What is the overall impact of the initiative and how is this measured?
The best measurement I can describe is how life changing attaining that grade 12 is to the hundreds of students we have seen through our delivery. The access to sustainable employment and to Post Secondary is changing the trajectory of not only the learner and their families but generations that follows. We know that IALS Level 3 (grade 12) is the minimum requirement in this country to have opportunity. We also know that access to any high school for our remote Northern First Nations communities is not accessible so they must have this opportunity to access this life changing programming. 100% of our students attain and 100% go on to employment or better employment or to Post Secondary programming. We have about 2% of these students that are Apprenticeship goal path; I am always hoping to increase this number.
We meet and exceed our 184 learners served per year. We have a minimum of 3 TVO GED Test sessions per year – a continuum that learners need to complete. Only 3% of our multi-barrier learner obtains all 5-test pass in a single test write session. Most of our students enter with a grade 9 level and require 2 or 3 test sessions (3-month intervals) to successfully pass the Grade 12 equivalency exams. We support our students with all related costs including teacher supported learning environments, multiple resources (never a 600- page GED workbook) and test and invigilating costs. Because we are learner centered students must fulfill their obligations of consistent study and showing up for the paid test sessions.
We are one of only three stand-alone delivery programs in the Province of Ontario with singular funding to the Literacy and Basic Skills Employment Ontario. We are Native Stream defined but serve everyone who needs our services. In 2017 we were recognized with the Federation of Literacy Award for the Province of Ontario for the GED Initiatives and collaborative successes. We are very proud of this recognition – for our learners but also for my dedicated and committed staff.
What challenges have you faced and how were these overcome?
The balance with the Learner. Discipline and commitment is a fine balance with a multi-barrier learner. Supportive to their challenges but consistency to stay focused on the successful attainment. A learning continuum is imperative.
Stakeholder and partnerships were difficult in the beginning stages. We needed to almost prove our statistics before employers would buy into hiring while concurrently completing our programs. Eventually we got there and then our Post Secondary institutions also came on board for concurrent access as well. It is another level of accountability and reporting but we manage to work through it regardless of how long an individual takes to complete.
In 2012 LBS Ontario developed a curriculum framework which changed the foundations from academic priorities to competency training that embedded the essential skills framework. We had to restructure and policy develop to continue the academic pieces within our LBS mandate. So while this particular piece of programming is what I am outlining here, we do multiple programming and so roughly 50% of our learners (184 per year) are in our GED program.
What are 3 key lessons you learned from developing or delivering your initiative? What advice from those lessons would you share with others?
1. If you are going to start it – you must see it through to the finish and there is never an end. Only 3% of learners obtain GED 12 in a first write. Most learners have strengths and weakness. There are 5 tests to GED success – Language Arts Reading, Language Arts Writing, Science, Social Studies and Math.
2. Manage your budgets. If you are going to do this and support the costs associated (test session costs in Ontario are $110 per test write), learning materials need to be multiple and NOT the 600-page GED workbooks. Break each subject down. Break each grade level down – every learner will have a different starting point. Support transportation and child care if you. Your investment in learning materials will be daunting but slowly build that library. For the first years I “borrowed” and photocopied everything I could find.
3. Teacher supported learning environments or mentors or volunteers. Students will not learn sitting by themselves with workbooks; you must commit to helping them and also encouraging them. Asses and test on a constant basis. Show them their progress. Encourage them every day. Quitting is easy so don’t let them. I have agreements with my students and call them on It when they give up. Consistency and discipline – your and theirs.
What are the components of the initiative?
Career and/or educational planning
Job search services
How do you support participant success in the program?
Child care support
Access to other in-house services
After program follow-up support