Obtaining GED Becoming More Challenging

Obtaining GED Becoming More Challenging

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By Damon C. Williams for the Philadelphia Tribune

According to the Center for Literacy, there’s no better time to attain a General Educational Development test certificate – or GED – than the present, because starting on Jan. 2, 2014, the high school equivalency exam will go through certain changes and reforms, including making the test more challenging academically while raising the test fee from $70 to $120.

On top of that, the new test will require takers to possess some form of computer knowledge, as the traditional pen-and-paper paradigm is being replaced by a computerized version.

“GED Testing Service announced last September that the current version of the test — the 2002 Series GED test — will expire at the end of 2013, along with incomplete test scores,” said Center for Literacy Chief Executive Officer Michael Westover. “We want to make sure that everyone who needs to know about this important change is aware and takes full advantage of this window of opportunity.

“Since 2002, many students have been able to pass the five sections of the test knowing the equivalent of 10th grade work. The new GED test will require mastering 12th grade work,” Westover continued. “As of this date, we don’t know the specifics about all the new content that we will be required to incorporate, but students will be tested on more specific knowledge of civics and American history. There will be more science, and the new tests will include higher level math, such as algebra, geometry, and some trigonometry.

“This is why supporting teachers is the key initiative. Making these changes is a hard thing to do. But if not now, when? Who is it going to help to delay making the change?”

As currently arranged, the GED test has five sections, and while each can be taken separately, all five sections must be passed to earn the certificate; new national academic standards for the GED test will kick in next year.

“Each student has to complete all five parts of the test in the same manner. If they have passed some tests on paper, they must complete all parts of the GED test on paper,” explained CFL Director of Education Stephanie Korber, noting that the center also created the “Future is Calling” program to guide students through the process.

“They cannot mix-and-match paper tests with computer testing, so we want in-progress students to make that part of their planning, and register to complete their GED tests at centers which offer the paper tests. We can assist students on how to do that,” she said.

Reaching the city’s masses of GED-eligible potential students can be a daunting endeavor, as it may require the tester experiencing a change of mind regarding education, among other factors, including time away from the classroom.

“Many of our students have been outside of the school environment for decades. So, when we admit them, we have to talk to them about homework and making sure they can get here on a consistent basis,” Westover said. “Then, if they’re going to utilize their GED test credential, we have to help them envision what happens after graduation and plan how to organize their schedules and support systems to permit them to get to work or college, to anticipate childcare, to think about the right clothing for a job interview. Taxpayers recognize the need for underwriting the classroom work. But we have to turn to outside funders for the necessary dollars to supplement this customer service, which is also critically important.

“We need to be able to truly say that each student is better off when they leave than when they came in,” Westover added. “And that Philadelphia is better off because 1,500 people are on course toward better jobs and the opportunities that come with higher education.”

To help with what will sure to be an influx of test takers, the CFL and Community College of Philadelphia have individually created programs to help deal with the coming influx of potential test-takers. CCP is hosting a series of GED classes from June through September, and potential students can call CCP at (215) 751-8376 for more information or to register; those interested in the myriad of CFL’s GED-centric programs can call (215) 474-1235.

“We want them to understand that the GED is not the end, but rather the beginning,” said David E. Thomas, CCP’s dean of the Division of Adult and Community Education, who recently convened that “College for a Day” college prep program. “In today’s difficult economy, employers often require entry-level workers to have occupational certifications. Many employers no longer offer in-house training programs.”

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