The Literacy Coalition of Howard County is launching a campaign to help more students get their GEDs.
The organization’s newest strategic plan calls for a more cutting-edge GED program with a student reward system and more hands-on lessons.
The changes will likely go into effect in September, in time for National Literacy Month.
“We have to change with the times,” said coalition Executive Director Bob Stephenson.
The coalition’s last strategic plan was developed in 2002, and it was time for some new ideas, Stephenson said.
He talked with his peers across the country to find out what other literacy groups do and folded some of those ideas into Howard County’s plan.
The county will soon unveil the “Q Student” rewards program. Students who don’t miss any sessions with their tutors and who attend two additional activities each month will be entered into a drawing for prizes.
“It encourages them to stay with the program,” Stephenson said.
The coalition will also roll out a series of seminars designed to help more students learn more quickly.
Volunteers would teach hour long sessions on anything from going to the doctor to fractions and decimals.
“One of the things people here struggle with is fractions and decimals,” Stephenson said. “But if you cook, you use fractions all of the time.”
He envisions a seminar where a volunteer teaches fractions by cooking.
A volunteer is already planning a seminar on idioms for English learners. Stephenson said many of these people have a grasp of the language, but they don’t understand phrases like “hate your guts,” “pulling your leg,” or “spreading yourself too thin.”
There may also be sessions on resume writing and job interviews.
“We think this might speed the learning process up a little bit,” he said. “If learning is moving too slow for the students, they get frustrated.”
If they get frustrated, they often drop out. Student retention is a problem in GED programs across the country, he said.
“Student retention directly affects tutor retention,” Stephenson said. “If a tutor has two or three students who drop out, they get discouraged.”
Stephenson said the proposed changes could have a real impact in Howard County. He said he is thankful for a board of directors that’s aggressive and can think outside of the box.
“It’s an exciting time to be here,” he said. “It’s re-energized me.”
• Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, may be reached at 765-454-8585 or email@example.com.