High School EquivalencyTesting in 2014

Happy New Year, colleagues!

Some of you have, no doubt, been preparing students for one of the new high school equivalency tests for several weeks. Now that the holidays have passed, it's time for many of us to focus on this goal in earnest.

What has been your experience so far?  What resources are you finding helpful? What adjustments are you making to your instruction? What challenges, if any, are you encountering? How are students responding?

It's plenty cold here in southeastern Pennsylvania. I hope everyone is staying warm!

Cheers, Susan

Susan Finn Miller

Assessment Moderator


Hi Susan, 

I have been working with educators who use i-Pathways, an online High School Equivelency Test Prep curriculum and we are seeing a shift in the idea of cohorts in adult education. Interestingly, as students can now test one subject at a time, teachers are working with students in individual content areas. For example, they may spend January working on Social Studies and then students test.Then, they work with all students in Science, Reasonging Through Language Arts and finally Math. 

I think this process is helping both teachers become familiar with curriculum and students work on a targeted area. While it is too early to tell - it is anticipated that this approach may lead to increased retention for the learner. 

I am curious at what others may think about this approach? 

Hi Kathy - I remember you from GED Illinois from when I was working in WA.  Back in the 90s, there was a GED prep method out of Seattle that focused on one subject at a time (I wish I could remember the name of it - I have it storage somewhere).  They were working with high school students who had the option to either graduate with a Special Ed diploma (hard to define - at the time, more of a 'time-served' diploma than one based on grades and work accomplished) or a GED (normed and referenced national assessment).  The belief was that the GED was a more useful tool for these students' future.  Because they were working with students who were low-skilled and many instances developmentally delayed, the program focused tightly on test practice using both the official GED practice tests and locally-created assessments, test-taking strategies and familiarization with the format, and intensive prep in a single subject area at a time, starting with their strongest subject.  Students were briefed right before they tested and debriefed immediately afterward. If the student didn't pass, then they focused even tighter on what the student had trouble with.  They had a pretty remarkable success rate with a very difficult student population.


KC Andrew, CCWD, Salem OR

With writing on 3 of the 4 tests and so much more information-based reading on 2014, I'm not sure that teaching one course intensively makes as much sense as teaching reading and writing across the curriculum--given the extended response on RLA and SS and shorter writing in Science.


 Hi Stephanie, 

I can only speak to how we have approached i-Pathways curriculum development. Our Reasonging Through Language Arts is deliveded through evidence based reading instruction. Students will develop strategies that will help pass the RLA exam but these same strategies will also also help with reading in the Science and Social Studies area. We also cover writing inthat module. If a student begins with RLA - they will have the foundational skills that can then be applied in the other content areas. 

I think there are many approaches to teaching the new tests. While I agree that we need to look at cross curricular instruction - this might be a model for some :-) 


Hi Kathy, Thank you for your comments. For certain, "there are many approaches to teaching the new tests" that are effective. Would you share some of the details for how your Reasoning Through Language Arts is designed?

Cheers, Susan

Assessment Moderator

Hi Susan, 

When we were developing curriculum for i-Pathways, we wanted to take a global approach. We knew that students would be assessed in the GED(r) Test for Reasoning Through Language Arts and as alternative assessments became available - they are also based on a students ability to critically read informatin. We also understood that the curriculum should be rigorous and provide practice with Web's Depth of Knowledge. Our curriculum team also collaborated with reading specialists and adult education professionals across our 14 state partherships to determine a solid curriculuar approach. We created a scope and sequence

Our RLA curriculum begins with a unit on reading strategies. We teach the SQR3 method (PreReading, During Reading, and After Reading strategies.) The activities and content in this encompases reading passeges from Literature, Social Studies, and Science. As we continued through the remaining curriculum, we provided instruction in comphrension skills and vocabulary developent. Once we had our outline developed and content created, we worked with reading specialists again through a curriculum review process to ensure that our approach was appropriate and instructionally sound. 

Once we had a solid curriculum that was vetted, we worked with highly skilled graphic artists to create a layout that also supported reading development. It is our belief that our students must develop reading skills through online instruction and in order to do this, they must have the opportunity to read. Yet, one of the most infrequently discussed technolgy skills is learning how to read off of a computer screen (which is a very different skill than reading from a text book or paper based test.) You can view sample lessons for our i-Pathways project. 

Finally, our approach inlcuded a foundation in evidence based reading instruction; was vetted by experts in adult education in reading; and uses the most current research for presenting digital learning.

I hope this answers your questions.



Hi Stephanie, Thanks for your comment. You've pointed out one of the main changes in the new test. Would you share with us how this change is affecting your instruction? How are you preparing students to write for the new test compared to how you prepared them in the past?

Cheers, Susan

Assessment Moderator

Well, right now, we have two teachers who teach two classes, one  at the ABE level and the other at the ASE level, for math, science, social studies and RLA. Our two core teachers will have all students in one or the other class and will be able to monitor whether that level is best and be able to recommend bumping up or down as needed and time reveals strengths and weaknesses.

We also have a Careers & Tech class that we recommend for eveyrone b/c we really feel that if a student has to hunt and peck on the test that is going to adversely affect writing. You need to be able to see what you are writing on the screen and think about your content and everything else--NOT where the correct letter key is located. GEDTS *says* that testers only need 20 wpm, but given that these remin timed tests, it seems critical that all testers have enough typing chops to type fast enough so that the can think as they type.


Really would love to share with others and their approaches--and what is working, down the road.


Hi Stephanie, All teachers are now needing to determine ways to assess and then to support learners in building their computer skills, including--as you note-- keyboarding.

David Rosen had previously shared a resource that seems especially useful. (Thank you, David!) The Northstar digital literacy assessments, which are free to individuals, are excellent tools. I’ve copied and pasted from the Northstar website below http://www.digitalliteracyassessment.org/index.php

“What is the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment? A self-guided, online tool that allows individuals to assess their basic computer skills. Six different modules are available: Basic computer skills, Windows OS, Mac OS, World Wide Web, Email, and Word.”

I'm wondering how you and others are working with learners to both assess and support students in building their computer-based skills.

What do you think about the possiblity of using these Northstar tools as part of instruction? Perhaps some teachers are using these. If so, I hope you will share your experience with us here.

Warmly, Susan Finn Miller

Assessment Moderator

Massachusetts was the last state to choose HiSET as the HighSchool Equivalency provider.  I spent last week taking the practice tests.  The advertising implied that this test would be very similar to the former GED, but there are differences.  For example there seems to be much more emphasis on algebrra than in the old GED.  I also noticed a greater emphasis on scientific experimentation.  Although HiSET is offered in only 11 states, is there enough interest to organize a sub group on instruction and curriculum development for this test.

I think you bring up a good point. While there are certain similarities in the HiSet to the 2002 GED(r) Test, Phase I of the HiSet does have differences and it is more rigorous that the 2002 series. However, I think that it is important to remembe that the HiSet and Tasc had both demonstrated a phased approach to their tests, meaning that in 2015 (if I understand this information correctly) they will continue to increase their rigor. 

As you look for curriculuar choices, we may want to consider the long term goal that in 2015, all of the high school equivelancey exams will be fully aligned with the common core standards. At least - that is what I believe based on the information I have read thus far. 

As you may be looking for curriculuar models, please feel free to check out our scope and sequence. I would also like to hear what you and others think should be inlcuded in curriculum for the HiSet. 



Kathy Tracey
i-Pathways Curriculum Director

Hello Kathy,

I wanted to give you and the board clarification on the plans for TASC. 

TASC is 100% aligned for 2014 to the Common Core and College and Career Readiness Standards.  For 2015 we will introduce more innovative and technology enabled items.  These additional items types will measure higher Depth of Knowledge skills in 2015 and beyond.

This transition plan allows Adult Educators to become more comfortable teaching to the new standards prior to introducing the new item types to teachers and students.

I would be happy to answer any additional questions related to TASC or TABE that you or others might have.

Mike Johnson
National Adult Education Manager




Thanks Mike, 

I knew there was a two phased approach - so it's great to have full clarification. 

I took a quick look at your "Scope and sequence" link which seems to be appropriate and comprehensive, however, I think that proportional reasoning deserves a unit on its own.  It is an important phase in developing mathematical reasoning that is not emphasized enough.  I was a little bit upset with the answer options in some HiSET practice test  percent answer choices.  The correct answers were shown as some number multiplied by a decimal.  This puts my students at a disadvantage.  Since I teach that percents are ratios, my students solve percent problems using proportion equations

Alan Tubman

HiSET Instructor

Worcester, MA

Thanks for your comment, Alan. Can you share with us some details about how you teach and assess learners' understanding of proportional reasoning? How do you determine when students are adequately prepared to solve problems using this skill?

Best, Susan

Assessment Moderator