By SALLY SEXTON
Changes are on the make for the GED program.
Beginning January 2014, the test itself will undergo a change, as well as the way the test is administered.
“We understand that the GED is a nationwide test, and what it really comes down to is that this current test was developed in 2002,” Chip Evans, director of Weatherford ISD’s community education. “As standards have changed, the need for a new testing system has also changed.”
Evans works closely with Donnie McGowan, who is over the district’s Adult Education Program, which provides preparation for ESL, English as a second language, and GED testing.
“Our program is a GED preparation program,” Evans said. “We prepare our students by working with them individually at their level of testing, and once they’re finished with us, they go to a testing site, usually Weatherford College, and take their GED test there.”
The new test will unveil a brand new way of taking the exam. Currently, GED tests are paper and pencil, but will soon be computer-based, with students still having to register at the testing facility.
“The actual test is also being redeveloped, and the difficulty of the test will be more consistent with other assessment programs,” Evans said.
One of those particular subjects expected to be more rigorous is the critical analysis portion of the test, which would require students to read a portion and analyze different requests.
“Each passage is between 200-400 words and the new test is going to have passaged from 400-900 words,” McGowan said.
The GED test is broken into various academic components, including reasoning through language arts, social studies, science and math. Each component must be passed, but the student does not have to pass them all at the same time, meaning they can continue to take each subject test throughout a period.
“The big thing about the change is that anyone who has passed some of their tests going for the GED has to pass the rest of them before Dec. 31 or they will have to start completely over,” Evans said of current students.
But McGowan said one of the advantages of switching to the computer-based format is the speed at which the tests are graded.
“Students will know immediately whether they have passed or not,” he said.
Another change will be an increase in the cost of the test, which is currently $90 at Weatherford College for all five sections.
“The costs change depending on the testing location, but I’m expecting to see at least a 50 percent increase in cost for the new test,” McGowan said.
With the changes coming, Evans, McGowan and other members of the Weatherford ISD Adult Education Program have been undergoing training of their own, concentrating on keyboard use and computer skills while attending webinars from other testing services.
“We’re having to change our instructional format so that the students are as comfortable with taking the test as they are with the academics,” McGowan said. “Our staff has been increasing our technology capabilities, and there will be computer skills that the students have to demonstrate just to take the test.”
The GED preparation program, which is completely free of charge to anyone interested in joining, has seen tremendous success in both the GED and ELA portions.
“We usually serve around 350 students in a year, including ELA and GED, but 50 to 60 percent is probably GED students,” McGowan said.
Each student begins with an initial assessment with adult education staff, and from that point, a specific plan is selected for the individual.
“Most people begin their work between the eighth grade and high school level,” Evans said. “Once they begin attending classes and working, we can administer an OPT, which will indicate how they would do on the GED.
“When we reach a level where we feel comfortable, we recommend that they go ahead and take the exam.”
Weatherford’s program has drawn people of all ages, the oldest student being 70. Students may spend 100 contact classroom hours in the program, with that time not including additional studying, homework, etc.
“What we’re dealing with are people who have not achieved graduation through the traditional high school program, and we simply view it as a part of the process of continued education,” Evans said.
Once a student passes his or her GED exam, some come back to Weatherford ISD and get involved with the Next Step Program as a bridge between the GED and college.
“The Next Step Program takes students from the GED to enrolling in college,” Evans said. “We work closely with Weatherford College and help the student work on their academic courses, financial aid and filling out applications. So many times, people don’t understand the financial opportunities available to them.”
For more information on the upcoming changes, go to www.gedtestingservice.com.