LEARNING IN THE FAST LANE

By Neo

Steve is looking down at his G.E.D. test booklet. It's his fourth time taking this test. He's mastered three of the five test subjects and he's gazing at the questions - after months of preparation and studying - though it all looks Greek to him.

He's sweating and feeling nauseous. Steve knows that he isn’t going to achieve what he's been working on for so long. He failed and now he needs to do all the studying all over again.  Image courtesy hopeworks.org

Many Americans go through this problem every day. Passing the G.E.D. is no easy task, but it's achievable. Some call it Test Block Syndrome. That's when you suddenly forget what you studied, but it's not that: it is confidence.

Many prisoners incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons have grown up with minimal to no education. Prison administrations recommend that prisoners sign up and complete the G.E.D. program offered in their Education Department prior to release. But even then, a number of enrolled prisoner-students leave prison without attaining a G.E.D. This results in increased recidivism rates.

As a result, the prison-educators at FCC Petersburg have implemented a program that would remedy the problems that Steve encountered. That program is called: Fasttrack G.E.D.

Fasttrack G.E.D. is a program supplemental to the general G.E.D. classes offered on weekdays. At FCC Petersburg, the program is in its third revolution of students. With the extra practice time, students tend to fare much better than those who only participate in the general G.E.D. program.

"The time that this program takes from beginning to end is from 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the work schedule of the inmate and holiday closures," says Robert Rigney, a prison educator and tutor for the Fasttrack G.E.D. program. To qualify for admission to this program, the prisoner-student must pass three of the five subject area tests which are in the G.E.D. examinations, be recommended by a teacher for inclusion, and take the TABE (Test for Adult Basic Education) Entry Examination.

Only two subject specific areas are offered in the Fasttrack program. These are Writing and Mathematics. Studies are facilitated through small groups of two or three prisoner-students, which are led by one educator. These small groups focus upon one or both subjects depending upon the needs of the students. This small group format ensures a relatively fast pace.

Being in the class is no easy walk in the park. Students spend 1.5 hours five days a week with their tutor. The schedule is strict and the instruction intensive. Says one past G.E.D. Fasttrack student who passed the G.E.D. with the aid of the program, "It may seem like too much. I was taking both mathematics and writing, alternating the subjects every other day. I honestly thought I wasn't going to make it, but I walked into that testing room knowing what I had to know to pass, and after four years of struggling, I passed. Not only did I meet my goals, I surpassed them with high scores. Fasttrack really works! I highly recommend it!"

Passing the G.E.D. is not supposed to be easy. In fact, it's supposed to break you and build you back, better and stronger than before. Some pass while some fail, but why not provide every student the tools they need to succeed and pass those five subject area tests? After all, passing the G.E.D. leads to many kinds of continuing education. This could come in the form of the Adult Continuing Education courses, vocational courses, or even college courses. The doors of success open once one climbs over the obstacle of the G.E.D. Though, earning a G.E.D. is not wholly an academic accomplishment, it's a mental success too. To many it shows what they can do when they put their mind to it. To some, this is a first.

In conclusion, the Fasttrack G.E.D. program not only makes passing the G.E.D. tests easier, it provides the very tools students need in order to pass them. Being able to walk into the G.E.D. examination room with the confidence of knowing one is ready, prepared, and versed in the subjects tested, allows one to hold their head high and answer the questions with confidence. And this all leads to a much more successful attempt at the G.E.D. tests.