Greetings from Montana LINCS

  Problems with the links in the email?

Go to the Email Archives in the upper left-hand corner on the home page at

Montana Information

1.   HiSET Blast


HiSET® Program eUpdate | February 2015

Test Center Reminders

2014 Returns:

Please return your 2014 HiSET® testing materials to ETS, if you have not yet done so. All 2014 test books and answer sheets, used or unused, must be returned to ETS along with the Test Book Return Notice. You may not keep these materials for any reason. The 2014 materials cannot be administered in 2015, and scores will not be reported on 2014 materials. Continued use of these materials may result in the closure of your center.

2015 Returns:

You may return any overages or extras of the 2015 HiSET Battery Bundles as well. Please send them to the address below, and clearly mark "2015 Materials" on the box.

HiSET Program
Attention: Pam Cato
Mail Stop 18-P
660 Rosedale Road
Princeton, NJ 08541

Official Practice Test

The Official Practice Tests are available for ordering. Please continue to allow 4–6 weeks for processing and shipping. An updated order form is available on the HiSET Download Library. Please complete this form and send it to Order Services with every order.

HiSET Success – Cedar Rapids, Iowa

After getting involved in gang life at an early age, Ethan Ayers found himself incarcerated at the age of 19. To build self-esteem and better his life for his family, Ayers registered to take the HiSET exam at the Iowa Medical Classification Center (IMCC). Due to Ayers' motivation, determination and encouragement from the IMCC staff and educators, he successfully passed the exam. Read more about Ayers' story.

Does your state or jurisdiction have a HiSET success story you want to share with us and others? If so, we want to hear it. Email Sheri Mayo with details and include "HiSET Success Story" in your subject line.

For more information about the HiSET program, contact us.

Phone toll-free:




Montana HSE Update: January 2015­­­

HiSET Age Waivers:  New Protocol 1/22/15

ETS has implemented a block to underage (16-18) clients when they try to schedule.  The state didn’t have input to the system, but retained the right to override the block. State policy is that ONLY the state can override the underage block. If an underage tester comes into your center already scheduled to test, contact us immediately.

The procedure below is based on our current system and some input from other states.

  •            The process puts 17-18 year old approval in the hands of the local facility and that remains the case with one extra step. You will need to contact OPI for a systems override. The state is only going to permit testing at your request. Please remember to include the test taker’s ETS ID in your email or phone message.
  •            The process for 16 year-old test takers is basically the same, except after the OPI approves the waiver, we will need to override in the system. Please remember to include the test takers ETS ID on the form. A new form will be created, but in the meantime, just write the ETS ID on the top of the waiver.

Margaret Bowles, Adult Literacy and Basic Education Director

Montana HiSET PSA Template 1/14/15

The PSA templates that were requested of HiSET have arrived.

Click here for HiSET PSA template.  This is offered as examples that can  be rewritten, or edited, at your discretion. 


Montana HiSET Resources

Note:  HiSET Webinars

Webinars on content tests are not active.  ETS is updating the webinars. 

Check out the shared resources on the HiSET Resource page at

HiSET Success:  Montana

Do you have a HiSET success story you want to share with us and others? If so, we want to hear it. Email Margaret Bowles with details. Include "HiSET Success Story" in your subject line.

2.   Montana and National News Information

Since so much related information is coming regarding HSEs, Pathways, Standards, and WIOA, keeping track of it is not always easy.

Click here  to access a site that will take you to the most current information without your having to search.

3.   Montana Instruction Ideas

Check out Posting #7, #13, and #17.

4.   Montana Moving Pathways Forward Resources

Click here to access all MPF Resources: 

·        Coaches' Resources

o   Looking at Who Made Targets

o   MT ABE Regional Meetings February 2015

o   MT ABE Regional Meetings February 2015 Work Plan

o   Moving Pathways Forward

o   The Biden Report

·        Regional Homework

·        National Resources

5.   WIOA Update:  WIOA Timeline

WIOA National Update 3/2/15:  More specific information below in Posting #14

A webinar, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Vision and System Update, will be held on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, from 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

You may register for this webinar at this link:

Gail Cope, LINCS Program Management Group

WIOA Montana Updates:

2/20/15:  Vision for the Workforce System and Initial Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014

Our first official guidance for the new law. Please click on the link below to read the vision for implementation; it is only seven pages.  You will be very glad we are working on the pathways partner project and that the integrated data team has already been meeting. 


Dear State Director,

On February 19, 2015, the Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, in collaboration with its federal partners, released the following Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL No. 19-14,  The TEGL, entitled Vision for the Workforce System and Initial Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, lays out the vision for a revitalized workforce system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and highlights a number of actions State and local workforce system leaders can take to begin planning and implementing WIOA prior to the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and publication of the final rule.

In the coming weeks, the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education will be releasing a companion piece highlighting the vision and role of the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act program as a workforce system partner and adult education activities that support opportunities for adult learners. 

Thank you,

Cheryl L. Keenan

Director, Adult Education and Literacy

Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education

U. S. Department of Education

1/26/15:  Federal Register:  New EFL Descriptors

Click here to preview recommendations for new EFL descriptors.

1/9/15:  WIOA Regulations

The document below announces the regulations for WIOA will not be released in January. A spring release is now the target date. OCTAE has not released any statements on the impact on our required due dates. The Montana state WIOA partners have agreed to start meeting in early February to begin our Unified Plan regardless of the lack of regulation release. The common belief is that we need to get started.

I will keep you posted as I receive information.

Margaret Bowles,
Adult Literacy and Basic Education Director

Click here  to access the following:

Montana WIOA:  Chunking Pertinent Information for Montana.

National Information

7. Bookshare Webinar

Taken from LINCS

Please join us for a webinar March 11, 2015, 2:00 – 3:00 eastern. Learn about Bookshare, the world’s largest online library of accessible ebooks for people with print disabilities. Bookshare is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), and is free for all qualified U.S. students of any age. Members enjoy access to a robust and fast growing collection of more than 320,000 books in a variety of genres that can be read using many different devices and applications. For more information, visit If you have not already done so, take a look at the Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States report at Working collectively with projects such as Bookshare directly addresses the strategies outlined in this report to support our adult students’ success.

Presenter: Christine Jones, Senior Education Program Manager, Benetech

To register, click here:

8. Career Pathways:  Making Skills Everyone's Business

Taken from LINCS

Have you read Making Skills Everyone's Business yet?  If not, skim through the information below for an overview.

The full report, Making Skills Everyone's Business, is now available.  This report is based on:

·        a review of the performance and outcomes of state adult education practices

·        an assessment of states' status on various adult education reforms

·        consultations with several nations that have developed national strategies for improving foundation skills of adults

·        a literature review on instructional effectiveness

·        review and analysis of U.S. data as reported in the OEDC report, Time for the U.S. to Reskill, and

·        a nation-wide engagement process conducted by OCTAE leaders that sought input and recommendations from students and stakeholders.  

Making Skills Everyone’s Business, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) describes how the convergence of activity around adult education and workforce fields has the potential to spark a coordinated national effort to address the lack of foundational skills among U.S. adults.  The NSC Leadership Council had the opportunity to weigh in at a special listening session hosted in conjunction with the 2014 Skills Summit. Many of the approaches highlighted in OCTAE’s report are already embraced by NSC members and partners. Read more about the report here.

Gail Cope, LINCS Program Management Group

More Specific Information about Making Skills Everyone's Business

Making Skills Everyone's Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States was released yesterday (February 24) by the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) of the U.S. Department of Education. This important report will change how OCTAE tackles adult education and workforce skills challenges in the U.S. for some time to come. It is a visionary approach and is must reading for everyone involved at all levels of planning and service provision in this field.  

Making Skills sets forth a set of interconnected strategies and goals designed to expand, improve, and coordinate adult skills upgrading in the coming years for both employability and equity purposes. Making the most of WIOA is part of the vision, but collaboration with other federal programs and other kinds of partners is also abundantly in evidence

OCTAE has four broad goals: (1) to increase adult access or upskilling services, (2) to reduce equity gaps between services for youth and adults, (3) to carry out skills activities that are linked to other large quality-of-life issues, and (4) to promote collective collaboration. 

Who Has Low Skills?  Part I of the report draws on the findings of the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) to discuss the groups that have low skills. For example, some 36 million adults in the U.S. have low skills and score below Level 2 on the literacy assessment of PIAAC (see note 1 below).  The skills levels of our adults have "remained stagnant" over two decades, and contrary to the trend in the other industrialized countries that took part in the survey, our youngest cohorts out-perform our older adults only very slightly. About two-thirds of the low-skilled U.S. population, some 24 million adults, are employed. Three million in this group report that they would like to improve their skills but are not currently enrolled in any programs. Another 8 million are enrolled in education/training programs but say they want to do more. 

These general statistics provide part of the underlying rationale for OCTAE's new approach. The following facts are also discussed in Making Skills, providing additional fodder: One in every six adults has low literacy skills. One third of immigrants are low skilled.  One third of younger Americans are low skilled. 35% of blacks and 43% of Hispanics have low literacy skills compared with 10% of white Americans. Children of less-educated parents are more likely to be low-skilled themselves as adults. The learning disabled are twice as likely to have low skills. The majority of those with low skills (more than 60%) have completed high school. Low-skilled Americans are four times more likely to have poor health than their higher-skilled counterparts. The earnings of 40% of low-skilled Americans are in the bottom fifth of the wage spectrum.  And finally, low-skilled Americans are limited in their civic and community participation, to their own detriment and that of the nations.  

The White House Sets Course. Based on PIAAC findings and other evidence, in Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity, the White House issued a call in 2014 for action by both public-sector and private-sector organizations. The plan was based on joint reports from the Departments of Education, Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services, and it was announced by the President in the State of the Union address.

The White House plan calls specifically for: (1) bringing 3 million nearly-ready-to-work adults back into jobs after more than 6 months of unemployment; (2) helping 24 million low-wage, low-skilled adults upskill themselves into better jobs; and (3) diversifying the ways that all Americans can be trained for the half million plus jobs that are unfilled today and hundreds of thousands of others that will soon emerge in information technology and other occupational areas. Its goals have been communicated to mayors and governors across the country.

OCTAE cites the White House effort and two other recent developments as the synergy for its effort to address the low skills needs of adults and narrow achievement gaps for minority groups. The other two foundational factors were the PIAAC assessment and related analyses, and the passage and implementation requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Who Would Benefit Most From Services?  Part I includes an analysis of who would most benefit from higher skills attainment. It does so with reference to the specific and differing gains (e.g., economic productivity and employability, better health, increased family literacy, higher wages, reductions in the cost of healthcare, education, and social services) that would accrue to three categories of people: individuals and families, business and industry, and communities 

OCTAE's 7 Core Strategies. Part II of Making Skills Everyone's Business accounts for about two-thirds of the report. It sets forth in detail OCTAE's seven core strategies for achieving its four goals stated above. 

Each strategy is a priority area of action.  The report gives a rationale and discusses both needs and priorities. An impressive array of efforts already in process are highlighted throughout the document, reflecting commitments not only from OCTAE, but the Department of Labor and other federal departments...the federal Institute of Museum and Library Science and other library, state and regional groups...union groups (which have operated many model service programs for years)...and others. Although some of the models are carried out independently, there is strong emphasis given to collaborative initiatives. 

The exemplary work highlighted in the report not only illuminates a wide array of innovative and committed programming, but collectively it shows many of the new pathways through which significant funding is and can be made available for adult education and workforce skills development across the country--despite the profoundly negative pressures of sequestration on federal budgets at present.  

OCTAE's seven core strategies are:

1.  Act Collectively to Raise Awareness and Take Joint Ownership of Solutions. This strategy focuses on the need for program alignment, goal-sharing across stakeholder groups, and increased awareness; on more funding and more collective impact models; and on strengthening connections between low skills and larger goals such as improving health, economic growth, meeting workforce needs, and family literacy. The strategy includes Title II programs but is not limited to them. [Links are provided to programs already in process to advance this strategy--for example, OCTAE's $1.2 million collective impact immigrant integration model in five sites...Tulsa's Career Advance...Partners for a Competitive Workforce (an initiative in a tri-state region that includes Cincinnati...and New York State's Literacy Zones initiative.]

2Transform Opportunities for Youth and Adults to Assess, Improve, and Use Foundation Skills. This strategy aims to expand and improve access and participation in skills programs for both youth and adults at all levels. It aims to increase access and opportunity through increased use of technology, accelerated program models, prior learning assessments, and such measures. [Links include Institute of Museum and Library Services...Connect ED...DOL's $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program...Jobs Madness...the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare NW Training Partnership...and Digital On-Ramps and other programs of the Mayor's Commission for Literacy in Philadelphia.]

3Make Career Pathways Available and Accessible in Every Community. This strategy aims to make pathways available in every community. It speaks about industry-relevant certifications, job acquisition and retention, professional development, and activities by college, states, regional areas, philanthropy, and the efforts of some 13 federal agencies including OMB. [Links: The Health Profession Opportunity Grant program of HHS...multistate foundation initiatives such as Breaking Through, Shifting Gears, and Accelerating Opportunity...the Moving Pathways Forward and Advancing Career and Technical Education grant projects of by the National College Transition Network developed in New England...and Texas' System for Adult Basic Education Support Integrating Career Advancement.]  

4.  Ensure That All Students Have Access to Highly Effective Teachers, Leaders, and Programs. This strategy focuses on the relationship between teachers and students. It calls for major improvements in professional development, leadership development, curriculum and instructional design, student assessment, and program monitoring and accountability, all essential if students are to have access to high quality programs. [Links: Minnesota's Student Achievement in Reading (Star)..the Literacy Information and Communications System (LINCS)...and work being undertaken by the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council and the City Colleges of Chicago.]

5.  Create a "No Wrong Door" Approach for Youth and Adult Services. A key aim of this strategy is to foster seamless program alignment at the community level. Under WIOA, each state is required to submit a unified 4-year plan that coordinates and aligns services. WIOA also mandates that adult education should represent a quarter of stakeholders at the planning table. OCTAE notes that the unified planning provisions of WIOA are a "game changer." The plans must include alignment at the state and local levels and ties as appropriate to one-stops and other local community resources including WIBS, business and labor, community-based, and adult education organizations. The one-stops are to be the main hubs for education and training at the community level. They and other partners to the planning effort must see to it that alignments are handled in a way that give youth and adults suitable referral information to career and pathways development programs suited to their needs and circumstances. The onus of providing information learners need to make program choices will be on the program providers. 

[Links are provided to: the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (a collaboration of 18 federal agencies)...the Myth Buster series of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council...HUD's new Moving to Work demonstration project...the Performance Partnership Pilots for Disconnected Youth launched in late 2014 and involving numerous communities and several federal agencies...the Welcome Back initiative...the SNAP-E&T program of the Department of Agriculture...and others.] 

6.  Engage Employers To Support Upskilling More Front-Line Workers.  This strategy focuses on the 24 million low-skilled working adults and the role of employers. Among the aims of this strategy are to enlist a higher level of involvement from employers to overcome barriers that low-skilled working adults face in participating in upskilling programs, especially programs offered by business itself (see note 2 below).  Attention is given to blended programs, peer and cross-level tutoring, contextualized and integrated programming, restructuring jobs to include skills progressions, worker scheduling flexibility, and other approaches. [Links: OCTAE's Employer Engagement Tool Kit...Walmart's Career Online High School...the English Works Campaign...the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (which involves several federal agencies)...the Wadhwani Foundation's Race to a Job Initiative...the Community Health Care Association of New York State...and others.]

7.  Commit to Closing the Equity Gap for Vulnerable Subpopulations.  At the core of this strategy is the belief that "we can no longer look away!"  It reflects a sea-change view about this nation's obligation to provide equality of opportunity in education to vulnerable subgroups in the population. The U.S. ranks highest in inequality of all the nations participating in the PIAAC survey, which means that a disproportionate percentage of individuals with low skills are minorities (as the statistics at the outset show). OCTAE calls this strategy "in many ways the most important" of them all. "The ladder of opportunity is broken is too many places. Doubling our skill development efforts for these subpopulations will be key to making sure the economic recovery is working for all Americans."  

OCTAE's most passionate call to action is given in this strategical area.  It calls on philanthropy and the business community to play major roles in "seeding collective action" at the state and local levels. And it lists from WIOA 14 subpopulation groups that have significant employment barriers. Recognizing that the needs of various vulnerable groups require often unique customized interventions, it calls for "focused investments in research, development, and evaluation" to support and identify appropriate interventions and program models. [Links: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correction Education (Rand Corporation report)...New York City's Young Men's Initiative...OCTAE's partnership effort with Benetech...Young Males of Color...Silicon Valley's Alliance for Language Learners' Integration, Education, and Success...the Federal Workforce Innovation Fund, an initiative of the Gila River Indian Community...and others.]

~ ~ ~ ~

In preparing this coverage of Making Skills Everyone's Business, ALP interviewed the Acting Assistant Secretary of OCTAE, Johan Uvin. 

We spoke about the variety of efforts in which OCTAE is already proactively engaged in relation to the report goals. In addition to the kinds of activity noted above, he noted that on an ongoing basis OCTAE is "co-leading the Career Pathways and Upskilling work stream of The Skills Working Group, which consists of 13 federal agencies, the National Economic Council, and the Office of Management and Budget."

We also spoke about the huge funding challenge the field faces as we work to advance adult education and workforce skills development. OCTAE is well aware of this funding need, but we live with the reality of sequestration and he observes that "achieving it is likely to take time and we need to do some things now that lead up to and support that goal." 

"Local, state, tribal, and national organizations and agencies can take a few steps. One is to better align funding so that we can get to greater access with the funding we have. A second step is to leverage and bring together various public and private sector resources. The private sector's investment in education and training is many times the public investment. A third step is to start thinking about using available resources differently. The evidence for certain program models and technology innovations is growing. Some of these innovations appear to get more people to higher levels of outcomes in relatively short periods of time. As the evidence base solidifies, it would be wise to redirect resources away from unproven interventions and towards programs that work."

"In addition to addressing the requirements under WIOA, OCTAE will continue its investments in several of the strategies such as career pathways. We are also interested in aligning our investments over time more tightly with the strategies. For instance, OCTAE acknowledges that there is a need for technical assistance in the area of place-based strategies including technical assistance around collective impact and network development approaches."  

ALP asked Mr. Uvin how state and local groups could best help advance the OCTAE vision and specific agenda. He said: "States can incorporate the principles and strategies of Making Skills Everyone's Business into interagency discussions related to talent development including discussions relevant to planning under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act."

"In addition," he said, "states can work with leaders in business, industry, and labor to expand opportunities for advancement of frontline workers and find ways to backfill those positions with low-skilled job seekers. They can also consider how their State Leadership resources can be used to find new ways of creating opportunities for more low skilled adults to assess and improve their skills."

"At the local level, there are many opportunities. One is to work with employers, labor unions, industry, workforce development and human services partners, libraries, housing authorities, public broadcasting organizations, and others on creating local career pathways that are physically and programmatically accessible. Another option or example would be for a local community to launch a community skills challenge. A third option would be for local providers to create partnerships with employers and unions to expand access to high-quality education and training. These partnerships can create internships and work-based learning opportunities."

Making Skills Everyone's Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States is available from OCTAE. Readers are also encouraged to regularly check for updates in OCTAE's new Blog. OCTAE will use the Blog to report on developments in this initiative, tagging updates with the words "Making Skills" so that readers can easily find new items.

OCTAE's plan is visionary and comprehensive. It distills what we have known for some time and heeds the advice of many informed sources. It is an ambitious attempt, despite federal funding constraints, to put it all together and reach to the future.

This comment in OCTAE's report resonates above all others: We can no longer look away!

Note 1. According to PIAAC, level 2 and below indicates limited ability to engage in text, work in numbers, and solve problems in technology-rich environments.

Note 2.  The February 6th final newsletter issue #50 of the Council for Advancement of Adult Literacy covered a new report just put out from The Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University.  The report, College is Just the Beginning: Employers' Role in the $1.1 Trillion Postsecondary Education and Training, provides information on the currently low percentage of low-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of employer E&T programs.  

Adult Learning Partners

Gail Spangenberg

9. Corrections:  ED Technology Mythbusters & Correctional Education Discussion Begins Monday, 3/9

Taken from LINCS Correctional Education

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s (OCTAE) Correctional Education Reentry Model encourages correctional education providers to use technology to enhance and increase program access. The Federal Interagency Reentry Council has released two myth busters describing how advanced technologies are being used successfully in juvenile and adult correctional facilities to broaden the scope of their education services while maintaining security.

From March 9-13, 2015, join us in the LINCS Correctional Education and Technology and Learning groups for a special Employing Education Technology in Facility-based Classrooms online discussion. This online discussion will focus on:

·        The types of technologies — both hardware and software — being used,

·        How these technologies address security concerns, and

·        Challenges: such as insufficient resources and staffing to purchase, implement, maintain, and monitor advanced technologies.

Aimed at expanding the knowledge and experience of correctional education providers that have or want to employ education technology in their facility-based classrooms, this is an event you will not want to miss.

10. ESL:  Discussion on Helping Adult English Language Learners Who Have Learning Challenges

Taken from LINCS Notice

Click here to review all of the discussion.  Below are a few snippets.

Snippet #1

Question #1:  What are possible overlaps and divergences between promising instructional practices to use with native English speakers with emerging literacy in English versus those to use with non-native English speakers with emerging literacy in English?

I want to address the first one about possible overlapping instructional practices for those with "emerging literacy"-- This is a tricky question.  First of all, the native English speakers already speak the language they are trying to become literate in, so their challenges with understanding the meaning of things are nothing compared to those of ELLs. Similarly, their cultural orientation is not a question either-- they do not have to struggle to understand cultural implications of pictures or reading passages.    Second, a native English speaker who has no literacy is pretty rare, so either this means they are profoundly dyslexic or have some other challenge that has prevented literacy from happening or they somehow were somewhere where education was not available …

… As with ALL adult learners who are NOT at a level of education they want or society hopes for, they could be carrying quite a bit of shame, so huge efforts must be made to guard their dignity at all costs.   This means NOT pairing them with other students who can read or can figure out how to do activities in class-- the better student did not come to class to be a tutor, and it is humiliating to most-- not all, I realize, but most-- students to have to depend on another student and reveal how little they know.  It means NOT isolating them in some part of the classroom, either.   It also means making sure they are able to have variety in their learning while still focusing on the most basic of skills, and both groups need to MASTER those basic skills before moving on to new material …

… Like the non-literate ELLS, the native English speakers need heavy focus on phonological processing skills, particularly on rhyming and hearing syllables and then on phonemic awareness in words.    And just like the ELLS, the native English speakers are easily put off and drowned in the technical language of literacy.  DO NOT use "grammarese" or technical words of any kind.  Do not assume that these students have ANY familiarity with the conventions of writing or language such as punctuation, capitals, writing on lines or in spaces.   Very likely, the non-reading native English speaker has relatively low motor skills, too and could profit from a lot of the activities mentioned in these postings for helping adults gain better fine-motor skills.

Robin Lovrien

Snippet #2

Learning Centers:  Here are the principles of centers:

1. The content is NEED driven-- it is something,as stated above, that students need or want-- it may be content they need to  master for the curriculum your school or program uses and on which they will be tested, as were students in my study, or content they have a personal need for, as did the construction guys.   Activities are designed to give practice in what the student needs, NOT to fulfill a desire to have a hands-on activity in a classroom.

2. The activities are designed to give extended practice and repetition of the vocabulary or skill or language point in question (e.g. question asking with Do; simple past tense forms of irregular verbs, pronunciation of --teen and --ty numbers for Spanish speakers;  expressions of time,  categories of some vocabulary class-- e.g. food containers,  etc.)

3. Activities are always entirely self-checking-- either because answers are provided, or because of the way a game is played (other students monitor with an answer sheet, or groups of cards in Go Fish are color coded, etc. )

Click here to read more about the Learning Center approach.

Snippet #3

LD Label

Another case taught me that lesson all over again-- one of the Sudanese lost boys-- who was assumed to have LD because he was doing so poorly in high school in the Boston area.   One teacher told me he must have LD because he could not understand exponents.   Another said the student could not ever center his work on the computer program they were working on, so he must have LD.  A third told me that he knew the student had LD because he was completely confused by the parts of a cell and the parts of the earth's layers.  This young man had had no prior formal education before being put in 9th grade, but that did not seem to register with his teachers. I worked with him over several years and he told me that he was angry and humiliated that he had been labeled LD because he understood it to mean he could not --or worse , would not-- learn.   In his culture, men can always succeed and achieve and this diagnosis was making him less than a man.  He was devastated and depressed by it and he could not understand why anyone would test to find out if he could learn.  He was determined to learn, and he knew better than anyone that his determination was the real key.     

Finally, after all these lessons and after determining for myself that there is no viable, --dare I say LEGAL-- way to diagnose a non-American born, non-native English speaker using the tools and methods we have in this country, AND after recognizing what I said in the first post-- that there is no special education for ESOL learners anyway, and having learned that telling an ESOL student that he might have something WE call a learning disability can be highly counter-productive,  I have moved away from the disability paradigm altogether.  I prefer to put emphasis on the fact that we STILL have to figure out a way to help this person learn-- after all , a learning disability, if we buy the construct, is NOT retardation.  The person can learn-- just not so well in some areas of learning.    Thus my focus in the last 8 years has been heavily on highly differentiated, personalized, interesting learning instead of focusing on the learning difficulty.  

Robin Lovrien

11. HSE Exams:  The Decennial Scurry

Taken from National Council of State Directors of Adult Education

The Decennial Scurry March 3, 2015/2 

Those of us in adult education are accustomed to the decennial scurry.  To maintain the credibility, relevance and acceptance of the high school equivalency tests, the GED ® Testing Service has historically updated their test every ten to fifteen years.  The “scurry” includes both the anxious months leading up to the introduction of an updated test as we actively solicit adults to finish incomplete tests and recruit additional examinees before “the test gets more difficult” as well as the months after the test changes trying to attract new examinees having just emptied the pipeline of potential examinees …

Click here to read more.

12. HSE Exams:  Math

Taken from LINCS Assessment

[My comments here are focused on math because that is my expertise. I have worked in adult education for 10 years, across many states—as a math teacher, educational researcher, professional developer, curriculum developer, and as a consultant giving feedback on a number of federal adult education projects.]

In my view, there are deep tensions lying underneath the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the OCTAE-recommended subset of those standards for adult education, and the new HSE exams that are being discussed here.

On the one hand, it makes sense that there should be a relationship between what adult learners are doing, and the standards that we imagine are guiding instruction in the K-12 system. It’s important to remember, though, that the CCSS remains an aspiration. We do not have a large share of K-12 students meeting these standards, and we shouldn’t expect to see this any time soon.

The tensions I see in adult education stem from three competing expectations. Firstly, federal/state governments and testing companies want to project that adult numeracy teaching and HSE math tests are “aligned” or are “aligning” over time with the CCSS. Secondly, practitioners and governments believe that adults should not be held to a higher standard than high school learners (who are largely not meeting CCSS standards at present). And thirdly, practitioners and governments don’t want to see pass rates plummet on HSE exams. Simply put, these goals cannot be achieved at the same time.

The testing companies are in a heated battle for market share around the country, and some or all of them are likely tinkering with their tests to reach a “sweet spot” in the pass rate—not too high, and not too low. They can do this on the math test in a few ways. One way is to change the average difficulty of the questions, but there is a tension here because they want to project the image that they are a rigorous test aligned with the CCSS. Another way is to keep lots of difficult content, but change the number of correct answers needed to pass (the cut score). Normally, I would not expect any of the companies to admit that they are tinkering with the average difficulty level of the questions, with the cut scores, or with both of these to reach a particular pass rate, but I think we have this when one of the companies apparently claims that its pass rate will mirror the pass rate on the old GEDTS exam.

Even when company representatives say their math test is guided by a norming study done of high school students, the way those studies are designed gives the company lots of flexibility in how they ultimately set average question difficulty and the cut score.

What we do know is that none of the companies can afford to have a test that becomes known as one that students can’t pass. To avoid this, a company will likely make adjustments so that they are not very different from the pass rates on the other HSE exams. [Of course, there also is an incentive to keep a challenging test that students need to take multiple times to pass, because that leads to more profit from the extra tests students pay for. However, there has to be a limit to how low the pass rate can go before students just give up trying and states decide the test isn’t viable.]

When companies include math questions that reach far beyond the content that has been tested in the past (and that lies beyond the content knowledge of current high school seniors and the adult numeracy teaching force), the only way they can keep pass rates up is to reduce the cut score. A concern is that the cut scores in one or more of these HSE math exams could get (or are already) so low that students will pass the test even when they guess randomly. We don’t want a test that has become so challenging (in terms of the content) that it becomes easy (because a non-trivial percentage of students will pass even when guessing). A math test that can be passed by guessing should never be considered a rigorous test, or one that signals that a student is ready for college. National press reports and what we’ve seen from the companies themselves suggest this may already be happening.

Unfortunately, most state government offices in charge of adult education do not have experts who could demand information from the testing companies and analyze it from a critical perspective. Government-employed assessment and content experts should decide when items test meaningful content, not just when they are statistically reliable. Assessment experts should identify instances when cut scores get unreasonably out of whack. And content specialists should guide the companies on the appropriate subset of CCSS content to assess, and how to do that. Sadly, these decisions have and are being made almost entirely by private companies, with government officials and the public on the sidelines. We are mostly stuck with talking points from salespeople.

I would like to think the field has improved a great deal in one year, and that this explains why current pass rates on some or all of the HSE math tests might look similar to the pass rates on the old GEDTS exam. That’s not realistic, though. I think the pass rates (and how they may be changing) have much more to do with what the companies are doing behind the scenes. And this is unfortunately where we are now in adult education—private companies are in charge of high stakes assessments, and folks in the field (governments included) are on the outside trying to figure out what is going on, and what the best course of action is in our teaching. It shouldn’t be this way.

Steve Hinds, Director, Active Learning in Adult Numeracy (

Adult Numeracy Educator, Truman College (The City Colleges of Chicago)

13. Math:  Pi Day on 3/14/15 9:26:53

Taken from LINCS Math and Numeracy

What a great year to celebrate PI Day!  Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world.  Pi (Greek Letter) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant - the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter - which is approximately 3.141592693...

What makes this year special is that on March 14, 2015 at 9:26:53 am.  You will have the first ten digits of Pi!  3/14/15 9:26:53!  Pi has been waiting a long time for this moment and it will not happen again until 2115.

How will you celebrate Pi day?

Here are some links to some interesting sites about Pi: 




If you plan to celebrate Pi day - please share your plans so that others may celebrate this one in a century day!

Brooke Istas

14. PIACC:  What’s New?

Taken from PIACC Buzz

Click here to access the PIACC Outreach Toolkit.

The PIAAC Outreach Toolkit was prepared by the AIR PIAAC team to make it easier to access and share the 2012 PIAAC data.

Here’s just a  sampling of some of the questions about the proficiency of our adult  population that the Toolkit addresses:

·        What proportion of adults in the United States score below proficient in numeracy?

Answer: Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults ages 16-65 scored at or below level 2 in numeracy, using the OECD definition of proficiency as level 3. The proficiency definitions are found here.

·        What proportion of adults in professional jobs has literacy skills that are below proficient?

Answer: Twenty-four percent of adults in professional jobs scored at or below level 2 in literacy, using the OECD definition of proficiency as level 3. The proficiency definitions are found here.

·        What is the impact of parents’ education level on how well adults score on PIAAC in literacy?

Answer: There was a 57-point difference in average literacy scores (233 vs. 290) between adults who did not have a parent with a high school diploma and adults with at least one parent with a college degree. This gap is significantly larger in the United States than the international average.

·        How well do young adults in the United States perform relative to their peers in other countries in all three skills assessed in PIAAC?

Answer: The average scores for U.S. young adults (ages 16-24) were lower than that of their international peers across all three skills assessed in PIAAC. The score-point differences were 7 points (272 vs. 279) in literacy, 22 points (249 vs. 271) in numeracy, and 10 points (285 vs. 295) in digital problem solving.

·        What proportion of adults who work in the health care industry have low skills in literacy?

Answer: Among adults who work in the health care industry, 50% scored at or below level 2 in literacy. Moreover, six out of fourteen major industries in the United States have higher concentrations of workers at or below level 2 than at level 3 or above in literacy.

15. Technology: – Access Limited in Montana

Taken from LINCS Notice

NOTE Montana! 

Even though access appears to be in Montana, when students call the number, they are told it is unavailable.  Stay tuned for an update!


I have to share how delighted a teacher was this week to learn just how easy it was to set up a modem with a built-in Wi-Fi router. He plugged in the power cable and waited for devices to pick up the signal. Then he walked through how to connect and add in the password on the side of the modem.  Now he can give Internet access to 10 students in his class.  He was using the CLEAR Hub Express available on for teachers and programs for only $39 and $10 dollars a month.  If students have the laptops or tablets, depending on the setting, it can be well worth the dollar a month to give ten students Internet access.

Steve Quann, World Education

16. Technology:  Passwords

Taken from LINCS Technology and Learning

One of the general struggles people have with technology is how to come up with and remember passwords for all the many accounts they have online.  We've all be told not to use anything obvious, anything connected to our lives that other people might know (the name of a pet for example).  When creating a password for an online site there are often rules like you need to include at least one capital letter and a number.  Sometimes you need to include a non alphanumeric symbol and sometimes you cannot use one.  Sometimes the password must be at least 8 characters long, sometimes at least 14 characters long, sometimes exactly 6 characters long.  So any system you come up with is always going to end up falling outside some set of rules somewhere, sometime.  

From the research I've done the best solution is to use a password vault (what's that?) of some sort that will create and remember random passwords for you, so the only password you have to create and remember is the one to the password vault.  But which password vault?  And will it work across all my devices?  I tried Dashlane but it was cumbersome on my phone and I gave up.

I just came across an article on the move to get away from the password Passwords Are Terrible -- And These Companies Want To Kill Them which is interesting although still feels far away from now.  

Here is another interesting article on Four Methods to Create a Secure Password You'll Actually Remember.

Nell Eckersley

 17. Writing:  Paraphrasing

Taken from LINCS Assessment

How do members typically introduce a lesson on paraphrasing? The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University has some useful ideas and exercises for teaching paraphrasing. Has anyone tried these exercises? What are your thoughts about teaching and assessing paraphrasing?

Here's a link to an article that outlines how to teach both paraphrasing and summarizing. The following steps for paraphrasing are included in this article:

·        Replacing difficult vocabulary words or phrases with words the student understands

·        Rewriting lengthy or complex sentences into simpler sentences, or combining simple sentences into more interesting,

·        Explaining concepts and abstract ideas from sentences or passages using more clear and concise wording

·        Translating ideas and information into students' own words.

For anyone who plans to pursue post-secondary education, paraphrasing is a critically important skill to master.

Susan Finnmiller

P.S.  Remember -- if you are having trouble with the links in this email, go to the Email Archives at the top of the MTLINCS homepage at .  Also if you no longer wish to receive this mailing, please let me know!  Thanks!

Norene Peterson
Adult Education Center
415 N. 30th
Billings, MT 59101