Friday, January 03, 2014


GED switching to tougher, computer-based tests in January

By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News |

File - Sibusiso Kunene works at a computer during a General Educational Development test preparation class at the Sonia Gutierrez Campus of the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in Washington Oct. 22, 2013. Instructors Rosemary Downing, left, and Kaylin Wainwright, right, circulate to help students. Test takers will have to use a computer instead of pencil and paper in January when a new version of the GED test is rolled out AP Photo — Carolyn Kaster, File

Posted: 12/25/13, 5:43 PM PST | Updated: 1 week, 1 day ago

Known for decades as a second chance for dropouts, the popular high-school equivalency test known as the GED is about to undergo a historic overhaul to better prepare adult learners for college or the workforce.

Beginning Jan. 2, the company that administers the General Educational Development test will jettison the paper-and-pencil exams and the multiple-choice questions that rely on rote memorization. Instead, adult learners will have to demonstrate computer and critical-thinking skills in a series of online assessments covering literacy, math, science and social studies.

The new exam has been updated and improved four times over the years, but this latest upgrade is being touted by GED executives as the most significant and far-reaching.

“GED Testing Service has built a new comprehensive program — not just a new test — that will ensure that adults have the skills they need to be prepared for jobs and also for essential college and career programs,” said company President Randy Trask.

In addition to the change in format, the 2014 test will be aligned with the more rigorous math and English standards taking effect next fall at public schools around the country. Testing officials said they wanted to ensure the GED certificate carries the same value in every state while remaining on par with the diplomas being awarded to today’s high school graduates.

The overhauled GED also includes a new scoring system that helps adult learners determine whether they’re ready to enroll in college-level courses or pursue training for a higher-level job.

Despite the improvements, its $120 cost will be significantly less for most California test-takers, many of whom had to pay $200 or more, depending on the school district where they took the test.

Districts like Los Angeles Unified, where GED preparation classes are a key component of Adult Education programs, are beefing up their lessons so students will be ready to take the more rigorous equivalency exams.

“We know that the new GED is based on the Common Core, and we have been working on revising our curriculum, including the GED preparation course,” said Monica Balbuena, who has been chief examiner at the district’s GED testing center for six years. “We are reviewing new preparation material and software that will allow our students training to prepare for a computerized assessment.”

Linda Bardere, a spokesman for San Bernardino City Unified, said the district has added a basic computer class to its curriculum so that adult learners will be prepared for the test.

The GED was launched in 1942 by the nonprofit American Council on Education to help returning World War II veterans jump-start their careers. It evolved over the years to become a lifeline for highs-school dropouts, with some 800,000 adult learners nationwide taking the test each year.

In March 2011, ACE announced a partnership with educational publishing giant Pearson, launching GED Testing Service as a for-profit enterprise. Pearson is now in charge of administering the GED, which can only be given at computer centers authorized by its Pearson Vue division.

“ACE had a long-term vision of online testing but didn’t have the resources,” GED spokesman Armando Diaz said. “Pearson is on board with this vision, and brings the network and expertise in computer-based testing.”

Under the new system, the GED can be administered only at computer testing sites certified through Pearson Vue.

San Bernardino City Unified has registered to become a Pearson Vue center, and there are other testing facilities in Baldwin Park, Cerritos, El Monte, La Puente, Riverside, Rowland Heights, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Lancaster and Palmdale.

But Los Angeles Unified said it has no plans to seek certification as a Pearson Vue center, although it administered the outgoing equivalency test. Instead, it is waiting for the state Department of Education to adopt another equivalency certificate provider in the hope of continuing its paper-and-pencil option.

“A paper-and-pencil format maximizes the number of locations and the number of test administrations the district can provide,” Balbuena said. “Computerized testing reduces the opportunity for the students to take the exam because the infrastructure in not available to support it at current testing locations. It also compromises the students’ ability to demonstrate their skill set when they are not comfortable with the computer and lack the keyboarding skills needed to write an essay.”

State regulators say they are reviewing other equivalency vendors, such as CTB McGraw-Hill, and hope to have an alternate exam approved by March.

GED officials, meanwhile, say that a pilot of the computer-based tests showed that students finished faster, passed at higher rates and were more likely to retake a failed test. They insist that basic computer skills are critical to succeeding in the workforce.

And unlike the outgoing system, students can take the battery of tests at their own pace, with a pay-as-you-go option, which GED officials said resulted in significantly higher scores when the program was piloted.

GED Testing Service spokesman CT Turner said more than 700 people nationwide have already signed up to take the new test.

“Nearly 80 percent of the vacant jobs in California demand skills beyond a GED or high school diploma,” Turner said. “There’s a gap of over 100,000 jobs sitting vacant because people don’t have the education level to fill them. We have to make sure that our adult students are successful. We don’t have a choice.”

GED Test Overhauled; Some States Opt For New Exam

by Kimberly Hefling,  The Associated Press from NPR |

January 01, 2014 4:38 AM  ::  WASHINGTON (AP) — The GED test, for decades the brand name for the high school equivalency exam, is about to undergo some changes.

On Thursday, an upgraded GED exam and two new competing equivalency tests offered in several states will usher in a new era in adult education testing.

The GED (General Educational Development) exam was created in 1942 to help World War II veterans who dropped out of high school use college benefits offered under the GI Bill. This will be its first face-lift in more than a decade.

The revamped test is intended to be more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed for college and today's workplaces. The new test will only be offered on a computer, and it will cost more. What consumers pay for the test varies widely and depends on state assistance and other factors.

Even before its launch, officials in many states have balked at the cost increase and at doing away with paper-and-pencil testing. At least nine states — New York, New Hampshire, Missouri, Iowa, Montana, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine and West Virginia — severed ties with the GED test and adopted one of the two new tests that are entering the market. Three others — Wyoming, New Jersey and Nevada — will offer all three. Tennessee will offer the GED test and one other, and other states are expected to decide what to do in the coming months.

That will leave test takers, adult educators and states grappling with new questions: How do you best prepare students for the tests? Which is best, by price and quality? How will the tests be accepted by the military, employers and colleges?

The advent of new tests has sent thousands of test takers rushing to complete sections of the old test they had left incomplete. Once the upgrade happens, the old scores of "partial passers" will no longer be accepted.

"Angst is the good word" to describe this time in adult education, said Lennox McLendon, executive director of the National Adult Education Professional Development Consortium.

Marty Finsterbusch, president of ValueUSA, a resource organization for adult learners, said he fears there will be a lot of unintended consequences and he's worried about adult learners "getting caught up in the crunch of this." For example, he said, he wonders what will happen to someone who partially passes a test in one state, then moves to another state that doesn't offer that type of exam.

"The system will work itself out eventually, but how many people are going to get hurt in the meantime?" Finsterbusch said.

More than 700,000 people took the GED test in 2012. The average test taker is about 26, and many people seeking a high school equivalency diploma are poor. Nationally, about 40 million American adults lack a high school education.

The GED test has been owned by the nonprofit American Council on Education since its inception.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of ACE, said that when it became clear a new test was needed she wanted it to include materials that would help test takers better prepare for the exam and get linked to resources that would help them plan. To do that ACE enlisted a partner, the for-profit company Pearson Vue Testing. The new test can make results available quickly and collect data that will help teachers better understand how their students did on the exam, so teaching can be adjusted.

The changes to the GED test opened the door for states to begin looking for alternatives, and two vendors responded.

One was Educational Testing Service, a nonprofit that also administers the Graduate Record Examination. It developed a high school equivalency exam called the High School Equivalency Test, or HiSET.

The other was CTB/McGraw-Hill, a for-profit company that is helping states develop assessments of Common Core standards, which put an emphasis on critical thinking and spell out what reading and math skills students should have at each level. It developed a high school equivalency test called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC.

Both say they offer a quality test at a lower price. They also allow their tests to be taken without a computer and are open to accepting the scores of GED test takers who have partially passed the old test that recently expired, as long as their state approves.

Amy Riker, national executive director for HiSET, acknowledged that both new vendors have a lot of work to do to educate people about the new exams.

Broad, from ACE, said she likes the idea of competition and said it "will keep everybody on their toes."

In Lowell, Mass., Ben Morrison is a GED test instructor at the United Teen Equality Center, which works with former gang members and others doing on-the-job training and GED test preparation. Morrison said that whatever is ahead, his center will adjust its program because the equivalency diploma is critical for the job prospects and self-confidence of the youth it works with.

"We know that having that credential will make our young people more employable," Morrison said, "so regardless of what test it is that they need to pass to get that credential, I can look at it and pull it apart and figure out how to get them through."


fox in the schoolhouse: There’s money to be made!

"When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching."

- Rupert Murdoch

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