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February 25, 2013

Changing GED spurs push to finish line

Adult education center urges students to take current GED test before it’s replaced next year

With a new, more rigorous GED test coming next year, local adult education administrators are pushing adult students to take the test as soon as possible.

The nonprofit American Council on Education, partnering with for-profit education publisher Pearson PLC, is rolling out the 2014 General Education Development test with tougher elements based on the federal Common Core education standards.

State legislators are considering other ways to award high school equivalency diplomas, since the test will be almost double the cost of the current 2002-era test. In the meantime, those who’ve started the GED process are being urged to finish it by the end of the year.

In Cass County, 18 percent of adults 25 years and older don’t have a high school diploma or equivalent, according to data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

“Our number one concern right now is those students who have previously taken the GED but maybe haven’t passed a section or two,” said Tami McMahan, director of the Cass Logan Educational Attainment Resource center in Logansport. “They only have until the end of this year to pass the current GED and if they don’t, they have to start all over.”

The center offers adult GED preparation classes. It can register adults for up to 10 GED tests per month, she added.

Since CLEAR launched in October 2010, the center has administered 177 GED tests. From that, 17 of the center’s classroom students have failed to pass at least one of the five sections of the current GED test. Another 37 adults who registered for the tests through CLEAR without first attending the center’s preparatory classes have also taken the test without passing one or more sections.

CLEAR is urging those students to “close out” their tests, McMahan said, “just trying to get them to come in, get a couple classes, polish up on what they didn’t pass.”

The center charges most students $60 for each test. Two tests per year are sponsored by a local sorority and the Region 4 Workforce Board of WorkOne funds a few tests each year.

Should the cost of a high school equivalency diploma rise, McMahan said, “I think that’s going to be a huge challenge.”

“We have students that can’t afford it at $60,” she added.

Some of those students are eligible for a test sponsored by WorkOne, which paid for 13 tests during the 2011-2012 school year for students pursuing full-time employment through WorkOne services, according to Region 4 board chief operations officer Deb Waymire. “We’ve not had to turn anyone down because of funding,” she said.

While the current GED test is a pencil-and-paper test, the new one will be computerized and will embed writing-related assessments within other content areas.

CLEAR will not be a certified testing center for the 2014 GED test, McMahan said, unless it comes up with a little under $1,000 for certification through the testing service.

But whatever changes come down the pike, McMahan doubts they’ll hurt efforts to improve local educational attainment.

“A lot of times there’s panic in the unknown, and right now there’s a lot of unknowns,” she said, adding that staff at the state workforce development office are putting significant time and research into their decisions.

“I think in the end that, while we may have some bumps along the way, I think we have the support at the local and state level that we can work through those bumps,” McMahan said.

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

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