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population served in your program.
We serve adults from about
17 years of age to any age upward. The large portion of these at
lower educational levels are from many foreign countries. As the
class levels are higher, it seems that more of the students are
younger and really working to get their GEDs. We also have people
mandated by law to be in school, a large number of those under 21
who recently dropped out of high school. Others are simply adults
who are in many stages of life who want to improve their lives or
get their GED. Class level begins at 0 and goes up to 12.9.
practices in place now.
There is a very
comprehensive orientation program which makes clear the expectations
and advantages of the program. The students are given a preliminary
assessment test (TABE) which helps to place them in the proper
class. They do not pay money until after this point so they may back
out before starting if they feel they cannot finish. They know
expectations ahead of time so they can hopefully do a bit of
planning to be able to remain in the program. They can also
communicate to family or support people about what is going to be
expected so they will also be prepared if there are issues like car
or child care.
The staff members are
friendly and attentive to their questions and needs. The students
are always welcome to come and ask questions, voice complaints, etc.
There is cooperation between
our school and various other agencies which help provide funding for
students. Because there is monthly communication and reporting on
the student’s progress, they can get added encouragement or
exhortation from the agency to keep on and not quit.
We have a scholarship plan
which helps students with class tuition. They must fill out an
application and their teacher must also give evidence that this
student is trying hard, attends class and will not waste the money
spent on him/her. For some students, the money is hard to get so
this eliminates that problem for those who are really unable to pay
but have a great desire to learn.
Our students are not stuck
in one class for the whole year. There are at least 2 or 3 other
TABE tests given throughout the middle of the year. As students
become proficient and get high enough scores, they are moved to the
next class. There are separate math and reading classes so one low
score does not keep them down in both classes. They will know they
are reaching their goal faster and it helps them to feel success.
Teachers have phone numbers
of students so we can call them if they miss class. This helps them
see the interest the teacher has in them as a person.
The office has a person who
will call students who have missed 2 or more classes as well. This
will help to “catch” students who have just gotten into a bad habit
of skipping class after there was a real reason for not attending.
It also helps younger students to know their parents will find out
if they are not in class.
We have a payment plan for
tuition so the students do not have to pay the whole amount of
tuition on the first day. The students can pay as they are able
through the semester so funding is a less difficult issue.
Classes are offered at
different times of day and different days to make it easier for
students to be able to attend class. They may also move from one
class time to another (if there is space) if work schedules change
and they are not able to continue in the class time in which they
began. They don’t have time conflicts as an issue for stopping.
There are computer classes
available for students which they may sign up for outside class
time. Some class times can actually be done in the computer lab (we
share this with the Pikes Peak Work Force Center so it is not always
available). These meet a real desire and need for students. They may
also register at the Work Force Center and get a card which will
permit them to use the large number of computers they have for job
The teachers are all
student-centered. These people teach because they want to do it.
They don’t get high enough pay for that to be the incentive! Any
teacher is willing to help a student if they possibly can. The
teachers are all highly qualified with most almost finished with LIA
requirements and they put these practices into practice in their
classrooms. We have monthly meetings and times to just share
teaching projects or methods which have worked with our students so
we can always have fresh ideas.
We have a VERY BIG
Graduation ceremony at the end of the year for the students who have
received their GED. An important personality from the city is
invited to speak along with school board members, school
superintendent and other important people from the community. It is
held in a large auditorium so family and friends can all come. They
try to have a speaker who also had to work to get his GED but has
been successful and has achieved advanced degrees. There is
reception time with cookies and punch. There is also a time for
recognition of students at every level of the program who have
overcome great odds and worked very hard during the year. They are
recognized and walk across the platform as their names are called.
This gives them the inside picture of what could happen to them when
they receive their GED. Pictures of this event are often published
in a local paper.
Our school district is doing
Continuous Quality Improvement which gives a visual for the students
to see how they are doing.
After each TABE, my students
fill in a sheet which has enumerated the various skills for each
question. They can see their areas of strength and weakness. I keep
a copy as well so I know what we need to work on. They can then
compare from test to test to see progress.
My class members also have a
graph for timed math fact tests. This allows them to see their
progress very graphically. They fill in the bars on the graph paper
to show the number they got right in the time allowed.
3—My own student
My students are about 2/3
foreigners who have been in the U.S. for varying amounts of time.
About 1/3 are older citizens who just want to come back to better
themselves and to be able to get better jobs. A small number are
under 21 and often are single mothers who realize the need to get a
One practice which I have
always done but which I will continue is to really get to know the
students individually. I always try to have all things for class
ready by 15 minutes before class begins so I can just talk to
students about family, problems, joys, things they did over the
weekend, etc. I want my students to know that I really care about
them as just another person. This has been one of the factors which
I think keeps my students coming. We laugh a lot and I laugh at my
mistakes and tell them they need to catch me if I do make a mistake.
My goal here is to make them glad to be in class and to enjoy each
other while there. It is quite informal so the emphasis is on
relationships. I walk around and personally help students during
time to work individually. We try to make class more fun by reading
amusing stories, doing logic puzzles and crossword puzzles and by
having team competitions. Another activity they have enjoyed is my
reading a short “who-dunnit” story and having them try to figure out
how the detective was able to solve the case with the facts at hand.
This helps them with comprehension as well.
A second plan that I have is
to help my students to set some month-long goals in reading and math
in the respective classes. I have made up a form for reading class
where they will write down how many books they will plan to read
during the month. Then there is a place where they can check the
kind of reading skill they want to work on that month. I have also
made a simple page that outlines the ways they can on their own work
on that reading skill. These pages will be kept in a personal folder
to keep in the classroom. Then at the beginning of the month they
will confirm if they met the goal and set a new goal and choose a
skill to work on again. They will list the books read as well so
they can look back to see how many they read. I have a similar plan
for math class. I hope this will give them a personal goal which is
not far off but can be reachable so they will be able to see success
and desire more.
A third plan that I want to
use is to give them a choice list of about 5 items to mark the two
that they think would be most helpful for them at this time. Then we
will use these as the basis for learning for that month. The kinds
of things will be as listed on SCANS or CASAS skill lists. This
should meet their present desires and needs and make them feel the
relevancy of school to their everyday lives. I want to have many
more actual forms, workplace or home kind of projects. Examples of
this will be to practice writing notes to a boss about illness,
taking phone messages to give to another person, planning for a
shopping trip or budget, using a certain amount of available money
to plan a birthday party for a child, etc. We will read instruction
manuals and warranties and recipes and insurance policies, etc.
A fourth plan is to set up a
project as planning a trip and going through the steps as I outlined
in my lesson plan. This will give them lots of necessary skills for
the workplace and life and I think could be enjoyable. I hope they
will see how they can use planning to fulfill more of their dreams.
We will talk about how planning could be carried over into other
areas of life besides just planning a vacation.
A fifth thing I would like
to do is to have a discussion early on in the semester to help them
manage positive and negative forces in their lives (NCSALL article
“Helping Adults Persist: Four Supports”). I think that if they can
see the things that help in their education and also be made aware
of the negative forces working against them that this will help them
have more success. The sharing of ideas and getting support from
others in the group should help to build the community of that
classroom to encourage attendance and mutual support.
Additionally, I plan to do
more personal calling of students when they miss class. The ERIC
Digest No. 76 talks about following up inactive students with phone
calls and I plan to do more of this.
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