Greece Community Education in Greece, New York
When it comes to preparing for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary CompletionTM, it can make a big difference knowing that your test center has your back every step of the way.
For the Greece Community Education program in Greece, New York, their philosophy is simple: it’s all about the student. Whether it’s getting you into the best test prep classes, helping you navigate the real-life obstacles that come up when you least expect them, or providing assistance with your education and career goals, they are ready to put your needs first and help you be successful.
We sat down with Nicole Viggiano, Director of the Office of Community Education, to learn how their center supports TASC test takers on their journey to earning a high school equivalency (HSE):
When did your test center start offering the TASC test?
We made the transition from the GED® test to the TASC test in January of 2014, in conjunction with the New York State transition. We were one of the initial sites in the state to offer the TASC test.
How would you describe your test center’s transition to offering the TASC test?
I think it went as smoothly as it possibly could have given the circumstances. We were given time by New York State to make the transition, and we received training both from the State Education Department and from Data Recognition Corporation|CTB. Before implementing the TASC test we were active as a GED test center, so we felt that as a staff we were well-trained to administer a standardized assessment. We felt comfortable and as prepared as we could have been to make the transition.
What successes have you seen as a result of this transition?
Overall I feel that transitioning to the TASC test has been really successful. Our students have really risen to the challenge, and they surprise themselves in terms of what they are capable of and what they can accomplish. We’re seeing students feel better and more confident about what they’re able to accomplish when they leave. I feel they are better prepared for whatever path they choose—whether it’s a vocational program or college, they are better suited and better prepared to move on. That has been the most significant thing in terms of the transition.
What successes have you seen as a result of offering the TASC test?
We ran our first TASC test in 2014 with around 5 students taking the test at one time. Today, our capacity is 50 students testing at once. We finished last year with a 93% pass rate, and have maintained a 93% pass rate so far this year.
Roughly 60% of our students graduate and go on to some form of post-secondary education or training, and about 40% enter the workforce. Our employment numbers this year are at 99% for those who have a goal of employment after graduation. We are pretty happy about that!
While the majority of students go on to work or continue their education, there are always a few who want to earn their HSE for different reasons. We had a retired veteran who finally achieved his HSE at age 88. He had dropped out of school to serve in the Korean War, and then worked and raised a family. When he retired, he decided it was time to go back and get his diploma.
How is the TASC test administered at your test center?
Right now we are administering the paper-and-pencil test on a monthly basis. We were approved in January 2016 to become a computer-based testing site, and we’re in the process of getting everything up and running. We will likely start offering computer-based testing in July 2016 as another avenue for students to take the TASC test.
How does your test center help test takers prepare for the TASC test?
In addition to administering the TASC test we are also a prep program. We offer test prep for both HSE and English as a second language, among many other programs. We serve 300–400 HSE students every year. We support students at all levels, from someone who scores 0.0 on the TABE® (Tests of Adult Basic Education) to those who walk into the center ready to take the TASC test.
What do you feel is the purpose and benefit in using TABE and the TASC test together?
We give an initial TABE test as the baseline assessment for every student who comes to our center. This determines which class level the student will go into (we offer classes at three different levels), and also drives their learning plan. We also use the TestMate® TABE, which we find invaluable in terms of getting diagnostic reports that help create student learning plans. If a student comes in at a really low level, then TABE is what helps drive them through the continuum, up through pre-ABE and into the TASC test level. Once they’re at a higher level, we really start to focus on the TASC test-based materials.
What are you most passionate about at your test center?
For us, it’s really about the students. We believe in educating and empowering the whole student, beyond just achieving their HSE. We help them with employment, and with any sort of issues that come up in their lives that may cause an interruption to their education.
We have a service called Navigators, in partnership with Literacy Volunteers of Rochester who are on-site 30 hours a week to essentially help people navigate anything in their lives—whether it’s applying for benefits, applying for a job, handling a letter from the landlord, or anything else that comes up. Students can walk in and see a Navigator and get the assistance they need right here at our site. This service helps prevent them from having their education process interrupted.
We also offer Workforce Development programs to help students get training and find jobs. We have Family Literacy programs, and an EduCare program (Before and Afterschool care). We have a wide variety of Community Programs with classes and activities for children, and a youth program that serves out-of-school youth ages 16 and up.
Really what we’re passionate about is embracing the whole student, where they’re at in their lives, and helping them succeed. This also means embracing all the things that possibly go wrong and saying, “We’ll help you through them.” We’re not going to tell a student, “Well, all these bad things are going on in your life, go take care of it and come back when it’s over.” We’re going to tell them, “Stay with us, and we’ll help you get through it.”
What is the importance of affordable pricing for test takers?
In New York State, we don’t charge for the TASC test. That’s been a priority of the state government, and one of the main reasons for choosing the TASC test was that it is accessible for students. Obviously, affordability and accessibility is a priority because it’s not feasible for everyone to pay $100 or $120 for a test. New York State made this the priority.
Any additional comments, insights, or comments of inspiration you’d like to add as it pertains to aspiring HSE candidates with the TASC test?
During the transition from the GED test to the TASC test there was this idea that there was a lot of anxiety, both for students and for staff. But as we got into the curriculum and into a shift in that mindset, the teachers really embraced it and discovered that it’s better. This is really what students should be doing and should be learning. And as we began teaching it, the students love it. They love the writing component—believe it or not, they really do! They love the persuasive essays more than the previous, traditional five-paragraph essay model. They like being able to express an opinion about something, rather than the old model where they might be asked to write an essay on what they did on summer vacation. They’re enjoying the writing. They’re enjoying doing more critical thinking. They’re feeling challenged, and therefore they’re feeling successful. And teachers are feeling that too, and are motivated by it.
I tweeted recently about some of our students who were doing social studies projects, and how we’re doing things we’ve never done before. We have adult learners doing presentations on PowerPoints and using Smart Boards, and all these great opportunities that really weren’t present with the old curriculum. It’s been a new opportunity for adult learners who maybe even thought this was not in their realm. It really has been a great experience.