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Wisconsin Literacy’s GED and Literacy Support for TANF-Eligible Parents

Since March of 2016, Wisconsin Literacy provided GED and Literacy support for parents eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Wisconsin Works (W-2) through the Department of Children and Families.  With our statewide leadership and reach through our literacy members, we are uniquely able to help parents throughout Wisconsin improve their literacy skills and complete this basic work credential, a GED/HSED.

Our support to 38 local member literacy agencies in Wisconsin included books and study materials, GED practice test and test vouchers, bus passes or gas cards to ease transportation barriers as well as targeted professional development to participating agency staff.  In 2020, we expanded GED services to justice-involved individuals in both state correctional facilities and county jails.

This past year, 69% of our literacy agency members who tracked household income served individuals with household incomes under $25,000.  Wisconsin Literacy’s coalition members serve the highest need and hardest to reach adult populations, who are experiencing some of the greatest barriers to learning and work.


Below are results from July 1 2016 – June 30, 2020 categorized by:

  1. TANF-eligible parents served, including those in Corrections; 
  2. GED/HSED completers and parents achieving measurable literacy gains; 
  3. Wisconsin Works (W-2) referred parents.

During this 4-year period, we accomplished the following:

  • Average TANF-eligible parents receiving GED/HSED instruction: 731
  • Average TANF-eligible parents attempting the GED test: 202 
  • Average TANF-eligible parents receiving literacy services: 459
  • Total TANF-eligible parents completing the GED/HSED:  1,593
  • Total literacy gains achieved by TANF-eligible parents: 1,515
  • Total W-2 referrals received by GED/HSED and literacy service providers: 1,785  
  • Total W-2 referrals that completed their GED/HSED: 435 
  • Total literacy level gains by W-2 referrals:  206


Since July 1, 2017, we surveyed participating parents to determine the importance of the program in achieving their educational and work goals.  Without this funding, it would have been difficult to complete their GED credential.  Many parents took practice tests and GED tests because they received vouchers that covered the costs.  This eliminated the often difficult decision on gambling immediate family needs against uncertainty in paying for a test they might not pass. They also received updated and personal workbooks and Study Buddies (for justice-involved parents) that allowed them to prepare with more intent, independence and focus.

Testimonials from parents: 

“The most difficult part was focusing, money for tests but I am very grateful to get help from the program and paying off all my tests. [It’s] hard to sit and focus on studying when me as a mother has million things in life, but I have learned to leave things a side and focus because this opportunity is everything and [thanks] to this program I am reaching my goal. Life is difficult, but everything is possible it all depends on how bad you want it.” 

“I am fully Employed as the Men's department Head at Blain's farm and fleet. I am proud that after a few days I was promoted to this position.”

“Thanks to my GED I will get a raise at work. And continue in my work with a better position.”

“At the age of 31, I will be able to say that because of Literary Services and their HSED 5.09 program, I am a high school graduate. I am very proud of that.  My post-secondary plans are to continue my education by entering into an apprenticeship and work in the construction trades. My options are wide open and the possibilities for success are endless because of all that I have learned and accomplished."

Testimonials from member literacy agency:

"The YWCA's GED and HSED programs has proven more difficult for our TANF Eligible learners.  When we made the move to virtual learning in March 2020, many of our TANF eligible students were impacted due to a lack of technology in the home (computers, working phones, etc.) and did not having home Wi-Fi access.  Through this partnership, the YWCA was able to procure 30 refurbished computers for students, which allowed for the continuation of students during this pandemic.  The continuation of our program would not have occurred without the quick actions of Wisconsin Literacy.  We have worked diligently with students to provide computers and assist with connectivity when possible.  This has resulted in increasing participation as remote services continue. I believe we will see an uptick in TANF eligible students in the future due to the Covid-19 crisis.  We will be ready." --YWCA Southeast Wisconsin

"During Safer at Home orders due to COVID-19, learner Andrea began meeting with a tutor via Zoom (made possible through this funding).  As a single mother of 2 small children, her dream is to work in healthcare to provide a better future for herself and her family.  A dedicated and committed learner, she has been meeting with her tutor several times per week via Zoom." --Fond du Lac Literacy Services

"Ana is determined to complete the final component of the GED.  She studies even with 2 children at home." -- Page Forward Literacy Volunteers


This important opportunity for TANF-parents and W-2 clients needs to continue.   Many W-2 participants are required to report hours on employment efforts and time for completing educational gains is often out of reach without more personal approaches.

Wisconsin Literacy’s member agencies are uniquely able to offer personal approaches including customized schedules that respect family and work time and provide individual tutor support or small classes often with on-site childcare.

Our partnerships serve parents most in need of educational gains. These parents already demonstrate a desire to improve their work outcomes by starting out with a solid educational foundation and a chance at family-sustaining wages.  Parents in this program, for the first time in many of their lives, now see themselves as life-long learners, reaching goals they originally thought were far beyond their capacity.