Sometimes the hardest step to take when pursuing your high school equivalency (HSE) is making the initial phone call to ask for help. The educators at your local testing center understand why you’re nervous, and how hard it can be to return to a situation where you may not have been successful in the past.
We sat down with Robert Moore, Director of Adult Education at the Broadview Learning Center, to learn how his staff helps students succeed in earning their HSE and how they focus on creating a comfortable and encouraging environment for people to learn and achieve their goals.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Broadview Learning Center and the programs you offer?
We have three service areas for adult education. We offer English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that cover reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in English for non-native speakers. We have Adult Basic Education classes where students learn the skills they need to pass the high school equivalency test; to prepare for entrance into college, technical school, or the military; or to find employment. We also provide short-term (around 12 weeks) career training classes for specific occupations, such as administrative assistants, teaching assistants in our school system, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) mill operators, automotive break technicians, computer-support specialists, and health careers.
When did your test center start offering the TASC Test Assessing Secondary CompletionTM, and how would you describe the transition?
We first started offering the TASC test in January of 2014. Overall, the implementation went well. Since it was the same five subjects as our previous HSE exam, it was an easy transition for us. Our teachers were very well prepared to teach to the new and higher standards since our Department of Workforce Development and the testing company helped prepare us for them. We started with paper/pencil testing and then adopted online testing shortly thereafter.
What successes have you seen as a result of offering the TASC test?
So far in the 2015–2016 program year, 80% of our students who attempted the TASC test have passed it. In 2014–2015, we had 86% of those students who attempted the test pass it before exiting the program. So I’d say our pass rate is pretty good.
How is the test administered at your test center?
We offer the exam in both online and paper/pencil formats. In the current program year approximately 60% of our tests are given in the online format and about 40% are given in paper/pencil. The test is administered over a two-day period, with two subjects given on one day and three subjects on the other day. We have both evening and daytime testing in the course of a month.
What is the importance of having a paper/pencil option for testing, as well as having an online option?
We started out using the paper/pencil format and moved toward more online testing over the course of the past three years. Having both options allows students to choose the testing format that they’re the most comfortable with, which enhances their chances of success. Some people are just more comfortable testing in the paper/pencil format and some are more comfortable with testing on computer. We want to put them at ease as much as possible so that the testing format itself doesn’t become a barrier to success.
How does your center help students prepare for the TASC test?
We pretest students using the TABE® (Tests of Adult Basic Education) to determine their skill level and identify any deficits they may have. We work on filling those basic skills first through our Adult Basic Education classes. We offer classes in different locations around the city and at different times to accommodate the variety of needs our students have. We hold classes in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. In addition to the Broadview Learning Center we have classes at the Monroe County Jail, the Bloomington Housing Authority, Cook Medical, and the WorkOne employment office.
Once students receive any needed instruction, we then give them the TASC Test Readiness Assessment to see if there are any remaining skill gaps we need to fill before they take the full TASC test. We look for a score of 95 percent or higher on the Readiness Assessment, indicating a likelihood to pass, before we recommend taking the TASC test. Our goal is for students to pass all five subjects of the TASC test the first time, so we use the Readiness Assessment to make sure they’re prepared.
Many of our students come in with a short-term, goal-oriented view, and earning their HSE is just one step in perhaps a long journey they’re taking toward entering post-secondary education, career training, or employment. We know they have several steps to take and we want to support them through each one so they can move on to their next goal.
What is the importance of affordable pricing for your test takers?
Affordable pricing is huge. Cost is a barrier that many of our students would face, so we try to keep it very affordable. Our state allows us to charge $90 for the full battery of tests but we only charge $70, which is simply the amount we need to cover our costs. We’re not out to make a profit—we want to keep it affordable.
We also have opportunities for students to attain financial assistance with their testing fees. WorkOne, which is the Department of Workforce Development’s one-stop employment office, has been generous in allotting their clients some money to pay for the HSE test. Other social service agencies also provide support, such as New Leaf – New Life, which pays for tests for students in our Monroe County Jail class. Cook Medical, a major employer in our system for cafeteria and maintenance personnel, pays for the test for their employees. So there are a variety of ways for students to get financial assistance.
What motivates your students to earn their high school equivalency?
We often find that students have an employment or career training goal that requires an HSE diploma. Many students are also motivated by personal reasons and are seeking the satisfaction that they’ve accomplished something important—for some, it’s kind of like finishing some unfinished business.
How do you recognize student achievement?
We do several things to publicly recognize student achievement. We have an awards program in May where we recognize our HSE graduates, induct students into the National Adult Education Honor Society, and recognize students who have achieved measurable gains in learning in their classes.
What are you most passionate about at your center?
I’d say that I’m most passionate about students achieving their goals. Whether it’s learning English so they can function a little better in our community, achieving high school equivalency so they can help their kids in school, or fulfilling an employment or career training goal that they have, I’m just really passionate about helping people accomplish those goals.
Any additional insights or comments of inspiration you’d like to add regarding aspiring HSE candidates at your center?
I understand that sometimes the hardest step to take is making the phone call or coming in the door for the first time. You may be nervous because it’s unfamiliar territory to you. It’s also hard to go back to a situation where you’ve not experienced success before. I’d imagine in a lot of people’s minds that’s probably the hardest step to take, but once they do, we’ve shown that we can help people be successful. I want folks to know that our teachers and staff are very dedicated to them, and we make it a very comfortable environment for them to learn and to achieve their goals. We help people of all ages, from 16 years old and on up. We have people earning their HSE diploma at every age bracket, so it’s very doable for everybody.