April 13, 2012 in City

Changes will make GED test harder, more expensive

Exam will be computer-based
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Olympia Samoilov, 48, takes a science test Wednesday at Spokane Community College. The test is one of five that will qualify Samoilov for her General Educational Development diploma, which she has been working on for several years.
(Full-size photo)

Fast facts

• History: More than 17 million people have earned a GED credential since 1943.

• Current cost: In Spokane it is $15 for each of the five sections of the test: mathematics, reading, writing, science and social studies.

• New system: Without subsidies from the state, test takers will pay $24 per section.

Chelsie Hill hopes earning a GED diploma will bring her a step closer to achieving her goals.

She wants to pursue post-secondary education, but Hill, 17, dropped out of high school her junior year after getting a bit behind when she became ill.

“I missed a lot of school,” said Hill, who took a portion of the General Educational Development test Wednesday at Spokane Falls Community College. “I passed most of my classes, but it just became overwhelming.”

The test she took will look much different starting in 2014. Changes are coming for GED testing in Spokane and nationwide, drawing concerns from some college officials.

The American Council on Education is collaborating with Pearson, a company that produces education materials and tests, in a public-private partnership on the creation of the new GED test. Among the changes, the test will be computer-based, possibly more expensive and likely more difficult.

“It’s a lot different than a written test,” said Kyla Bates, GED chief examiner with the Institute for Extended Learning, part of Community Colleges of Spokane. “We’re encouraging people to get their GED before the change goes into effect if they’re concerned about that.”

In Spokane the test now costs $15 for each of the five sections: mathematics, reading, writing, science and social studies. Under the new system, without subsidies from the state, the test taker will pay $24 per test directly to the GED testing website. Testing centers, such as the Institute for Extended Learning, will receive $5 of that per hour, per test.

Additionally, the state has the option of raising the price further to cover the cost of administering them.

“Our concern as an institution is that a lot of the folks that need their GED don’t have income because they can’t get a job until they have their high school diploma or GED,” Bates said. “And they struggle to pay for every single one of those tests.”

However, she said, it’s too soon to know exactly how much test takers will pay, with factors like how much the state will subsidize the cost still up in the air. The content of the test will change, too. The new version will have two performance levels: one to measure high school equivalency, the other a career and college readiness endorsement.

“They’re really talking about how this is actually going to be more comprehensive for folks, helping move them toward their post-secondary training and careers,” Bates said. “It’s still going to, obviously, measure high school equivalency, but they’re also adding the opportunity to demonstrate career and college readiness through a new endorsement.”

Despite concerns that a computer-based test will be unfair to those who aren’t as computer-savvy, computer skills are increasingly being seen as part of basic literacy, said CT Turner, a spokesman for GED Testing Service, a joint venture of the American Council on Education and Pearson.

“We feel that adult learners really need basic technology skills to be successful after earning their certification,” Turner said. “Technology is really being integrated in every facet of life. Everything is having some interface with technology. For them to have no basic technology skills is really doing them a disservice.”

Those who need a refresher prior to taking the GED can pay $25 per quarter for a prep course through Community Colleges of Spokane. That class soon will focus more on basic computer skills and include computer-based practice tests.

The new test also will include “enhanced scoring” capability, Turner said, which will give the test taker more specific feedback more quickly “so they could immediately go back and start studying in the specific areas where they need some additional developmental work.”

Turner said the new test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led effort that assures colleges and employers that adults who pass the GED are prepared to succeed.

“Right now on the test, it’s all multiple choice or it’s an essay,” he said. “It will be a lot more varied in the types of questions people are getting, what they look like.”

While the test is moving from paper to digital, test takers will still need to take the exams at one of more than 3,000 testing centers in the U.S. and Canada. So far, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Louisiana have switched to the new tests, Turner said.

More than 17 million people have earned a GED credential since 1943, according to the American Council on Education.

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