GED test overhaul planned for 2014

Students rush to finish current test series
Sep. 11, 2013 @ 03:46 PM

On Durham Tech’s website, a clock counts down the days, to the second, until the GED test undergoes a drastic change.

Local students trying to finish up the current test series must do so by Dec. 15 or watch their incomplete scores disappear to make way for the new GED national testing system.

The GED test, which is a high school equivalency credential for adults who haven’t finished high school, will change at the start of 2014 when it aligns itself with Common Core standards, or state-led educational expectations set for students, and the performance of this year’s graduating high school seniors.

According to Yaneta Sanchez-Brown, the dean and department head of DTCC’s Adult Education and Basic Skills program, the new test will be more expensive and require the college to upgrade its adult education materials, such as books and calculators.

“I think fewer students are going to pass from January forward because we’re not prepared for the Common Core standards,” Sanchez-Brown said. “We’ve been preparing as best as we can but we’re limited as to how much we can spend on text materials.”

The current GED test dates back to 2002, has five sections and costs a total of $35.

The 2014 test has been pared down to four sections and will cost $120. 

Sanchez-Brown said the N.C. community college system will look at testing alternatives next year, such as the Educational Testing Service High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) that will launch in January or the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC), which also will launch in January.  

Megen Hoenk, N.C. Community Colleges spokeswoman, said the System Office is currently developing a request for proposals to decide on a high school equivalency testing vendor for the state. The goal is to have the request drafted by early fall.

The GED test is the most expensive at $120, Sanchez-Brown said. TASC would cost $52 and the HiSET would cost $50.

But the increased cost, said CT Turner, GED Testing Service’s public affairs director, goes with the fact that this is “no longer just the test. This is really a start-to-finish program.”

Turner said the GED Testing Service is encouraging states to subsidize portions of GED testing to help lower the cost for students.

The new system will offer more support before and after the test, said GED senior marketing manager Cassandra Brown, through a new “MyGED” web portal. On this new homepage, students can find local testing sites and study programs, take GED practice tests and view scores instantly instead of waiting four to eight weeks for feedback.

The portal, which is currently in its beta-testing version, will open to the public by late November.

The new “College and Careers” section also will help students figure out their career or college plans after successfully graduating from the GED program. They can locate colleges, explore careers or even take a skills-assessment test to see what interests them, according to GED Testing Service.

The paper-based method has been used for more than 70 years, Brown said, but student feedback has shown that the paper-based method has proved more stressful, to include worrying about illegible handwriting and keeping paper sections organized during the test.

GED Testing Service has seen an 88-percent pass rate with computer-based testing nationwide, compared to only a 71-percent pass rate with paper.

Computer-based GED testing was just introduced to North Carolina in late June, and there are currently only 13 computer-based GED testing sites in the state. Durham Tech is not one of them.

There have been only 75 computerized GED tests taken in the state so far, and students had a 90-percent pass rate, which is about the same as the paper-based pass rate.

In 2012, 15,737 people took the paper-based GED test in North Carolina.

According to Sanchez-Brown, many of her students are taking multiple classes just to finish up their adult education program and GED test by the end of the year to sidestep the increased costs.

Her program at DTCC has seen a slight increase in GED test-takers over the past two years – They saw 171 GED students through the program in fiscal 2012, which ended June of 2012. The following fiscal year, which ended this June, the DTCC program saw 187 GED students through the program, a 9.4-percent increase.

Sanchez-Brown said they have sent out postcards to students who have started but not yet completed the current GED test series. However, they have gotten a lot of returned mail.

About 40 million adults in the United States lack a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Census. Of that number, 1.3 million North Carolinians do not have a high school diploma.

“They are the first to be affected by the economic downturn because they are in jobs most vulnerable to elimination,” said Randy Trask, GED Testing Service president and CEO. “… We need to give adults and these families a fighting chance.

“This is the first time we have dramatically shifted our approach and have focused on the student, not just on the test.”