From “High school dropout receives college diploma 31 years later” — By Emily Miels – Until recently, Jim Voss didn’t consider himself a scholarly person.

The former high school dropout didn’t know if he could even pass the G.E.D. test — a test designed to determine whether the test-taker has a high school graduate’s level of knowledge — let alone obtain a college diploma.

On Friday, Voss, who will be 50 in June, will graduate from Chippewa Valley Technical College with a degree in business management and near perfect grades.

After receiving failing grades in high school, Voss dropped out in 1983 to pursue employment.

“Back then it wasn’t uncommon for somebody to leave school to go to work,” Voss said. “I actually hitchhiked to Portage after I dropped out.”

Voss got a job in the newspaper industry. He started as a “paper stuffer” and eventually worked up to various management positions, following job opportunities across the state and Midwest.

“I started at the bottom of the newspaper business, and I rose and rose,” Voss said. “About every four years I was promoted, usually to another company that would see my talents.”

After a series of unforeseen events, including the moving of print operations at the Chippewa Herald — where Voss was working as pressroom manager — to La Crosse, Voss found himself out of a job and searching for new opportunities.

“It scared the bejeebers out of me walking in here,” Voss said about his first day at CVTC in 2012.

Voss didn’t know what to expect when he decided to return to school, but he felt at home at CVTC right away.

“When I walked in here, you know, the students and the instructors all treated me as an equal,” he said.

One of Voss’ main goals was to succeed academically at CVTC. Though he said it wasn’t always easy, he did just that. He is president of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two-year schools that provides members with grants and networking opportunities.

Valuable experience

CVTC’s business management program helped Voss grow the skills he’d learned during his years in the newspaper industry.

“It helped me expand some of my management knowledge, but it also well-rounded it to more than just one business as well as bringing me up on some of the technology,” he said.

Tom Huffcut, CVTC’s vice president of operations, said students in that program are required to have an internship. Voss was interested in something more advanced, focusing on mid- to senior-level management.

“He approached our president for that reason, who put him in touch with me, and from there I kind of matched him up,” Huffcut said, noting Voss was eager to help and make an impact.

Voss worked on a combined project with human resources and college professional development as an intern. He created surveys, developed spreadsheets, revised outdated policies and participated in leadership programs.

“I learned a lot of things in my classes here, but those people are the trainers of the trainers,” he said. “They train the people that are instructing, and it shows.”

Voss was the department’s first intern. Karen Callaway, his supervisor and professional development specialist at CVTC, said his work continues to be beneficial in developing and customizing training programs.

“He fit right in and everything,” she said. “We were glad to have the help.”

Voss said he hopes to work toward managing operations and feels more confident and prepared than ever.

“I can use my knowledge, my expertise and the things I’ve learned here, and I can apply them to any business,” he said.

From “GED/HSED grads overcome much on their path to diplomas” — WAUSAU — Jason Wolfgram said he grew up on the “rough south side of Milwaukee, where finishing high school, or even imagining of going to college, was completely unheard of.”

But on Friday evening, Wolfgram, 36, was wearing a dark blue graduation gown and mortarboard, standing in front of his three children and a crowd of fellow GED/HSED graduates, their friends and family members, talking about how he earned his diploma after years of selling and taking drugs and spending plenty of time behind bars. He talked about how he was now working as a welder and taking human services classes at Northcentral Technical College.

Wolfgram was a student speaker at NTC’s commencement ceremony for its GED, or General Educational Development, and HSED, or high school equivalency diploma, programs. He was one of more than 250 graduates receiving the diplomas at NTC this spring.

NTC President Lori Weyers and keynote speaker state Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Stettin, spoke about how important those diplomas are. They stressed that the graduates had achieved a crucial accomplishment that can help lead to a successful life.

“Years ago, it was possible to make a living in this world without an education,” Petrowski said. “Those days are over.”

That’s one reason why Melody Olson, 55, of Colby decided she would pursue her GED. When she was a teenager, “I didn’t like school,” she said. “So I quit, married and had kids.”

Now her three daughters are grown, and she has four grandchildren with a fifth on the way. She moved from Baraboo to Colby to be with her longtime boyfriend, Jim Powell, 59. She said she couldn’t find a job without a high school diploma, but it also simply bothered her that she didn’t have a diploma. So with the encouragement of Powell, she enrolled in NTC’s individualized, self-paced GED/HSED program.

“I thought, ‘I gotta do something,’” Olson said.

Getting the GED has given her confidence, Powell said.

“That was really important for her,” Powell said.

Wolfgram made his decision while serving time in the Marathon County Jail.

“I wanted to make some serious changes finally. I wanted to be a person that my family, mostly my babies, could and would look up to,” he said. “You see, all my life, I have lied my way through applications, jobs, to support my family. I never understood the true meaning, or the feelings associated with receiving a diploma. But today I stand here, before all of you, with what’s accepted as a high school diploma.”

Wolfgram thanked the NTC staff members forsticking with him and helping him earn the diploma.

“Like I said earlier, I’m just the product of rough streets,” Wolfgram said. “The stigma of a violent offender. A drug user. A dealer. Those things are all in my rear-view mirror right now.”

From “New grants in Green Bay to help teen mothers” — GREEN BAY- Green Bay Area School District and NWTC are working together to make sure teen moms graduate high school.

It’s an effort that may benefit the entire community.

Nineteen-year-old Augustina Medina says she wants to give her 18-month-old daughter Isabella the best life possible.

“When you get pregnant, you’re put in as you’re not going to graduate,” Medina said. “You’re not going to get far in life. And that always bugged me.”

Medina says she was supported by family and school counselors after giving birth.

But she still needed to step up her efforts to graduate from Green Bay Southwest High School.

In Wisconsin, nearly half of high school aged mothers do not graduate.

School social workers say one of the biggest barriers to not graduating high school as a teen parent is not know where to go for help. But two new grants are aimed at helping teen parents get their diplomas and go on to higher education.

The first grant: 200 thousand dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It will provide additional academic support, career counseling, and parenting classes.

“We know that a really strong predictor of whether or not a child will grow up in poverty is if they are born to a mother who is a teen and one of the amazing things of the opportunity of this project is by getting more of our teen parents to the post-secondary level, we can potentially take two generations out of poverty,” said Green Bay West High School Social Worker Kim Schanock.

The second grant is from the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation Women’s Fund.

The organization won’t say how much it’s for.

The money will go toward a two year program which will directly connect NWTC counselors with pregnant high school students.

“How can you develop study skills and really learning about how to apply for financial aid, and how to fill out a college application,” said Amber Michaels, the students services manager for NWTC.

Medina now attends NWTC, studying business management.

She hopes other teen mothers will use the new resources in high school to find their own motivation, and provide a better life for their children.

From “Tech schools prepared for changes in GED tests” — WISCONSIN RAPIDS — Mid-State Technical Colleges in central Wisconsin doubled the number of offerings of tests for General Equivalency Diplomas in preparation for changes taking effect Jan. 2.

Those seeking to obtain their GEDs were encouraged to try to complete the process before the changes took hold. Tests often were offered on a weekly basis at the three technical colleges, and Portage and Adams County jails. The main test site is at the Wisconsin Rapids campus; test examiners travel to other sites.

“We started the push, really, about September last year, so we’ve been at this for over a year to try and get people to finish up,” said Jo-Ellen Fairbanks-Schutz, MSTC associate dean of general education for the colleges. “We had an increase of over a couple hundred tests, previous to our big push.”

Last year, more than 1,000 tests were taken between all the test locations; since July, 402 tests were taken, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“There were some areas of the state that saw a very marked increase in demand for GED testing,” Fairbanks-Schutz said. “While we saw an increase, it wasn’t as dramatic as some areas of the state. Madison and Milwaukee were just bursting at the seams; we were able to handle the demand with extra seats available.”

There are a few changes, but there are two major ones — the test will only be available on computer, and the 2002 test series will be replaced with the 2014 series, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“Historically, it’s always been a pen and paper test,” she said.

The 2002 test series had five components: reading, writing, math, science and social studies. The new series will not include the writing component; that will be dispersed into the other four areas. The new structure is based on the Common Core standards and college and career readiness standards, Fairbanks-Schutz said.

“The downside of the changes was if a candidate started testing in the 2002 series, and did not complete or pass the test, those tests cannot be rolled over,” Fairbanks-Schutz said.

The testing is somewhat time-consuming, and advisers often recommend candidates break up the testing cycle, Fairbanks-Schutzs said. Each component takes at least an hour to complete.

The college has a plan for candidates who are not computer literate. The institution has invested in NEO 2 from Renaissance Learning, which comes with a keyboarding program.

“We’ll start the students just learning the basic keyboarding skills while studying the content to get ready for the test,” Fairbanks-Schutz said. “We have another software program that we bought that looks just like the (new) GED and it specifically goes over the computer skills (candidates) are going to need to be able to take the test.

“We’re trying to get it from multiple angles, depending on the skill of the students, to give them multiple options.”

The college’s Academic Success Center also offers preparation resources for students.

The cost for testing also has changed. The 2002 series was $120 for all five tests; the new test will cost $33.75 for each component or $135 total. Retesting is available at $30 a test.

Candidates also have to wait 30 days before retaking the test, so anyone taking a test in December and not succeeding will have to take the test under the new system. The last test dates in Wisconsin were Dec. 5 for the writing test and Dec. 13 for all other tests. The official tests are not available online, according to the MSTC website.

Wisconsin test centers offering computer-based testing include Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Gateway Technical College, according the the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website.

GED changes coming soon

November 7, 2013

From “As new GED test rollout approaches, rush is on” —  Americans who want to finish the GED test are at the 11th hour, before a new version rolls out in January.

The GED tests are changing in January 2014. The new high school equivalency exam will wipe out all incomplete GED test scores from the 2002 version of the exam.

The Chippewa Valley Technical College says if you’ve already passed a portion of the five tests, you must take the writing test by December 5th and everything else by December 13th.

“Any student who hasn’t finished their GED, needs to get into their nearest CVTC Learning Center as soon as possible and complete the remaining tests that they have,” said instructor in Adult Education Services and department chair Jill Mayer.

Mayer said the January 2014 tests are completely different and based on the Common Core Standards. There would be five exams instead of four in the subjects of language arts, social studies, science and math.

“And they’ll be computer based,” said Mayer. “We’ll be dealing with a lot of teaching students computer skills and keyboarding and writing their essays online.”

In the math portion, she said there will be heavier focus on algebra which wasn’t the case before.

The price will also go up.

The current class for the 2002 GED testing series is $90 and that includes all five tests and the credentialing fee,” said Mayer. “And for the 2014 test, it will probably cost about $124.”

Mayer said there are still hundreds of students in the area that have to finish the test. Before the fall semester, she said CVTC had a marketing plan, sending out hundreds of postcards to student who partially took the tests, reminding them to come back and finish it.

And because of the rush, CVTC had to extend hours and double up on instructors for the GED.

One student who wants to beat the deadline is Alan Robertson who wants a change in career.

“I have all of them done except for math and writing, so two left,” said Robertson who began taking the test two years ago. “Earlier this summer I did my science one and the other two was a couple years ago so I procrastinated a little but this year I’m cracking down,” he said.

Robertson said once he gets his GED completed, he wants to continue going to school at CVTC and enroll for classes in welding.

“Something where I don’t have to worry about sitting at a desk all day, kind of a mixture of both, you’re kind of using your head and being physical (as a welder),” said Roberston.


From “Jail educators prep for GED test changes” — Changes are coming to the GED test in Wisconsin that could make it harder to pass the high school equivalency exam.

Willa MacKenzie is the jail educator from Western Technical College. She works with inmates at the La Crosse County Jail, in an effort to help them complete their GED. In 2012 and 2013 about 40 percent of those who started the exam, successfully competed it.

“The thing about the jail setting is they don’t have that outside network of friends to deal with,” MacKenzie. “They don’t have the problems and the addictions in jail so it really is a nice clean, clear time for them to complete.”

Beginning January 1, there will be changes to the GED in the state of Wisconsin. The test will only be administered on a computer, so test takers must have basic keyboarding and computer skills. It will also be harder..and condensed in to four sections instead of five

“We’ve raised the level of things people need to be able to do,” said Chad Dull, the dean of instructional support services at Western Technical College. “There’s very little memorization, it’s more comprehension and being able to respond to text and make an argument.”

While the new test is more difficult, educators say those who successfully complete it are more prepared to continue their education or enter the workforce.

“On the current test, when you write you write a 5 paragraph essay based on a random prompt, which is not a very real world thing to do,” Dull said. “Now you’re going to read things and respond to them in writing which really mirrors more of what most of us do in the real world.”

Mackenzie says many of the inmates she works with have the skills to pass the exam, they just need to know how to apply them.

“What we’re looking for is them to understand something they read, understand what the argument is and use that argument to back up their opinion,” MacKenzie said. “And I think that’s what these people can do in real time and that’s what gets them ready for the work force. So I think those skills together that they already have on board, for survival skills, if we can channel those, they’re going to be good.”

Anyone in the jail interested in completing their GED is able to get in to the classroom 3 to 4 times a week. And Mackenzie says if you started the GED, you must finish before the new test in January, or you will have to start over.



From “WITC offers free adult basic education” — Free basic education classes for adults are available at the Superior campus of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. This summer the Student Success Center in Room 213 is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July 24. Fall classes will resume Aug. 19, and the Student Success Center will be open 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Whether students want to prepare for college, earn their GED/HSED or enter the workforce with confidence, they can brush up on basic skills — reading, grammar, science, social studies, basic computer skills or math — in the Student Success Center. Most courses are self-paced with instructor assistance. Students can enroll any time.

The GED/HSED tests change Jan. 1 to a new computerized testing format. Individuals who have started, but not completed, the current written battery of GED tests, will need to finish by December or start over with the new test. Beginning Jan. 1, students will be required to follow the new computerized testing format.

For more information, call 715-394-6677, ext. 6210.

From “Graduates finish GED before changes to testing” — Madison College GED students graduated Thursday night before major changes are made to testing.

The class that graduated Thursday night is the last to graduate before GED requirements change January 2014. Starting in 2014 the tests will be computer-based and an essay portion will be added.

Students who don’t finish before the deadline will have to start over.

“The students have made quite an accomplishment tonight,” said Jim Merritt, director of testing and assessment at Madison College. “They have worked very hard and some of them have been working at it for years and have felt a little pressure to get done with the changes coming this year.”

For most students, it takes years to complete the degree they hope will lead to better employment.

The ceremony, where 92 students received their degrees, featured live music and a speech from the CEO of the Dane County Boys and Girls Club.

From “Changes to GED program could make it harder to get degree” — JANESVILLE — If there’s an urgent need, somebody will concoct a scam to exploit it.

That’s what’s happening with upcoming changes in the GED, or General Education Degree, the program that helps people get high school diplomas.

The tests that lead to this alternative diploma will change next January. Anyone who has started taking the tests but has not finished by the end of this year will have to start over.

That’s the urgency. Here’s the scam: Shady organizations are offering high school “diplomas,” for a fee.

A local woman recently tried to enroll at Blackhawk Technical College with such a diploma.

It wasn’t the first time, said Terese Tann, the college’s testing coordinator.

Tann said she has encountered this about 10 times in the past seven years. Twice, she’s been able to help.

“I call and threaten the people to give them their money back. I’ve been successful with that,” Tann said.

The diploma mills change their phone numbers frequently and are often offshore, so they often disappear, leaving victims who have paid $250 to $1,300 with nothing to show for it, Tann said.

A General Education Degree costs $75. Classes are free at Blackhawk and other locations around the state. The fee is for the battery of five tests, but a new state grant program will even cover the fee for those who enroll soon.

Tann said some people pass the tests within two weeks, while others can take up to six months.

In Rock and Green counties, more than 1,100 adults have begun the tests but have not completed them, Tann said.

Others might be considering getting their diplomas, but if they wait until next year, they’ll face new tests that are taken on computer.

People without computer skills could find the new tests challenging, but if they start now, they can still take the paper-and-pencil tests, Tann said.

Other differences between the new and old tests:

— Two essay questions instead of one.

— The new tests are aligned to the Common Core Standards, which are supposed to help students be college- or career-ready.

— The new diplomas will state whether the holder is a high performer or something less than that. The current diplomas say only that the person passed the tests.

The General Education Degree program, commonly called GED, has been around since the 1940s. It was started to help military veterans returning from World War II.

Tann said studies have shown that having a high school diploma can make a difference of $1 million in earnings over a lifetime. A college degree adds to that total.

The advantage is not just measured in dollars. It can also be an inheritance.

Tann tells of her own mother, who got her diploma late in life and went on to get a degree at Blackhawk Tech.

Education was always a focus for her mother, Tann said, and all her siblings graduated from high school or college.

“It’s usually just the beginning for families, not the end,” Tann said.

To apply for GED program

People who have not begun the General Education Degree process or who are interested in completing their diplomas this year can attend upcoming information and assessment sessions.

The four-hour sessions will help people determine if they qualify for a free program in which they will take Blackhawk Technical College classes and be able to complete the five tests.

Books, meals and calculators will be provided.

The sessions are scheduled for:

— 4:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in Room 414 at Blackhawk Technical College-Monroe, 210 4th Ave.

— 4:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, in Room 127 at Blackhawk Technical College-Beloit Center, 50 Eclipse Center.

— 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, May 10, in Room G at the Rock County Job Center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville.

— 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, in Room G at the Job Center in Janesville.

An applicant will need to provide a Wisconsin driver’s license or a state identity card.

Those accepted will qualify for classes at the Job Center from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 21-31 or from 4:30-9 p.m. May 29-June 20 at Blackhawk Technical College-Monroe or Blackhawk Technical College-Beloit.

Register in advance for the assessment and information sessions by contacting Wendy Schultz at 608-757-7726 or at

From “BTC grad wins Tools for Tomorrow Competition” — It seems like another lifetime ago when Cory Bloomer was sitting on the couch of his Milton home watching television with little incentive to move when he heard the words of the then little known junior senator from Illinois.

“I’m sitting there just feeling sorry for myself,” Bloomer said recently.

He recalled how he had lost a good job of 10 years as a carpenter helping restore historical buildings and was facing eviction in the economic slump that hit the United States late in President George Bush’s second term.

“I’m watching the news and this guy named Senator Obama comes on and says one way to turn it around is to go back to school and get an education. So I said, ‘OK, Senator Obama, I’ll try it.’ ‘’

Six years later, that little known senator is Barack Obama, the second term president of the United States.

Six years later, that former carpenter from Milton holds an associate’s degree in Individual Technical Studies from Blackhawk Technical College and works as a BTC computer lab advisor helping students weave their way through the school’s computer system.

And that’s just the start of one BTC success story. If Bloomer has his way, the last chapter has yet to be written.

“It was great that I came here instead of going to a bigger school,’’ Bloomer said of his BTC experience. “It empowers you. If a student wants to invest the time here, all the extras you can get here are incredible.’’

Bloomer is an expert on those extras. He was a winner of the Tools for Tomorrow competition at BTC, a $2,000 award that led to his being rewarded with the Industry Innovators Award, one of five students from around the country to nab that $2,000 honor.

Both awards are sponsored by W.W. Grainger, Inc., the distributor of maintenance, repair and operations supplies with its corporate base in Lake Forest, Ill., and with offices in Janesville and Rockford.  The company was founded in 1927.

“Jobs in the skilled trades are vital to the economic health of local communities,’’  Jim Ryan, the chairman, president and chief executive officer, said about the company’s outreach education programs. “These jobs and the people who do them are the lifeblood of American industry.’’

Bloomer’s educational journey serves as a roadmap for those looking to reinvest themselves in the educational opportunities offered at Blackhawk. After receiving his GED at Madison College’s Fort Atkinson campus, he enrolled at BTC and dived into business management, engineering and HVAC courses with the goal of getting into facilities management. He earned academic honors and was president of the Phi Theta Kappa branch at BTC.

“The one thing you learn is how to adapt to change,’’ Bloomer said. “People can be so afraid of change. But people have to learn how to change.’’

Bloomer, 35, is just beginning to experience his taste of the American dream. It is not just for his benefit, either. Bloomer is the father of a 10-year-old daughter and is engaged to Robin Aldrich, who has two children.

“I just decided to go for the scholarship,’’ Bloomer said of the Grainger awards, “and I approached the Grainger rep one day when he was here for a presentation.’’

As part of the Tools for Tomorrow award, Bloomer also will receive a new tool kit from Grainger valued at $2,000. He knows exactly where he will put it.

“I can’t wait to get that tool kit,’’ he said. “I just bought a 2013 Jeep, my first new car ever. The tools are going to ride in the back.’’

The Industry Innovators honor earned Bloomer an all-expenses paid trip to Grainger’s national trade show in Orlando, Fla., in March, when he met Grainger customers and represented the Innovator’s program at a tradeshow booth.

Tools for Tomorrow winners are eligible to compete for the Innovators scholarship. Contestants write an essay and submit a photo, which are reviewed by five Grainger representatives. The selected applications from around the nation then are put to a Facebook vote.

Bloomer thought he had a “leg up” in the Facebook competition because of his computer lab connection at Blackhawk. But then he learned he’d get just one vote a day in the voting system.

“That’s what makes this so neat,’’ Bloomer said. “America had to vote.’’

Bloomer is not finished. In addition to his work in the BTC computer lab, he works 20 hours a week at Patty’s Plants in Milton.

He is continuing his education through an online program from the University of Wisconsin – Superior in a self-designed major he calls Natural Science Survey. He is working toward his undergraduate degree, carrying 12 credits this semester in a program that includes a minor in communication arts. His long-range goal is to find a position as an agronomist in the coffee industry.

“When you see the door open,’’ Bloomer said, “you have to be willing to jump through it.’’

And get off the couch, too.


From “Students could lose test scores in GED change; Western offering help” — Tabitha Bohnert aims high. The 25-year-old La Crosse resident is intent on finishing her GED, with plans to continue on to college and become a social worker.

After more than four years of school, Bohnert needs to finish just one more test in the GED’s lengthy five-test battery before she can move on to the next stage in her education.

She’ll have to take it soon. The test will be administered on computers beginning next year, and students who haven’t completed all five batteries will have to start from scratch.

“I heard that everyone is going to lose their test scores,” Bohnert said. “I figured it’s best to complete it now.”

More than 1,300 Western Technical College students are in the midst of taking the test, which measures proficiency in math, reading, literature, science and English. About 43,000 students in Wisconsin need to finish the GED by the end of the year or face starting over.

The last time the test changed was in 2002. The American Council on Education, the group that owns the exam, wants to make sure GED students are meeting today’s standards for college and career readiness, said Beth Lewis, state administrator for the GED and high school equivalency diplomas.

Not only will the test become strictly computer-based, old content will be swapped out in favor of new questions. The new material will be based on the same national standards used in K-12 classrooms. The so called “Common Core” curriculum controls what lessons are taught in core subjects such as math and reading.

The test format is also changing. One of the five sections in the current GED exam is an essay question, but the new test will be four sections, with written responses included.

The new way requires more analysis, said Chad Dull, dean of instructional support services at Western.

“It’s a much more authentic way to learn,” Dull said. “We think that this new test will be better.”

Changes to the test will ripple all the way down to the classroom.

“You’re going to be spending more time on reading and writing persuasively,” Lewis said.

Programs that offer the GED will also need to prepare older test-takers on how to use computers.

The last day to take the GED in its current form at Western is Dec. 13.

Western officials are offering extra GED test dates before the update. They’ve also sent out mailers and hung posters in an effort to warn students of the deadline.

Students sometimes avoid the tests because they are nervous, or because of a hectic personal life, said Karla Walker, math and science instructor for Western’s instructional support services.

“My biggest concern is they won’t come in,” Walker said.

But Western is trying to speed up the testing process. Students who want to finish quickly can sign up for a two-week “fast track” program in May and August that includes prep time, practice tests and the entire five-course battery of exams.

“Give us a little bit of your time,” Walker said. “And we will help you there.”


From “GED changes post obstacle to degree” — Samantha Morrow spends two days a week at the Learning Center at the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Chippewa Falls. She is preparing for her fifth and final exam to obtain her GED, or General Education Degree. After that, she will enroll at CVTC for a degree in law enforcement, search and rescue.

Morrow, 25, plans to finish her final test in math next month. But other GED students who haven’t completed all of their testing by December will have to start over.

That’s because the GED Testing Service is updating the requirements for the GED test, which is expected to further engage critical thinking skills with more short-answer questions. In addition, the tests will be online only.

Since 2002, GED seekers have been required to take a series of five tests in reading, writing, math, science and social studies, with the option to take the exams on the computer.

They are given an indefinite period of time to complete the five exams and generally have to wait 90 days before retaking the exam if they fail.

Of the 102 students at the learning center in Chippewa Falls, 52 of them are working towards their GED.

Amanda Jiskra, CVTC Adult Education Services Instructor, said the majority of those students have completed two or three exams so far. They have until December to complete all of their exams before they are no longer accepted.

“A lot of people are scrambling to get (the tests) done,” Jiskra said.

“We encourage them to finish if they’ve started so their work won’t go to waste,” she said.

The changes will be implemented Jan. 2, 2014.

Jiskra said the motivation behind changing the testing format was to better reflect a high school diploma. These changes will include more algebra, additional critical thinking questions and more essays. The reading and writing portions will also be combined into one test.

“It’s a whole new skill set that the students are going to need to pass this test, which is going to be difficult for older students that are coming back that don’t have the computer background,” Jiskra said.

“Traditionally, GED has been looked upon as not so good as a high school diploma, so it’s a matter of trying to get those numbers the same,” she said.

Jiskra said it’s important for students to get in to the learning center and either finish their tests or begin working on the computer to build up their skills.

“We try to make it a very open environment and reassure them that nobody is judging,” she said. “Our goal is to make students comfortable.”

Although Morrow will likely have obtained her GED by December, she supports the new changes.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling how we’re going from books to now straight to the Internet with everything.”

Jiskra said anyone looking to obtain their GED can call the CVTC Chippewa Falls Learning Center to schedule an appointment.

The students will be tested to determine their grade levels, and will then be assigned individual curriculums that are based on those grades.

Jiskra said that although some students might be frustrated by the prospect of using the computer for testing, those skills are needed.

“It’s a measure of critical thinking,” she said. “It isn’t something that’s just isolated; you are going to need this skills. It’s not something specific that we want you to do just for this test; it’s going to be important in your life skills.”

Morrow said said as soon as she completes her GED, she will head back to the learning center for additional training.

“Besides going into my schooling, I’m still going to be coming back here to learn how to run a computer,” she said.

But the Learning Center isn’t just a place for those preparing to take their GEDs. Jiskra said about 50 students are working on improving their computer skills and their math-related work skills. Some students use the center to prepare for the Compass exam, which is required for entry into CVTC.

Jiskra said the cost of each test will likely increase from $15 to $24, but that is the only cost to students. The orientation, training and preparation is free.

From “Changes coming to GED Program” — MADISON  — There are some big changes on the horizon for the GED program in Wisconsin and across the nation.

Starting in 2014, there will be a new computer-based GED test, which means the current version of the test will expire at the end of this year and people’s scores will expire too.

One problem is 43,000 people in Wisconsin could be affected by this change because if they don’t take the test by the end of this year, they’ll have to repeat parts they’ve already passed.

The Department of Public Instruction says each year, nearly 9,000 Wisconsin adults earn a certificate of high school completion, which can open doors to employment, further education, and opportunity.

“A GED gives adults an option to improve their employment situation or pursue additional education,” State Superintendent Tony Evers said. “GED-completers have gone on to successful careers as engineers and doctors, mechanics and office workers. The GED is a second chance that opens doors to the future.”

According to the DPI, Wisconsin offers adults seven options for earning a GED or high school equivalency diploma (HSED). One of the HSED options includes the five GED tests. All GED and HSED options for Wisconsin are explained during orientation.

The DPI says the new tests respond to changes in education, the workplace, and the world since the 2002 GED Series was introduced. It says the new GED assessments will be based on the Common Core State Standards and other college and career readiness standards.

“My message to those who started taking the GED but haven’t finished is, ‘Get it done. Your future is calling’,” Evers said.

Evers says the deadline for anyone who started taking the current GED series of tests to finish is December 13, 2013.

“The Department of Public Instruction is partnering with testing center, adult basic education, and community-based organization staff; literacy group volunteers; and corrections personnel to reach out and find people who started the current GED series and help them finish before they must start over with the new tests,” Evers said.

The DPI says adults who want to complete the 2002 Series GED must physically go to a testing center to take the tests, but do not have to finish the series at the same testing center where they started.

GED tests can not be taken online, they are only available at an official GED testing center.

From “Opening doors in uncertain job market”  — In kinder job markets, Richard Czaplewski had no problem finding work, even without a high school diploma.

“I started working and making an honest living at age 18,” said Czaplewski, who dropped out his junior year. “I didn’t have time for school, as life went on. Now, I’m finding out that I need to go back to school.”

That realization came earlier this year when the 31-year-old, who had been climbing the ranks at a local printing company, was laid off and suddenly thrust into a different job market.

“Today’s job market is far more competitive,” said Roderick A. Ritcherson, a spokesman for the United Migrant Opportunity Services, or UMOS, which runs one of the largest job centers in the state. “People with a college degree or even an advanced degree are choosing to take lower positions to make ends meet.”

The changing landscape prompted the agency to expand its decades-old GED program, now rigorously preparing adult learners to not only pass the test, but quickly move on to higher education.

“Getting a GED is great, but in order for them to be more competitive, additional education will help them in the long run,” Ritcherson said. “We have found our students are receptive to at least giving it some thought. In the past, they wouldn’t give higher education any thought. Now, we are saying yes you can.”

The new Career Pathways initiative includes an accelerated GED program that takes adults through an intense eight weeks of instruction, using a boot-camp approach.

Along with receiving instruction in the standard areas of math, writing, reading, science and social studies, there is also a major focus on strengthening critical-thinking skills.

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From the Fond du Lac Reporter: “Students celebrate GED, HSED success”— For some high school students, work, family life and other obstacles have prevented them from graduating with a high school diploma.

Students who attended the Moraine Park Technical College General Educational Development (GED) and High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) graduation ceremony on June 16 overcame these obstacles to achieve the first step to educational success.

“To earn a GED, a candidate must demonstrate a level of skill that is rigorous and standardized to all graduating seniors,” said Sandra Huenink, Moraine Park dean of basic education.

More than 300 students completed the GED/HSED program at Moraine Park during the past year.

“This is a milestone to celebrate and enjoy,” Huenink said. “By obtaining your GED or HSED, you have opened new doors to your future and should be proud of your success.”


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