Tag Archives: Adult Education

Is the New GED Test Too Hard? Why Aren’t More People Passing?

I’m going to start the New Year by responding to a couple of the biggest controversies in education, starting with the new GED Test. I want to hear your thoughts, too.

I’m going to get straight to the point: I like the new GED Test, for the same reasons I like the Common Core State Standards. But even with five years of development, we weren’t ready for it.

Side Note: I’m just getting acquainted with the TASC Test from CTB-McGraw Hill and HiSET Test from Education Testing Service, so I won’t comment on them yet.

My attitude hasn’t changed too much since I wrote about this two years ago. In “The 2014 GED Test and Its Impact on Adult Literacy Providers” I thought the key impacts of the new test would be:

  1. Increased program costs for technology to prepare students for computer-based testing.
  2. Students would take longer to prepare for the new exam.
  3. Increased cost for the exam will be a barrier for low income students.
  4. Programs would have to invest heavily in upgrading curriculum and instructors’ skills.

I concluded, “There is a cumulative effect of increasing testing fees, requiring technology to prepare for computer-based testing, and aligning to the CCSS. … Shifting to technology-enhanced, standards-aligned instruction will increase the long-term baseline cost of delivering GED test preparation services. Programs will require increased funding in the short-term just to maintain quality and capacity for learners. Programs will need to plan for ongoing maintenance costs for professional development, technology consultation, Internet and physical security, assessment and software licenses, and equipment and hardware updates.”

To put it plainly: GED Test preparation will require a lot more money and time to achieve the same results.

I wrote that in Spring 2013.

Am I surprised in January 2015 at the news that my predictions came true? Unfortunately no. We didn’t make the investment. Money didn’t come flowing in. We didn’t start hiring more full-time staff (77% of adult literacy instructors are part timers). It took six months into 2014 for the first Spanish-language version of GED Test prep materials to reach the market.

The big question in my mind was the degree of impact the new test would have. I have to admit it’s worse than I thought it would be. Folks who lived through one or two of the last GED Test changes reassured me that the field took a plunge for a year and then bounced back. But the news that is the plunge is steeper this year than the last change in 2002.

How long will it take us to bounce back?

Will we bounce back?

I am frustrated that adult literacy programs and funders were not able to read the warning signs, and that our field is underprepared. I can’t pin point one organization, or even one category or group that is really to blame. It is a whole systems failure: funders, employers, state and federal administrators, publishers, instructors. We dropped the ball. We did not transition gracefully.

It’s not the fault of the GED Testing Service alone, though they had their role to play. GED Testing Service showed up at every conference, conducted online surveys, did field research to answer educators’ questions, and tried to get the word out in every state. That’s when we had a chance to give our input, and to change direction. At the same time, GED Testing Service can’t change the economy, can’t make employers invest in training for entry-level workers, can’t stop the international community from having a better education system than the U.S. The GED Test has been accepted by 40 states. A whole mountain of curriculum and assessments and policy have been built up around it.

So now what?

I’m concerned that the rhetoric of failure will contribute to underfunding adult education instead of recognizing the significant investment required. We need more support, both funding and political will, to get up to speed, or really just to maintain our old speed.

Most people still don’t know the field of adult literacy exists. The general public does not understand the complexity of barriers faced by those who didn’t complete high school or have been out of the workforce for a long time. A few folks who ask what I do in adult literacy have even responded that they think low literate adults are just undeserving poor who should have taken advantage of their free public education when they were kids. Some did, some didn’t, some couldn’t, some did in other countries…it’s not that simple.

My question to you, readers, is: Who is responsible for the education of low literate adults?

I’m not asking who is to blame, but how do we inspire the investment of time, funding, and motivation necessary to improve the basic skills of adults? What do we do next with the new GED Test? Please respond in the comments with your ideas.


Filed under Adult Education, GED Test Instructors

Adult Educators’ Recommendations for Best Free Resources

It was a delight to work with adult educators to share and evaluate a smattering of the free content available out there for adult education and GED Test Prep. Participants at The Literacy Cooperative’s training organized into groups to become the Adult Education Resource Evaluation Team (AERET). After introducing 25 free websites available for Ohio adult educators (18 of those sites are free to a national audience), I sent the teams on a webquest.  They have shared their recommendations with you:

Low Level English Proficiency Learners

Our first group were professionals who serve a variety of literacy levels. Their overall finding was that there is not much out there that is intuitive and well paced for low level English readers or speakers. Almost everything requires instructional intervention.

Parameters for evaluation:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Site navigation
  3. General app look and feel
  4. Tech requirements


  1. Accessibility : Need to sign in which requires a username and Need to have an email address in order to enter the site. Need to answer a series of questions in order to enter the site.
  2. Site Navigation: The site is difficult to navigate; it doesn’t allow you to return to the previous page.
  3. Applications : The speaking part of the testing is too fast for low level learners. There are multiple ads on the page which makes it confusing for low level English.
  4. Tech Reqs: Need to have speakers on the computer to do the testing.

Gcflearnfree.org (non profit)

  1. Accessibility : No sign in for this site ; no email address needed.
  2. Site Navigation: No ads on the site but you need to have a higher level English level to understand the choices.
  3. Applications : Navigate in multiple languages to understand what to choose but there is a lot of narrative (content). There are many applications but they are scattered and difficult to navigate by technology.
  4. Tech Reqs: No special technology requirements.


  1. Accessibility : Need to sign in (register) and requires an email. You need to enter a birth date which is a personal security issue.
  2. Site Navigation: Requires that you go to your email and click a link to sign up. Once you go to the email you then have to enter additional information which is confusing.
  3. Applications : Requires you to select an avatar which is confusing and then does not allow you to move to the next level.
  4. Tech Reqs: Speakers would be nice for interaction of sound but not necessary; necessary for video component. Adobe flash needed for video component.


  1. Accessibility: No sign in required ; no security issues or email address needed.
  2. Site Navigation: The site has too many ads that could be confusing to the low level English learner.
  3. Applications: The quality of the videos is very low; not ESOL teachers on the video which allows for the use of confusing English for low level learners.
  4. Tech Reqs: Speakers and Adobe flash for video component.

NEO Literacy Corps

The next group was a team of AmeriCorps Members serving for a year in adult literacy and workforce development contexts.

We evaluated four different sites for GED preparation. It was our goal to find sites to use in our classrooms, with students ages 17-22 as well as adult learners (22+).  All sites evaluated require internet access and access to a computer with a functioning keyboard, mouse or track pad, and monitor. We analyzed the sites based on Usability and Instructional Quality. In the conclusion, we covered Cost Analysis.

Tri-C’s Math MOOC


  • the students need to know how to navigate the Blackboard Course system.
  • Accessing the system requires login
  • Facilitators would need to have taken the course themselves, as there is no instructor companion material.

Instructional Quality:

  • Student & adult learners can use website
  • Math, English, GED readiness
  • Learners use without instructor guiding

McGraw Hill Online Learning Center

[Farrell Ink’s note: Aligned to the 2002 GED Test Prep Series from Contemporary/McGraw Hill.] Websites:


  • Has a teachers guide
  • Does not require auxiliary equipment
  • Simple, logical layout and structure
  • Language arts focus on writing, but not reading comprehension.

Instructional Quality:

  • Both instructors and students can use site for language arts, math, various refreshers for GED readiness
  • Instructors can assist students with curriculum
  • Does not have to be instructor lead



  • Unappealing set up: small print, antiquated look.
  • We don’t know if signing up grants you access to automatic grading for question responses.

Instructional Quality:

  • Student based
  • This site does not give process updates, this is not instructor based



  • This site was one of the only places we could find for Reading Comprehension, which is one of the major components of the GED and one that many sites (including Khan Academy) did not specifically target.
  • Sleek, appealing layout and appearance.

Instructional Quality:

  • Reading comprehension, language arts, reading development
  • Student based but they can track their progress


With respect to analyzing cost, start-up fees are associated with any computer lab or computer based program including location (renting or maintaining available space, as well as associated utilities).  Classroom instruction fees could be incurred as well.  Maintaining the computers will require IT personnel, which may be volunteers but it is more likely that programs will pay for these services.  All of the online programs we analyzed were free to access.

Workforce Development

The final group’s target population were low-income, low-literacy un-employed or under employed adults with limited labor market attachment; individuals who need to advance towards self-sufficiency.

Costs:  Headphones for computers (if needed), paper, pens, printer


  • Low-cost/free resources for low-income and low-computer literacy users
  • Materials written at around a 6th grade level; visually appealing as well to keep users engaged
  • Sites able to blend smoothly into the job search process AND support career retention and advancement

Recommended Resources and Process:

  1. DigitalLiteracyAssessment.org
    • We will start off with an assessment of each individual’s existing computer literacy level
    • Students will be instructed on how to improve their skills, as most resume and job search is done online
    • This website has different modules that individuals can take on their own; they are scored and instruction can be tailored to the lacking skills
  2. DOL.gov’s Soft Skills to Pay the Bills
    • This site uses role play and interactive classroom-based activities
    • These can keep students engaged while teaching valuable job skills that are needed to gain and retain employment
    • The materials on the site are written at an appropriate literacy level and the printable worksheets are visually appealing
  3. TheBeehive.org
    • This site offers an excellent section on jobs
      • Includes online career coach, resume tips/examples, interviewing basics, how to dress for success, and how to find a job with a criminal background, amongst others
      • The site is well-written at an appropriate literacy level, and again is visually appealing
  4. OhioMeansJobs.com
    • At this point, we envision students registering on the website, uploading the resume, and beginning to search for jobs online
    • They can also perform WorkKeys testing, if they want to brush up on their skills
  5. The Beehive (again)
    • After obtaining employment, students can be referred back to the Beehive.com for additional supportive services
  6. Tri-C’s Math MOOC
    • Students who are interested in career pathways and advancing their education and career will be referred to Tri-C for MOOC and other classes

Thanks again to all the awesome AERET groups for their recommendations! Happy teaching, and Happy New Year!

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Filed under Adult Education, Education, eLearning, Free Cool Online Tools, GED Test Instructors, NEO Literacy Corps, Technology Integration

Your Quest? Find the BEST of the Web!


Congratulations! As a participant in today’s training, you have been selected by The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland to join the Adult Education Resource Evaluation Team (AERET).

As you are well aware, area literacy programs are constantly trying to balance instructional needs and financial constraints. Budgets are tight, and instructional materials are increasingly expensive. Many programs have invested in purchasing or updating computers to make technology available in the classroom. However, even technologically literate instructors can be overwhelmed by the learning curve of new technology.

The main question we need your team to answer is: How do you judge which resources are worthwhile to incorporate in an adult literacy program?

You can benefit our adult education community by developing recommendations for which free resources are best suited for different settings. Some of the other questions to consider in your exploration:

  • What is the cost-benefit of using free resources? What are the “hidden costs”?
  • What is the range of technology available in adult education programs?
  • At what point is it cost effective to invest in a paid program?
  • How user-friendly are the resources? In other words, how easily can students and teachers learn to use them?
  • What changes need to be made in adult education programs to support instructors when introducing new resources into the classroom?

Thank you for your commitment to serving Northeast Ohio in the field of adult education!

Task and Process

Your goal for the morning is to develop recommendations on these resources to share with adult education programs in Northeast Ohio. Your team will develop both a written and an oral presentation of your decisions

5 MINUTES: Please decide on the following roles within your team:

  1. Usability Specialist: Your task is to evaluate the selected resources to decide how easy they would be for students and instructors to use. Some questions to consider: What are the technology requirements to access the programs? How easy is it to get started? What are the features that adult educators would require to get the most out of the programs?
  2. Instructional Specialist: Your task is to consider the instructional quality and implications of the selected resources. You need to decide how well the programs meet various instructional needs. Some questions to consider: Who is the intended student audience? What skills are taught? What is required of the instructor in the learning process?
  3. Cost Analysis Specialist: Your task is to make administrative recommendations for implementing the selected resources. Some questions to consider: How well would the selected resources help meet the goals of various adult education organizations? What training or support do staff need to use the resources? What are the hidden costs and barriers to using the resources?

5 MINUTES: After assigning roles, your AERET will decide on a subsection of the resources shared this morning to evaluate, and also take some time to find and consider additional resources.

10 MINUTES: Exploration and evaluation of selected resources.

10 MINUTES: Discussion of findings within group. Create a list of talking points for each resources: pros and cons, tips and concerns, who and how, etc.

10 MINUTES: Draft both a written and oral presentation of your findings:

  • Develop an appealing and informative one-two page flyer or blog post to share with area literacy programs. Here is an example: Chromebook for Education? Home?
  • All members of the team must participate in presenting a brief, two minute summary of your results.

5 MINUTES: Multiple team members proof read the draft. Practice and polish your summary. Remember, your final product is a professional recommendation that reflects on The Literacy Cooperative. Adult educators are depending on you to provide relevant but succinct information to aid in their decision making.

Presentation and Conclusion

Thank you for taking time out of your busy week to participate in AERET as a service to our region and the field of adult education.

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Filed under Adult Education, GED Test Instructors

Top 18 FREE Websites for Workforce and GED® Test Prep

Warning: Once you start clicking these links, you may be amazed at what you find!

This list is not offered in any particular order of importance or quality, and without comment. I offer it to you as a starting point to the many free resources available on the web for self-motivated adult learners, and tech savvy adult education instructors.

  1. MikeRoweWORKS Tool Shed
  2. WorkKeys Practice Tests at OhioMeansJobs
  3. The Beehive
  4. My Job Scout
  5. USA Learns
  6. National College Transition Network Publications
  7. Tri-C’s Dev Ed Math MOOC
  8. Women Employed Resources
  9. Free Test Prep GED Practice Tests
  10. TV411
  11. Khan Academy
  12. Federal Student Aid
  13. Guiding Ohio Online Training
  14. Sense-Lang
  15. GED Testing Service
  16. Digital Literacy Assessment
  17. Occupational Outlook Handbook
  18. Soft Skills to Pay the Bills

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Filed under Adult Education, Free Cool Online Tools, GED Test Instructors, Technology Integration, Uncategorized

Exciting Strategies for 2014 GED® Test Preparation Instruction

Saving some trees by posting this workshop’s presentation online! In-person participants will also receive a sampler including instructional activities from Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book.

To mix & match GED Assessment Targets (or as I’ve come to call them, GEDATs, pronounced “Gee-Dats”), participants will break into one of the following small groups:

  • Reading skills with Science content
  • Reading skills with Social Studies content
  • Math skills with Science content
  • Math skills with Social Studies content

The Assessment Targets can be found in Chapter 2 of the Assessment Guide for Educators by GED Testing Service or the Appendix of my book.

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Filed under Adult Education, GED Test Instructors

Tell Me: What Are The Skills You Need To Be An Adult Education Instructor?

Ten years ago…

I started as a volunteer adult literacy tutor at a homeless shelter and outreach center. In six months, I helped a student change from calling herself stupid to picking up the community college brochure to look at classes. My Site Manager asked me to teach a class two evenings a week. I joined the ranks of the 77% of adult literacy instructors who teach part-time with little training.

Within a couple years I became a full-time Site Manager, learning most of my teaching skills from watching other volunteers and co-workers. Eager to serve my students better, I attended a national conference organized by ProLiteracy. The workshops gave me a new perspective, connected me to the latest research, and transformed my teaching.

It has been thrilling to give back to the adult literacy community as an author, consultant, and trainer over the past few years. I have seen instructor training change lives, classrooms, and programs.

Essential Education-Learning Made CertainThis month I started a new adventure creating Social Studies materials for Essential Education. Much to my joy, I also get to work on a team developing professional development materials for adult educators! And WE WANT YOUR INPUT!


What about you?

What did you wish you knew when you started as an instructor? What workshops would/do you provide for new instructors? What skills or training improved your teaching? What professional development topics do you think have the most impact?

 If you respond by Tuesday, August 26th, I will share your comments at our team meeting, but this is an ongoing process and your comments are welcome at any time.

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Filed under Adult Education, Education, GED Test Instructors

New Online Course for Instructors to Implement 2014 GED® Test Changes

Instructors and administrators! Are you looking to develop new lesson plans or find resources to go in-depth with the changes to the new 2014 GED Test? WVIZ/PBS/ideastream is offering a 3-week online course starting next week: Wednesday, February 19, 2014.

Teaching Adults GED Book CoverParticipants will work together through the Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED Test Resource Book to find resources and strategies that work in your unique setting. You will share reflections and lesson plans with other participants to implement changes in your program.

The course is $100, and one graduate credit is available from Ashland University. You do not have to be online at a specific time. Each week, participants will gain access to new information, activities, and discussion forums.

Contact Ann Ebersole to register today!

Space is limited, but registration is open to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis. Ohio residents may be eligible for a scholarship from The Literacy Cooperative.

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Filed under Adult Education, Education, eLearning, GED Test Instructors, Technology Integration