Computerized GED update will be harder

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published January 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 16, 2013 at 1:20 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Wanda Smith works on a math lesson while studying for the GED exam at the Arkansas Workforce Center in Malvern. Beginning in January 2014, GED testing will take place at a new testing center on the College of the Ouachitas campus, and the test will be given on a computer.

— Stephen Schoonmaker, president of the College of the Ouachitas, said the school will have an important message to share with adults who have started studying for the General Education Development test.

“There will come a time this spring when we will need to advise those in the process of taking their GEDs that they should quickly finish,” he said. “If they have started but are not done by next January, they will lose the parts they have done and will have to start over in 2014 with the new GED.”

In 2011, it was decided that the 2002 version of the GED that is supposed to be equal to a high school diploma would be updated in 2014.

“The new, more rigorous GED test will be aligned with the Common Core of State Standards,” that has been adopted by most states, including Arkansas, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.

“That will assure colleges, universities and prospective employers that adults who have passed the GED tests are prepared to compete and succeed in a global economy,” Broad stated in an announcement about the new test.

“The GED test is undergoing a significant change in Arkansas and the entire country,” said Janice Hanlon, GED administrator for the Arkansas Department of Career Education.

The major obvious change is that the new test will be computerized.

“Basic computer literacy is a must for most anyone who hopes to get a job or advance in today’s work environment,” Hanlon said. “Our adult-education student centers are already helping students with computer literacy and will incorporate those skills into their GED preparation classes.”

One of the major GED testing institutions in the state is College of the Ouachitas in Malvern.

“On a yearly basis, we have from 1,500 to 1,700 people,” said Blake Robertson, COTO vice president of adult/workforce education.

The school trains adults to take the GED and administers the test in Hot Spring County at the Malvern Workforce Center, at the Grant County Adult Education Center in Sheridan and through the college’s adult education part-time programs in Leola and Bismarck.

Robertson said the process starts with the Test of Adult Basic Education or TABE.

“The test is an assessment of the education level of the adult,” he said. “It can be at the lowest levels, which is basic literacy, or it can be equal to the 11th or 12th grade. The TABE makes the lesson plan for the GED so it is not too easy or too hard.

Schoonmaker said the College of the Ouachitas GED program is unlike school classes because it is geared to the schedule of busy adult life.

“It is open entry and open exit, and is not really a class per se,” he said. “It is flexible so that someone can come in as long as we are open and get the support they need to study for the test.”

Robertson gave a tour of the GED classrooms in Malvern, where people study by themselves using the resources of the Adult Education Center.

“There are no talking heads, no teachers instructing them, but someone is available to help and direct their studies and offer encouragement,” he said.

One of the reasons for the GED update, Schoonmaker said, is that the GED has not been valued the same as a high school diploma by the military and some major employers, as well as by colleges.

“It is an unfortunate misunderstanding that the GED is not equal to a high school diploma,” he said. “With a GED student, you know someone has proven they have a good grasp of basic knowledge and skills for success.”

To aid students in preparing for the new computerized tests, Robertson said, there are special classes for basic computer literacy, including a new program created and sponsored by Microsoft.

“These programs are especially for older people who are interested in earning their GED but are not comfortable with computers,” Robertson said. “The tests have always been paper and pencil, but that is changing.”

Another major change will be that the new GED test will include a new feature that will indicate college readiness.

“I am a strong supporter of seamless education where someone can move through those transition points in school when it seems the work gets harder, such as between the seventh and eighth grades,” Schoonmaker said. “I want the new GED to help make new college students or new employees more able to move comfortably with this nontraditional scholarship.”

In the past, the state of Arkansas has paid for the GED tests, but Hanlon said the new tests will cost more.

“I sincerely doubt that Arkansas will be able to bear the entire cost of the test, starting in 2014,” she said.

Until then, the preparation for the GED and the test are free to Arkansans through adult education centers around the state.

For more information about the GED tests and where they are administered in the Tri-Lakes region, visit the website of the Arkansas Department of Career Education at www.ace.arkansas.gov and click on Adult Education, or call Blake Robertson at the College of the Ouachitas at (501) 332-0235.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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