TASC Test Center Spotlight: Morris County School of Technology in Denville, New Jersey
Are you interested in pursuing your high school equivalency (HSE) but feeling uncertain about whether you’re prepared to take the test? Your local testing center can help you figure out where to start.
Today we’re placing the spotlight on the Morris County School of Technology as Eva Ursell, Continuing Education Program Specialist and Chief HSE Examiner/Coordinator, tells us how her test center helps students find the confidence and skills they need to pass the TASC Test Assessing Secondary CompletionTM.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Morris County School of Technology?
The Morris County School of Technology is a high school campus that includes an adult education component. In addition to administering the TASC test, we provide an adult basic skills program and offer a variety of professional-track training programs that encompass health careers, apprenticeship programs, and trade programs.
How would you describe your transition to offering the TASC test?
We stopped offering the old GED® test on December 31, 2013, and it took us approximately three months to transition to the TASC test. Once the transition was made, the testing process went fairly smoothly initially, to ultimately very efficient.
We started out with offering the paper-based test to a small test group so that we could get a handle on the new testing process. It went very smoothly.
How many test takers have taken, completed, and passed the TASC test?
Since March of 2014 we have tested approximately 625 students. Our pass rate is over 75%, which means that roughly 468 test takers have passed the test. Our pass rate is the third highest in the state of New Jersey. One test center that is higher than us is the Department of Corrections, and they always score high. So I feel pretty good about our results.
How is the TASC test administered at your test center?
We mainly offer the test online, but if someone has special accommodations that require paper-based tests, we will accommodate them. We have also offered paper-based tests in the past two years to people who do not feel comfortable using the computer and who specifically asked for a paper-based option.
We administer the TASC test over a two-day period. I inform our prospective testers that they have a choice of spreading it out if they wish to, but for the most part, everybody chooses to complete it within the two-day period.
How does your center help test takers prepare for the TASC test?
We offer an adult basic skills program, which is free of charge. When our prospective testers are not sure if they are ready to take the test, we offer a free TABE® (Tests of Adult Basic Education) assessment. Following this assessment, the student is either informed that his or her academic skills are appropriate to take the TASC test or they are advised to attend our adult basic skills program. This program offers various levels of class instruction in order to prepare the student for the TASC test. This year alone, we have over 60 students attending our basic skills classes, and that number is increasing every month. We also share links on our website to online tutorials and study resources.
I have a lot of students who ask for feedback and advice on when they should take the TASC test. When I ask many younger students right out of high school whether they feel confident about it, they often opt to take the test itself rather than go for remediation. For people who have been away from academics for a long time, I always encourage them to weigh their options carefully whether they feel confident enough to take the test or whether they want to take the TABE first and see how well prepared they are.
What motivates your students to earn their high school equivalency?
I would say that they come to the point of maturity and realization that they need their high school diploma so that they can move on or move up with their lives. They do it for personal reasons such as the personal satisfaction of having achieved their goal, or to set a good example for their children and their families. But most of all, they do it for professional reasons. It allows them to apply for jobs and apply for colleges. That’s their dual motivation.
What is the importance of affordable pricing for your test takers?
While we don’t offer scholarships for our fees, we do counsel our testers that they don’t really need to take (and pay for) the whole test at one sitting. If they want to break it up and take the test over multiple sessions to alleviate the financial hardship, they have that option.
What are you most passionate about at your facility?
At our center we want nothing less than our students’ personal and professional success—that’s what we’re here for. When a prospective tester comes in and they’re unsure of their decision to sign up for testing, we explain all of their options. When they complete their academic remediation and are still nervous about the test, we give them pep talks to reassure them and to let them know that they’re not out of options—that again, they can spread it out if they wish (take the test over multiple sessions), or they can go back to class, or hire private tutors—whatever it is that provides them with the confidence they need.
In addition, we offer many adult education programs that will prepare students for various careers once they pass the TASC test. I’ve had quite a few of my testers sign up for our programs. We have professional-track programs that encompass health careers, apprenticeships, trades, and many others. We also offer full-time programs in Cosmetology, Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN), and HVAC.
Our programs include a job skill component that helps students to be more confident with their professional prospects. The job skill component covers interview skills, where and how to look for a job, and how to present yourself during an interview. We also have a job board to which we refer our students, and we have a lot of contacts between local employers and our school, so we assist in that area also. We provide no guarantees, but we have placed quite a few of our adult education students in jobs.
Any additional insights or comments of inspiration you’d like to add as it pertains to aspiring HSE candidates at the Morris County School of Technology?
We all know that growth and change is scary, and students worry because the outcome of their testing is uncertain. But I have to say that most of our students come out at the other end stronger and more confident. They’re better equipped to face new and better things. We want them to know that going out on a limb is a good thing, so we encourage them to take that chance.
Another thing that has been very heartwarming to me is that I’ve gotten quite a few hugs. It really is very uplifting because I see how nervous they are, how sometimes they’re not 100% hopeful; and when I tell them that they’ve passed, quite a few of them have given me hugs. It presents them with tremendous personal satisfaction and I’m really happy to be part of that process.