How do you move people on welfare into jobs to support their families when the breadwinner lacks either a high school diploma or GED? That was the challenge facing community college adult educators and workforce development professionals in North Snohomish County. For their solution, the EAGER program — Entry, Assessment, GED, Employment and Retention — Everett Community College and its partners received a Governor’s Award for Best Practices in Workforce Development.
Everett Community College uses computer programs that enable students to work at their own pace with support from an instructor to increase math, reading, and comprehension skills. At the same time students develop good work behavior, and CASAS eTests recently contributed to that process. Rather than “bubble” their answer sheets as part of assessment testing, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicants at Everett Community College were generally eager to give CASAS eTests a try. They know they’re not only being evaluated; they’re practicing a marketable skill at the same time.
CASAS eTests includes practice tests for students to brush up on the necessary computer skills — nothing fancy such as highlighting or dragging — just the basic point and click. When students feel comfortable, they’re ready to begin. “Several months into the computer testing process everyone was quite familiar with how to use it,” says WorkFirst Coordinator (and one of the EAGER program developers) Marilyn Abrahamson.
Abrahamson and her team evaluated the reading and math skills of approximately 60 people each week from July through December. Test results helped them place learners into appropriate programs. “We were amazed every day at how easy and efficient it is to use CASAS eTests," Abrahamson reported. "It has really helped us process all the people we had to test. The Department of Social and Health Services in the State of Washington submits daily lists of 20 or more TANF parents. We test three days per week ... and all my instructors say... ‘Thank goodness for computerized CASAS!’"
In addition EAGER success rates are very gratifying. Results of the initial pilot showed 68 percent of participants had received their GED, and 55 percent had found employment within one quarter after completing the program. The average time it took each student to get the GED was 2.5 months. The response from TANF recipients has been overwhelmingly positive. Without the program they wouldn’t have had the perseverance to try to get the GED. In addition the attention and support they received from their instructors and their new-found self-confidence have spurred them on to further success.