The learning curve

MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

There’s a sign that hangs on the wall at the Northeast Learning Center that reads, “There is only one goal…to pass the test.”

Owners Richard Brown and Bonnie Kaye and their staff teach students to pass the High School Equivalency Test.

In Pennsylvania, students can earn a high school diploma by passing the GED or new HISET tests.

The state, in the opinion of those at the Northeast Learning Center, made the GED test more difficult for students to pass, along with increasing the testing fee and requiring the use of a computer.

The test was so difficult that some high school principals and Ivy League students failed it, meaning that Philadelphia public school dropouts had little chance to pass.

The HISET is less costly and is a so-called “paper and pencil” test. Students can use a traditional calculator. It’s a welcome addition for students who failed the GED test.

“The paper test is easier because there’s no switching back between screens,” said Stacie Goldsmith, the Northeast Learning Center’s testing administrator and English as a Second Language director.

The new GED test, which Kaye termed “such a disaster,” was “setting up people for failure.” It was in place for two years before the introduction of HISET, a multiple choice test that is considered a bit easier to pass.

“If you gave up, come back,” said Kaye, the center director. “There’s a new test in town. It’s a great opportunity. We’re really excited. It’s such a wonderful thing. It’s very much like the old GED test. It’s a doable test. People feel encouraged now.”

The Northeast Learning Center, 1928 Cottman Ave., offers morning, evening and weekend classes. Testing began on June 16.

In the past, the center had a pass rate of 83 percent, much higher than the average of 62 percent at other centers in the city.

Brown, the principal, said teachers bend over backward for the students, showing up early, staying late and coming in Saturday mornings for tutoring.

“We have a high pass rate. We’re the best program in the state,” he said.

The curriculum includes English grammar, reading, social studies, science, math and essay writing, and staff said students seem ambitious.

“We act as their advocates,” said testing center manager Carl White.

Kaye, a Lower Merion High School dropout who now has a master’s degree, said some people who don’t have a diploma lie to get and keep a job, but now are on equal footing with high school graduates in the workplace. She said it is “essential,” not just a “luxury,” to have a GED.

People with a diploma can apply to colleges, but can also have a better chance to get a job or enroll at a career school.

Diplomas hang on the walls of the Northeast Learning Center.

“It really changes people’s lives. It is essential today, not optional,” Kaye said. “My goal is to have people move ahead in life. A lot of people depend on this diploma. Without a GED, you can’t go anywhere.” ••

For more information, call 215–745–0141 or visit diplomaphilly.com

Knowledge is power: The Northeast Learning Center, 1928 Cottman Ave., offers morning, evening and weekend classes to teach students to pass the High School Equivalency Test. Pictured are (from left) Stacie Goldsmith, the testing administrator and English as a Second Language director; testing center manager Carl White; and owners Bonnie Kaye and Richard Brown. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO