NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Northern Berkshire residents who have a goal to further their education in the new year are in luck.
The Northern Berkshire Adult Basic Education Program is offering several new programs this winter and spring, including the chance to take a free practice HiSET test. This new High School Equivalency Testing program (formerly the General Educational Development test) in Massachusetts and is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's High School Equivalency Office.
"There's no fee. There's no credit either. But we'll have staff available to walk you through it and see how you stand," said Corinne Case, an instructor with Northern Berkshire Adult Basic Education, which operates out of an office at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and also offers classes in Adams and Williamstown.
The HiSET replaced the GED only two years ago, Case said, so an opportunity to see what the new test is like before committing time and money to it could prove helpful to many people. For those familiar with the old GED, the new test will present much differently.
"It's a philosophical difference," Case said, likening the new test to the Common Core standards that have replaced other methods in primary education. "It's preparing people to think critically and persevere through difficult questions.
"It's no longer rote memorization. It's teaching people how to think critically."
Those interested in dipping their toe into the test can call 413-662-5330 or 413-662-5310 or visit NBABED's Facebook page. Not only will staff administer the practice test, which is 25 questions and generally takes between half and hour and 45 minutes, they will help adult learners determine their next step - something that's very important, particularly to older adults.
"We also help people make next steps," said program coordinator Thelma Margulies. "It's really a wide range of people who are interested in improving their situation."
They do encourage people under 18 to go back and finish traditional high school, but for older adults, passing the test could get them into a technical program, college or a better job.
"We serve a range of students," Margulies said. "We help students design and consider their goals."
In addition to the HiSET, the program offers English for Speakers of Other Languages/U.S. Citizenship Preparation and Basic Skills; Career Pathways, which helps students explore education and career options, create career plans and improve skills for success; and Bridge to College which prepares students for entering post secondary programs by building college level skills and readiness.
Day and evening classes begin the first and second weeks in January with flexible schedules for adult learners who just might need a helping hand to take the next step.
"Kids have to learn. If they can love to learn, it's a bonus," Case said. "An adult learner must be motivated."
And that's why Case said people should not feel ashamed for needing to continue or complete their education.
"People do feel awfully embarrassed, and the feeling of being defeated before they start," she said. "My philosophy is that everyone can learn. Everyone learns differently. Education can help you have a better quality of life."
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