Standard Adult High School Diploma Task Force

Wisconsin Secondary Credential Pathways

Phone conversation with Beth Lewis

Friday, September 27, 2013

Beth is the state administrator for GED and HSED in the K-12 Department of Public Instruction (among other duties).

Pathways Overview

There are 6 pathways to earn a high school credential in the state of Wisconsin. The main objective of these pathways are to make adults ready for family sustaining jobs upon completion.

5.04 = GED

5.05 = GED plus 4 additional requirements: Civics, Health, Career Awareness and Employability Skills.

There are various ways to accomplish each of these areas:

1. Proof of completing a high school course;
2. Taking a course as an adult,
3. Passing a test to verify knowledge of content or skills

This option is generally for age 17+ who dropped out but are very bright and want to move forward with schooling. Those incarcerated are doing this option while sitting their time.

5.06 = HSED (High School Equivalency Diploma) 22 credits.

Most of the high schools require more than this number of credits. If an adult can prove they have 22 credits and have met all 11 credit requirement areas, they may be granted their diploma. Ironically, Wisconsin has granted their diploma to Minnesota students who move there and have not been able to pass the grad tests in Minnesota.

5.07 = HSED Postsecondary Credit.

This is for those learners who have picked up college credits without a high school diploma. If students earn 24 semester or 32 quarter credits at a college they may apply those to finish off the high school diploma.

This option has been impacted negatively by the Pell Grant’s “Ability to Benefit” changes last year. Fewer students are able to pursue this option.

5.08 = Foreign High School Diploma or College Diploma.

If another country has granted the student a high school diploma it can be translated by a certified agency or individual. If the person is a U.S. Citizen or if the person has completed a civics course and can read, write and speak according to the TABE assessment, they may be granted their diploma through the state of Wisconsin. Beth was unsure of the TABE cut score necessary to achieve this proficiency.

This is problematic at times with students coming from countries where official school documents may be difficult or impossible to obtain.

5.09 HSED via Competency Based Diploma

Originally this was used by English Language Learners and Displaced Homemakers. Currently it is accessed by ELL, those with test anxiety, lower level readers (with a 6-9 grade reading level). Many of the 5.09 participants enter into certificate programs at the technical colleges. They also attend short term trainings. Currently, the completion tests are being reviewed to align with the College and Career Readiness Standards.


Eligibility requirements for these include:

1. 10 days residency or proof of migrant status
2. 18 ½ years of age or proof that high school class has graduated
3. Orientation/counseling session - this includes a basic skills assessment and discussion about the students goals and future plans. A professional must conduct this session. Professional could include high school guidance counselor, Admissions person at local college, etc. This session will help guide an adult to the credential option that best meets their needs and goals.


Each program submits their curriculum and annual the approval is updated. Shopping around is a concern since there is no state-wide standard curriculum or graduation standards. Beth would like to see this change and make this credential more portable.

The minimum cut score to enter the Competency Based Diploma Program is a 5-6 grade reading level. There are no exit cut scores at this time.

There is no formal template or rubric for approving programs. Programs submit a proposal to Beth. She is looking at what grad standards they are using or aligning with. A main concern is that a person going through a 5.09 program will be able to get a family sustaining job and move on to the next step in their pathway with this diploma.

These procedures are currently under review to make them more standardized.


Of the 10,000 people who earn a HSED credential each year about 5,000 are GED (5.05) and the other half are the other categories combined. There are less in the foreign diploma category and more in the GED+ (5.06) category.

State Staffing

There is one part-time GED/HSED administrator and a full-time assistant. There are many partnerships that work well together to administer programs. The role of the Administrator is to approve programs, monitor them, provide technical assistance, and produce certificates.

Local Programming

Programs offering these options are typically community-based organizations, technical colleges and correctional institutions. Programs are typically aligned with GED testing centers.

Structure of the program varies. Most are led by a chief examiner, education director, or head administrator. In addition, programs have counselors and instructors.

Assessments vary locally. There is currently no alignment between their college entry assessment and their high school assessments.


Workforce development funding funds the programs with some additional literacy funding. Any organization can apply for 5.09 programming approval. Many use partnerships to get the program approval.

Additional Notes

Geographic areas are not served equally. Many areas may not currently have a 5.09 option.

Sites that do not have managed enrollment and run open/drop-in centers have much poorer results, like in the program at Madison’s technical college. On the other hand, sites like in Milwaukee’s community based organizations that have managed enrollment and HIRE Education (a partnership with funding from United Way) are showing significant promise.