September 12, 2012 1:42:45 PM
Carmen K. Sisson - [email protected]
Changes to the General Educational Development test, commonly known as the GED test, are on the horizon, with a price increase and a revamped test structure designed to assess college and career readiness and mirror curriculum changes in high schools nationwide.
The higher cost, in particular, raises concerns for local and state GED test administrators. The cost for the paper version of the five-part test increased from $40 to $75 in February, and Jan. 1, 2014, the cost will increase to $120, the current fee to take a digital version.
Washington, D.C.-based GED Testing Service is the sole developer of the test, which provides adults with a high school equivalency diploma and was designed in 1942 to meet the needs of veterans who may have enrolled in the military before completing high school.
The company, a joint venture of the American Council on Education and electronic test developer Pearson VUE, says on their website (gedtestingservice.com) that the increased fee will allow them to provide extra benefits to test takers, including more flexible testing schedules, instant "unofficial" scoring and enhanced reporting capabilities.
Darren Jordan, director of the Greater Columbus Learning Center, believes the price increase will be a hindrance, especially for students who may either be unemployed or otherwise unable to afford the cost. Students who fail must pay the fee again in order to retest.
States are allowed to set the fees, but testing centers will only receive $38 of the $120.
In the past, local businesses and individuals offered monetary assistance for students, and Jordan said he hopes they will step forward again to offset the financial burden for students.
The price increase also worries Eloise Richardson, director of adult education and GED testing for the Mississippi Community College Board's Office of Adult Education.
She said states have tried to appeal to GED Testing Service and Pearson VUE, but their objections have been to no avail. They're now turning to the state legislature for assistance with their appeal.
"(GED Testing Service and Pearson VUE) are setting the price, and that's that," she said. "A lot of people are not going to have the money. In particular, someone who has been laid off may not have $120 to come back and retest. That's something that's going to hurt them in getting a job."
Individuals without a high school diploma or equivalent may be able to get a low-paying position in construction, maintenance or custodial services, but most employers these days want to see a diploma, Richardson said.
Changes to the test structure also may complicate matters, especially for students who have passed a few sections of the test, which can be taken one part at a time, but still need to pass the remaining sections.
Every time the test changes, students must begin anew, nullifying their previous scores. The current version of the test was implemented in 2002 and will be administered until December 2013.
The paper version of the test will be eliminated except in special circumstances, which could pose problems for older students who may not be as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts, Jordan said.
The test will also become more rigorous, to align with the Common Core State Standards curriculum, which has been adopted by 45 states, including Mississippi.
The current test takes around seven and a half hours to complete and covers reading, writing, social studies, science and mathematics. The new test will contain four sections, bundling reading and writing under the umbrella of "literacy."
Jamie Lang, a student at GCLC, said she isn't concerned about the increased cost, but she is worried the new test will be harder. She dropped out of school in the 11th grade to take care of her two daughters, but she believes earning her GED diploma will allow her to provide a better life for them.
She has passed four sections of the test, but she still needs to take the mathematics portion. Right now, she's struggling with fractions, hoping to pass the test before the changes are implemented.
Jordan and Richardson encourage current and former students to complete their classes and take the GED test as soon as possible.
"We want them to come see us so we can get busy before the changes take place," Jordan said Tuesday. "I don't want people to have to face these changes at the last minute."
More than 18 million people across the nation have received GED diplomas since the program's inception, GED Testing Services reports.
In Mississippi, an average of 17,000 people take the test, but only around 8,000 pass it, Richardson said.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.