By Portia Williams
The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), formerly the Ohio Board of Regents, recently named Donna Albanese the new Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) director for the state of Ohio. According to ODHE, Albanese has served as an ABLE program manager with the agency for 12 years. There are more than 600 ABLE sites in Ohio that serve students in all 88 counties.
The program teaches basic skills remediation, GED preparation, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and workplace education, among other services. Albanese has served the ABLE program as a corrections educator, literacy and GED instructor, and ESOL teacher, and also has a wide range of administrative experience.
Albanese said she is motivated by seeing positive changes materialize in the lives of the students.
“Seeing students make positive changes in their lives through education has been my motivation for working in this field for 30 years,” said Albanese. “I’m always going to be a teacher and I see each new job opportunity as a teaching experience.”
Albanese began her career in adult education helping members of the military prepare for their GED. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and her master’s degree in adult education and workforce development, both from The Ohio State University.
Rob Seaman, Scioto County ABLE director, said he believes that Albanese will serve her new position as state director well.
“Donna was our state regional representative for the last three years, and she just came down to do an annual site visit,” Seaman said. “It is kind like a program audit, and it is done every two to three years, where one of the state directors will come in and do that. She has worked with ABLE for many years, and I think that she will do a great job because of her experience. We have been without a state director for about six months now. So, given the fact that they have put someone in place, makes me happy. There were four regional directors that were running the program, but they really didn’t have any leadership at the state level, but now that she ( Albanese) is in place, I think that it is going to be a plus.”
The Scioto County ABLE Program offers GED Test preparation.
“We are continuing to offer the free GED preparation and basic skills classes. We are in the business of helping folks with the GED test, but we can also help with the basic skills classes that they need to be successful,” he said.
Scioto County ABLE offers multiple locations that are conveniently located.
“We do have convenient locations. We’ve had to consolidate some of our programs, so we try to centralize what we have. We have one in New Boston four days per week currently, and at Shawnee State, starting this fiscal year we will have one two nights per week.
Despite cutbacks, Seaman said the local ABLE program continues to progress.
“Compared to where we were, even three years ago when we had several sites,” he said. “We had sites at Minford, we had sites at South Webster, Northwest Local, but we’ve had to consolidate a bunch of those sites. It is hard for the folks that don’t have the transportation, but we are trying to reach into those areas where we can be best utilized. We have started a small program at The Counseling Center.”
In addition to offering free GED prep and basic skills classes, the local ABLE Program provides convenient locations, day and night classes, equipped with highly trained staff.
“We are always doing professional development to help our teachers to prepare the students, so we have a highly trained staff,” he said. “The local staff does a great job in equipping the students for success. Locally, program wise, for the number of students that we serve, we have had great success on the average. Our teachers are doing a great job preparing the students to take the test. They also successfully prepare students for the new computer based GED Test, utilizing technology for instruction.”
The transition from a written test to a computer-based test has been the biggest change for the GED Test, according to Seaman.
“In 2014 the entire GED Test changed. It went to a Pearson Vue testing. They took over the actual test, and the test needed to be updated, it had gotten a little behind. So, the rigor of the test itself needed to be improved,” he said. “The biggest change is that it is now an all computer-based test in terms of the delivery of the test. Obviously, the content is much tougher, it is a much tougher test, as it should be.”
Though the cost to take the GED Test has increased, assistance is available for ABLE Program students.
“A lot of folks are just having trouble navigating the computer based aspect of the test,” he said. “The cost to take the GED Test has increased from $40 to $120, and that has been an obstacle for some folks. One thing that we can offer, is if a student is part of an ABLE Program, we are able to offer a voucher that pays $80 of the $120 cost of the GED Test, so that really helps a lot.”
According to Seaman, funding for vouchers are extracted from the state budget.
“It comes out of the current state budget, and they set aside a certain amount of dollars for the state to use for those vouchers,” he said. “Now, those vouchers are one time vouchers, so we really like for those students to be really prepared. We don’t want them to waste their voucher, or waste their money. We really like to make sure that they are ready to go when they sit down to take the test.”
Scioto County Career and Technical Center and Shawnee State University are two GED Test taking sites.
“We are not a testing site, we are just a preparatory site. We prepare students to take the test, but we can walk them through the procedure to help them get signed up, and get them prepared to take that test,” he said.
Everyone must attend orientation prior to attending a center. Orientations are offfered at Community Action every first and third Monday, the Educational Service Center every second and fourth Monday, the South Central Educational Service Center in New Boston Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, and Shawnee State University Administrative Annex Building in Portsmouth on Monday and Wednesday 4-8 p.m. Attendance will be monitored and reported regularly to Scioto County Court.
For more information regarding the ABLE Program, contact Mandi for an appointment at 740-354-0211.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.