January 13, 2013

Educators worried about upcoming GED test changes

Switch from pen-and-paper testing to computer-only, a more detailed scoring system and revised content to better match the Common Core State Standards expected next year

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Changes to the high school equivalency test for 2014 has local and state adult education officials alarmed and confused about what next year will bring.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans Susan Tuthill, Adult Education director, is concerned over planned changes to the high school equivalency test that go in to effect in 2014.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seaman

HOW TO TAKE THE GED IN MAINE

The minimum age for taking the GED is 17, but anyone under 18 must have been out of school for a year or have an "immediate need" as defined by the state, which includes a letter from an employer saying the person will be hired with a GED, a college saying the person would be enrolled or an enlister saying the person would be accepted into the military.

There is no residency requirement or fees.

Candidates must pass the GED pre-test or provide evidence they are prepared to take the test. Local testing centers may provide additional requirements.

Test takers must get an average of 450 or greater in five individual subjects (writing, social studies, science, reading and math). No score can be lower than 410.

If any of the five parts are failed, they can be taken again. There is no required waiting period before taking it again.

The test must be taken at a Maine GED testing center.

For more information on the state's requirements, go to www.maine.gov/education.

Source: maine.gov

CENTRAL MAINE GED TESTING CENTERS

Augusta: Augusta Adult and Community Education

Dexter: SAD 46 Adult and Community Education

Fairfield: SAD 49 Adult and Community Education

Farmington: SAD 9 & Franklin County Adult Education

Gardiner: SAD 11 Adult Education

Jackman: SAD 12 Adult and Community Education

North Anson: SAD 74 Adult and Community Education

Rangeley: Rangeley Community Education

Readfield: Maranacook Adult and Community Education

Richmond: Richmond Adult and Community Education

Thorndike: SAD 3 Adult and Community Education

Waldoboro: SAD 40 Adult Education

Waterville: Waterville Adult Community Education

Whitefield: Union 132/133 Adult Education

Winthrop: Monmouth/Winthrop Adult and Community Education

Source: maine.gov

The General Education Development test, known as the GED, is being revamped after the nonprofit American Council on Education joined with the Great Britain-based Pearson, one of the world's largest publishing and education companies, to create a new GED Testing Service.

The GED test is a high school-equivalency exam, an alternative to finishing high school. States have different requirements. In Maine, a person must be 17 to take the test, although those under 18 must have been out of high school for a year or have an "immediate need," according to the Maine government website.

Whenever a new test is released -- the current version came out in 2002 -- people who have partially completed it must start over the next year. The GED is in five parts: writing, social studies, science, reading and mathematics, and people sometimes do the tests separately over a period of more than a year. If a test-taker fails one of the parts, he can take that part again -- the parts that have been passed still count.

Last week, Susan Tuthill, director of Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education in Waterville, warned Waterville Board of Education members that the GED process as schools know it will end in December.

"We're all terribly upset about it throughout the state," she said at the board's meeting.

Changes to the test include a switch from pen-and-paper testing to computer-only, a more detailed scoring system that will rate the students for college readiness and revised content to better match the Common Core State Standards, which are learning criteria adopted by most states, including Maine.

State and local education officials are still sorting out what it will mean and how it will affect Maine's 80 or so GED testing centers.

State law doesn't allow Maine to charge a fee to those who take the test. Most other states charge anywhere from from $65 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to an average of $150 in California.

Gail Senese, state director of the Office of Adult Education and Family Literacy, which is part of the Maine Department of Education, said the higher expected cost of the new test has the state exploring high school equivalency testing alternatives to the GED. But she doesn't know how much the cost would increase.

Maine spends about $90,000 a year for GED testing, according to Senese. Adult education centers, which conduct the tests, have to pay for staff and a site license, she said.

The revamped GED will cost $120 for the whole test, $24 per subject. GED Testing Service reimburses a portion to the testing site, Senese said.

In 2011, around 2,600 Mainers completed the test and 2,251 passed, according to Senese.

Looking for alternatives

Some states, including New Hampshire and New York, have issued request for proposals for alternative high school-equivalency testing. Both states are looking for companies that can offer computerized and pen-and-paper exams.

Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said the state could issue a request for proposals for a testing alternative to the GED.

"We're just in the process of looking at all of the options," he said.

Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen would make a recommendation about what to do, and the Legislature would ultimately vote on a budget that includes funding for the testing, according to Senese.

State Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, a member and former chair of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, said the one concern he's heard from adult education leaders is the anticipated cost of switching to a computer-based test.

(Continued on page 2)

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