been teaching them for six months and they’re still a Level 2, they need to know that. They need to know what’s going on, and how they can improve. 

BENEFITS OF TABE CLAS-E CONTENT 
What do you see as the benefits of CLAS-E content for your student and program goals over other options? 
One of the things that I love about TABE CLASE-E Online is that it tests all four areas: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Being able to test all four of those areas give me, as an educator, a comprehensive picture of where my student is when starting our program and where I need to take them. Listening is such an important component that I don’t see being tested anywhere else. I wish we could test everybody with that, not just English learners. It’s such a good skill.

One of the things we see with a lot of our second language speakers who have lived in our area for a while is that they have excellent speaking and listening skills. They function just fine in society; they communicate at their jobs and in public. They come to us for help with their reading and writing. Ironically, we see the opposite from some of our international students from Asia and Russia. They come to us having taken so many English courses in their native country before they arrived that their challenge is speaking and listening, and they’re excellent at reading and writing. As a result, some of our classes have to be leveled out by those subjects. I think there’s a misconception when people think about second language learners where they assume they’re all together in one group. That’s definitely not the case. When we get the diagnostic report from CLAS-E, we pull it apart and find out what exactly we need to teach to help a student get where they need to be in order to get into college, get through training, and to get a job. 

How is CLAS-E content relevant for your students? 
In a past teaching job, I had to give standardized assessments that asked things that were completely irrelevant to those adult students. I thought, “Why am I asking these questions? I don’t care, they don’t care, this really isn’t helping either one of us.” It just was such a hassle. The first thing adult ed students want to know is, how long is this going to take? They want to know that you’re not going to waste their time teaching them or giving them anything that they don’t need. 

The first time I saw the scenarios that are tested in CLAS-E, I thought, “This is real world. This is what people need to see.” CLAS-E is not wasting students’ time. These are relevant, real-world life experiences and work experiences, like how to tell a waiter there’s a crack in your glass, and how to ask someone to please get the box off the top shelf. If I know for a fact that you can’t write a note to your child’s teacher, that should be my number one priority to teach you. So, I just really, really like the content that’s being tested.

Do you hear from students after they leave your program about how they’re doing and the successes they’ve had? 
We have several students who have gone on to career training, especially with our college. We’ve had some become LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse), and accounting majors who graduated with their associate’s degree and were very successful academically. We also have a few entrepreneurs, including someone who has a couple of local restaurants, someone who has several nail places in town, and another person who owns her own massage business. We’ve definitely had students who have been good role models for others. 

What are the key take-aways that you would share with other adult ed programs who are considering using TABE CLAS-E?
I think first and foremost, as an educator, I see the value of using TABE CLAS-E not just a test to assign students a level and meet the eligibility criteria, but as a tool. It’s the perfect tool to start a conversation with the student and to get a good, comprehensive picture of where a student is when they’re walking in your door so that you know what next steps to take. When you approach it that way, it’s definitely not as intimidating for students. Explaining to them that this is a tool for us to use, and we’re going to share results as they go through their journey, helps them feel more comfortable about it and gives them ownership of their education, which I think is a very important component of using a product properly.

Sometimes adult ed programs are slow to make changes. Even when you know a product might be a better option, you stick with what you know because you’re busy, and you don’t want to have to train everybody. I think now is a good time. If we’re going to re-emerge as better and stronger programs, then we need to invest a little bit of time and energy in finding the right product and putting it into practice. Sometimes that might mean a little discomfort with trying something new. This has been a year of craziness—if anybody’s going to try something new, now’s a great time to do it. 

REMOTE TESTING WITH TABE CLAS-E ONLINE 

What has your experience been like with delivering CLAS-E Online as a remote test? 
We do a lot of remote testing. We started in spring 2020 with TABE 11&12 and then jumped right in with TABE CLAS-E as well. We were only working remotely for the month of April in 2020, and in May we returned to campus and started back with our face-to-face offerings, but with social distancing, sanitizing, and COVID screening. So, we were able to offer students the option of either face-to-face or remote testing early on. It’s been great to be able to give students the opportunity to choose depending on what they feel comfortable with. Now it’s just become a convenience, to be honest. It’s really alleviated transportation barriers and even childcare problems sometimes. It’s been going very well.

How has remote testing impacted your staff? 
We actually lost several of our test proctors, unfortunately, after we closed for the month of April. We had several proctors who said, “You know, with this situation I don’t feel comfortable continuing, and I don’t want to go out face to face, and I certainly don’t have the skill set to deliver it online.” So, we kind of lost our whole crew overnight. We had a couple of die-hards who stuck with us who were very comfortable with just computer-based testing at our main site. So, the testing coordinator and I took it upon ourselves to figure it out and make it work. We slowly waded in, tried it out on a few people, and we have been doing all the remote testing between the two of us. 

It’s a different skill set, in a way. You have to find the right person who’s comfortable with remote testing. But then again, you can dictate the timing better. I can jump on and do a session with five minute’s notice, and I can do it from anywhere. For example, I have an employee who had a baby last fall, so she’s been working more from home, which is great for me. She stays home with the baby, but she’s able to split her shifts. She can do morning, she can do night, she can pop on in the afternoon and conduct whatever I need, versus when she was 8:00 to 5:00 and stuck in the office.

So, in some ways it’s more convenient for some staff in certain situations, but on the flip side we haven’t been brave enough to test a lot of people at once.

What advantages have you seen with delivering TABE CLAS-E remotely? 
With adult ed students, you have to be flexible and work around them. You can’t say, “I’m sorry, if you’re not here tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., you’re not getting into classes.” Without students, we have no program. The whole point of us being here is to make it more convenient and to work around their lives. 

When we launched our classes for the fall 2020 session and we let students know, “Okay, you all asked for it, we’re going face to face, come on back,” we were surprised. They didn’t line up around the corner to come back. They said, “You know what? It’s not so bad. I can sit in my jammies at home and watch this. I can participate through the chat box, I can do this from my phone, I can do this from my tablet.” We had a lot of students who had participated in virtual options, whether it’s testing, or orientation, instruction, or distance learning. So, we were really surprised that there wasn’t a mass rush for the face-to-face option. I think it surprised the students. Just in the last two months, we are getting more applications from way outside of our service area from students who either were not happy with the programs they were in or wanted different options. We’re seeing some virtual people coming in through applications and testing and orientation, and they never have to set foot in our office, so they can be from anywhere.

It’s amazing. We’ve used remote testing with some of our students who have left the country and we still needed their tests. Peru was the last one, and in January we tested someone who was in China. It’s perfectly doable. There are no borders any more with being able to offer everything virtually.

It sounds like because your program was quick to roll out remote testing, it really drew a lot of students to you who may not have participated otherwise.

Right. Some of them may have been at home for the pandemic and felt like that was the best option for their family, and we were still able to come in and provide for them. I really think that is an advantage. In addition, the TABE is required in the state of Texas for adult ed students, and there are other federal standardized testing requirements for adult ed. So that was another advantage for us to quickly start remote testing when all the testing places closed. 

Will you continue to offer remote testing in the future?
Yes. Even though we have been open since last May, we’ve been able to offer so many more trainings and classes and to streamline things so much just by going virtual. I think there’s a misconception that ESL students aren’t tech savvy—that they don’t have computers or internet access. As a matter of fact, our ESL students who we primarily work with on TABE CLAS-E are far more technologically inclined than some of our English speakers. I think that has been kind of a myth, that they won’t grasp the technology and they won’t be successful. If anything, we see more students choose virtual than our face-to-face options now.

The pandemic has changed so much about instruction and assessment. Where do you go from here?
Who would have ever thought before the pandemic that we could send someone a link and jump on a remote test in a matter of minutes with a student who lives three hours away and has their kids in the other room? Now I can communicate with someone on the other side of the country, see them face to face, deliver an assessment, put them in a class, and teach them – all remotely. We have amazing potential with this to emerge as a better and improved program. 

With face-to-face settings, I would never feel comfortable going into people’s classes and watching my teachers instruct or walking into a test session and watching a proctor deliver a test. It’s much easier to be an observer with the virtual format. I’ve seen wonderful things emerge, and I’ve been able to uncover some areas that I think we can improve. I’m an optimist, and I definitely think that we’re going to re-emerge with expanded offerings and the ability to serve more people in a way that helps them take advantage of their education.

You have an enthusiasm and positivity about the work you do that’s truly inspiring. I’m sure you’ve heard that before! 
I do get that a lot. I remember one time I answered our office phone, and it was a wrong number. The gentleman on the phone asked me, “Well, what do you do?” I was telling him about my job and everything we do, and I think 15 minutes later he said, “I know what you do now, and whatever it is you just recruited me. I think I want to be an adult ed director because you just sound like you love your job so much.” I do, and I just wish I could make sure everybody gets excited about that, because you should. Education’s a great thing to be excited about. 

DRC has partnered with ProctorU to provide additional remote online testing and proctoring service options for TABE.

rbojorquez Press Release, TABE Video

As a secure online platform, ProctorU maintains the highest level of exam security and integrity for high-stakes programs like TABE. In addition to offering the largest certified proctor workforce in the world, ProctorU provides test scheduling, administration, and reporting services in one convenient tool, along with free exam-related technical support and guaranteed 99.9% uptime.

Watch the video to learn more!

TABE and LiteracyPro Systems’ LACES

rbojorquez TABE 11&12

TABE 11&12 has partnered with the LACES online student data management system to provide seamless integration for student test scores. The new, integrated solution supports automatic data transfers of student testing scores from TABE 11&12 directly into the LACES system.

Seamless, Automated Integration
All online and paper/pencil student assessment results from TABE 11&12 will be automatically transferred into the LACES system on a daily basis. This provides significant time savings for adult education professionals who use both TABE and LACES because it eliminates the burden of having to manually enter scores into the LACES system.

TABE 11&12 test scores are now securely integrated with the LACES data system, saving valuable time for adult education professionals.

Secure and Reliable Data Transfer
The new automated process provides an added layer of security and reliability for customers by reducing the errors that can happen with manual data entry. The automated transfer is highly secure and reliable.

Quick and Convenient Access to Results
All TABE 11&12 test results will be available in the LACES system within 24 hours. Customers have the flexibility to generate reports on demand, meeting the need for timely reporting to help secure federal funding.

To learn more about TABE 11&12, call 800.538.9547

For more information on LiteracyPro and LACES, click here.

TABE 11&12 Spotlight: Piedmont Regional Adult and Career Education Programs

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Fall classes are in full swing at adult education centers across the country, and many are using the new TABE® 11&12. We checked in with Ginger Hilleary, Program Manager at the Piedmont Regional Adult and Career Education Programs (PRACEP) in Virginia, to get her insight on using TABE 11&12. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your programs and the services you provide? 
PRACEP provides a variety of services including our high school equivalency program, English as a Second Language (ESL) program, distance education, and PluggedInVA. Our main office is in Locust Grove, Virginia, but we have satellite sites in five different counties. We also serve parole and probation and a local adult corrections center. 

How long have you been using TABE? 
Prior to my current role at PRACEP, I was the director of a literacy program where we used TABE for 14 years. We have been using TABE for the last four years at PRACEP. So in total, I’ve been using TABE for about 18 years. 

How do your programs use TABE? 
We use the TABE assessment as a doorway into our programs. TABE helps us determine what level learners are when they enter the program so we can appropriately place them into a class. We also use TABE to determine readiness to take the high school equivalency exam. For non-native speakers, TABE helps us determine reading comprehension and speaking ability in order to be placed in an ESL bridge class. We also use TABE for post-testing after learners complete the prescribed number of hours or indicate a readiness for HSE testing. 

Let’s talk about the new TABE 11&12. When did you first start using it? 
We piloted TABE 11&12 with our adult corrections center in February/March of 2019. That was our first experience with it and we really were able to see what a valuable instrument it is. 

What advantages have you seen with the new TABE 11&12? 
It drills down in more detail and helps us really understand and define what learners bring to the table. The diagnostics are tremendously helpful to us. The questions cover the gamut of what a learner would need to know for a given grade level. It’s just a much more comprehensive instrument. 

Do you administer the test on paper or online? 
At this time, we only administer on paper because so much of our area has poor connectivity. We’re a fairly rural program, so connectivity is an issue for us. In addition, with the sometimes sporadic nature of our learners and their attendance, we’ve found paper to be a much better option for us. 

We continue to offer advancements that address connectivity issues in rural locations to ensure they can test online reliably. Is that something that would interest you? 

My intake staff would love that. They would really love to have that online availability. 

What successes have you seen with using the new TABE 11&12? 
It is impressive. We are just now getting back into classes for the fall, so we’re starting to use it regularly for pre-testing in our programs. We’ve noticed that the potential for mistakes has gone down quite a bit because of how the new test is laid out with a lot more blank space. It’s easier for our learners to use. 

What would you say to other programs that might be considering using TABE 11&12? I would encourage them to use it. It’s an instrument that’s accepted all across the state. There’s a lot of consistency if a learner goes from one program to another—it travels with them easily because it is so widely accepted. We looked at a number of other adult education assessments, and I really think TABE offers the best in terms of understanding what a learner brings to the table, what they already know, and what they need to know. We love the diagnostics because it helps instructors clue in on what their learners need. 

Is there anything else we didn’t cover about TABE 11&12 that you would like to share? 
For a rural program like ours, TABE 11&12 really does fill a need. It’s extremely easy to administer, and we like the design. We didn’t give Level L in the past, but now we do with our literacy programs. While I was at first hesitant about the booklet, our learners actually really like being able to write directly in the booklet. They’re under enough stress just trying to take a test, so I think I think it’s a fabulous idea. 

For you personally, what motivates your work in adult education? 
If you ever wanted to see why we do what we do, all you need to do is attend a graduation ceremony. You will see people whose lives have truly changed. It is absolutely breathtaking. You have no idea how much this means to people. To be able to be a part of that, it makes one emotional—it gets you in the heart. It’s so important to people, whether they’re doing it because they made a promise to a loved one, or because they want to help their children with their homework, or whatever their reason may be. It is a life-changing moment, and to be a part of that is an honor. 

Copyright © 2019 Data Recognition Corporation. All rights reserved. TABE is a registered trademark of Data Recognition Corporation. 

TASC Test Center Spotlight: CABOCES of New York State

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Did you know that obtaining your high school equivalency (HSE) is easier than ever in New York State? If you passed any of the New York State high school Regents Exams, you are one step closer to finishing the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ and obtaining your HSE. New York also has some exciting new options for distance learning that give you even more flexibility on your path to a diploma. We heard from Mary Giardini, TASC Test Coordinator; Bethany Ruane, Workforce Development and Community Learning Program Specialist; and Dr. Melissa Rivers, Principal for CTE, Workforce Development, & Community Learning about these opportunities and more at the Cattaraugus-Allegany Board of Cooperative Educational Services (CABOCES) in New York State.

Can you tell us about CABOCES and the services you provide?
Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES provides oversight of three centers: the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center at Olean, the CTE Center at Belmont, and the CTE Center at Ellicottville. We provide career and technical education for high school students and adults in over 20 fields, ranging from animal science to automotive technology, pre-engineering and CAD (computer-aided design), and our New Vision – Health Professions program. Like other BOCES in New York State, we provide support services for school districts in multiple areas, such as special education services, CTE, and instructional support, and technology supports for the 22 school districts we serve.

When someone comes to your center with the goal of earning their HSE, how do you assist them? What steps do they take?
Because our students come from many different levels and backgrounds, from having an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to leaving school because of something that happened years ago, our high school equivalency process can take a couple of different paths. With open enrollment, students have the option to take classes when it fits their schedule. Our community-based classes provide options for both daytime and evening classes based on what would work best for the student. Those are primarily for adults. We also have students who are under 21 who attend HSE classes at our CTE centers or take HSE classes through the CABOCES Big Picture Learning program. These students may also take CTE classes. One of the greatest opportunities is the bridge between the New York State Regents Exam and the TASC test. As stated before, if a student has passed a portion of their required Regents Exams, then they only need to pass the other portions of the TASC test to be successful and earn an HSE diploma.

So if someone passed certain subjects on the Regents Exam, those subjects are waived as a requirement for the TASC test?
Correct. That is new as of April of 2018 when the New York State Board of Regents made this important ruling.

Have you had a lot of students take advantage of that?
Yes, a lot have taken advantage of it – both adults and high-school-age students. The Regents Exam is considered the New York State benchmark for a student graduating from high school for certain areas. It’s been a huge success for students and helps them to overcome any test anxiety they might have.

Do you use the TABE® test (Tests of Adult Basic Education) in conjunction with the TASC test?
When a student first comes to one of our CTE centers, community HSE classes, or the Big Picture Learning program, we give them the TABE® test to see what their strengths are and what they need help with. Once we know what their level is, we provide instruction (available in all subject areas) to help students be successful and earn that diploma.

How do your instructors help students prepare for the TASC test?
In our community classes, teachers provide personalized learning for each student based on what the student needs and what his or her goals are. This helps the student to have a stake in their own education, as well as gives the teachers a good place to start with identifying what the student needs to work on. Our students range in age anywhere from 16 years old to retirement age. Because our adult funding is designed for employment preparation, we have an essential partnership with the local One Stop career center and workforce development system to target instruction to adults who are looking to enter, return, or upgrade employment, or to complete post-secondary education to obtain a career.

We also provide high school equivalency instruction at the Cattaraugus County Jail for both high-school-age youth and adults. The process at the jail is similar to our other HSE classes, where students take the TABE test for placement, and instruction is individualized for them to be successful. Again, if those students have passed a Regents Exam, it counts towards their TASC test. It’s not just for high school – anyone who has passed a Regents Exam will have that subject waived on the TASC test.

How do you administer the TASC test in your centers?
For the most part, we do computer-based testing. We find it’s really beneficial for examinees because they have online tools they can use within the online testing system, like the option eliminator, the line guide, and the highlighter tool. It’s easier to focus on one question at a time, choose an answer, and then press the “Next” button, as compared to a paper test where you have to track what you’re doing from the test booklet to an answer page, make sure you’re on the right number, and move back and forth. So it’s very beneficial for students who have trouble with attention.

In addition, students absolutely love the fact they can generally get their grades in one to five days with the computer-based test. We reassure them by telling them, “It’ll be okay, we’ll get through this. If you have a question, you’ll raise your hand, and I will come over and we’ll figure out any question you might have with the computer. And did I tell you that you can usually get your grades in one to five days?” Their response to that is 100%: “Sign me up for that computer test, I’m there!”

Another benefit of computer-based testing is the screen reader. Students who have the accommodation for screen reader have the option to make it faster or slower, which really helps them. Some students get very frustrated with a person reading to them, but the TASC test screen reader makes it easier for them, allowing them to choose the speed or even turn it off if they want.

What is the importance of having both computer-based and paper-based testing options with the TASC test?
We’re only allowed to give paper tests in jails, so it’s extremely important to have that paper option. There’s also one accommodation that can only be used on paper, which is the read-aloud accommodation for passages in the reading test. So it’s extremely important to have the paper test available for students who need it.

How would you describe the transition to testing online?
We were actually a field test site for both the computer-based and the paper-and-pencil TASC test before January 2014 (when the TASC test rolled out statewide). So we ended up being one of the original 13 sites in New York State that started with computer tests. We’ve been computer testing since the beginning, and it’s really easy – people just have to be open-minded about it.

What successes have you seen with the TASC test?
In our adult population, we currently have 65 students enrolled in classes. Over the past year, we had 25 students who achieved their high school equivalency. We track our students after they’ve completed, and we have HSE students who have achieved success in welding, machining, automotive, phlebotomy, nurse aid, and medical office assisting. One of our Student of the Year candidates for New York State went from the HSE class to practical nursing. We consider these success stories because they have achieved employment in the field that they came to CABOCES to train for. We have other students who continue on with community college and other colleges as well.

Do you have other examples of success stories from your students?
I can tell you a couple of anecdotal stories about some of our high school students. We’ve had three this year pass the TASC test. One was a student who moved here from a different state in what would’ve been his senior year of high school. He wasn’t successful in school and had zero high school credit. He came here, passed the TASC test this year, and now has a job and is also finishing up his career and technical education endorsement.

Another student just passed a month or so ago who only needed to take two sections of the TASC test because he had passed the Regents Exam in the other sections. He’s finishing up two different programs for career and technical education and he got a scholarship to go to college, which is something he never thought would be possible. This has a lot to do with being able to be successful on the TASC test. Without being able to pass with the Regents component, it would have been much more challenging for him. He had never thought about going to college until now.

Do students need to be enrolled in one of your programs in order to take the TASC test?
We have a lot of people who are not part of a CABOCES program who come here for testing. We are very open to helping everybody who comes in the door, whether it’s homeschoolers or anyone else.

How do you celebrate your students’ achievements?
Once a student passes the TASC test and earns their HSE diploma, we invite them back for a graduation ceremony. We have two ceremonies each year, one in January and one in June. Students enter to Pomp and Circumstance in caps and gowns and receive a certificate of success from a board member, just as in traditional high school graduation ceremonies. We also recognize the students who received the highest score for each subject area and the highest overall score on the TASC test. The student with the highest CABOCES overall score speaks at graduation, and we have another student nominated by a teacher lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Both recent graduations had over 100 people in attendance. It’s an important event for the families as well as for the students to recognize this huge achievement in their lives.

There is no charge to take the TASC test in New York State. How important is affordability for your students?
It is true that New York State does not charge students for the TASC test or for their preparation program. CABOCES comprises an area the size of Rhode Island, so the biggest hurdle a lot of our students face is transportation. Despite having to travel a long distance, they want to come to class and take advantage of the ability to better themselves and get a high school equivalency education. Because we know that the issue is there in terms of people’s time and transportation and because childcare is a huge expense for somebody who wants to come to class, New York State has begun a new option for students to take advantage of class time combined with a distance-learning component. This gives students the ability to do home study as well as learn in class. This was the first pilot year for the new program, and we did mathematics distance learning as a trial. They’re looking at the possibility of opening it up to other subject areas.

What motivates your students to earn their high school equivalency?
Primarily, it’s to be able to finish what they started. We’ve had students who’ve said, I’ve never been successful at anything and this is the one thing I’m doing for myself. I’ve taken care of everyone else, I’ve helped everyone else through; now I need to do this for me.

We have a mix of students who go directly into the workforce and students who go on to college. Some of them realize that they can’t get meaningful employment without a high school equivalency, and others want to go back to school because even though they have a job, it’s not a job that will lead them up the career ladder, and they want to be able to better themselves and have better options for their careers.

One man who had a job for 20 years was told it was going to become a civil service job, and he had one month to get a high school diploma or equivalency, or he would be out of a job. Another was making a good income as a private contractor and was going to lose his contract because he did not have a high school diploma. He had a week to prepare for the TASC test, and his daughter, who was a senior in high school, was waking up at 5:00 in the morning to tutor him. The first time he failed the writing part because he didn’t stay on topic, and he knew he didn’t stay on topic. When he came back to test again, he passed it and he was able to return to work. It was very important to keep his job. This affects a lot of people whose jobs are turning into civil service jobs.

What does it mean to your students to pass the TASC test?
We each have had our own experiences with wonderful, heartwarming stories of success. We had a young man who was in our program at the jail and was just absolutely beside himself that he could actually achieve this, because he had never had this kind of success in his life before.

One girl with special accommodations had been taking the test for two or three years, and she absolutely refused to marry her fiancé until she passed. She was very adamant that she was going to do this. After she passed, she went on to be a certified nursing assistant. At our graduation ceremony in January she said, now I can apply to college because they wouldn’t accept me before. They did get married and have a house, and she’s applying to community college to become a registered nurse.

What are you most passionate about with the work that you do in Adult Ed?
It fundamentally changes the life chances of someone and their family. It’s not just for that individual, it’s for their families and also for our community. The Southern Tier is one of the most impoverished regions in New York State. For our students to be able to earn that diploma and increase their employability, it changes the whole region. We have an opportunity to help truly make a difference.

What are your most important takeaways for aspiring HSE candidates?
One of the most important things to remember is that even though you can get a job without a high school diploma, other career choices become possible by beginning the trip down the road to obtaining your high school equivalency diploma. Students can continue to post-secondary school or other careers. Options open up when a student has their high school equivalency or diploma.

When students come in to take the test, they can be all bound up with nerves. We tell them, you just need to try it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll be in exactly the same place you are right now. But try it, because you’re going to be one step closer. One success at a time. Maybe you pass one of the subjects, and then you know you can do it. You have to give it a try and see where it takes you.

Again, with a passed Regents Exam as part of the process, it opens the door for so many more students to earn that high school equivalency diploma and to be able to change their outlook. It’s a huge advantage. A lot of people who come in only need to pass one subject on the TASC test because of the credit they get from the Regents Exams. If you’ve passed the English Regents, that covers TASC reading and writing. If you passed the Science Regents, that covers the TASC science. For students who have passed all four Regents Exams, they only have to take one subject of their choice on the TASC test.

There are many extenuating circumstances preventing someone from finishing high school, such as a change in residences. When students aren’t able to attend school on a regular basis, they don’t have the time necessary to pass their traditional classes during their high school program. Earning their HSE opens the door for them. Again, it goes back to fundamentally changing the life chances of a person.

Adult students at Suncoact Technical College’s Newtown campus celebrate hard-earned high school degrees.

rbojorquez Uncategorized

Istead she became a certified nursing assistant, working around the schedules of her children, two of whom have attention deficit disorder. She says she always wanted to go back to school, but it took nearly three years and “many stops and starts” to see it through. She kept watching other names move to the right through the categories on the classroom whiteboard, from the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) to individual HSE tests to the final “High School Diploma.” She wondered if her day would ever come.

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