In the three years since President Barack Obama announced his American Graduation Initiative, many local, state and national projects have been undertaken to help increase college completion. Given that the key to a successful finish is often a strong start, many of these projects and efforts have focused on students’ preparation and readiness for higher education. January 2014 will mark the implementation of one such initiative — a new edition of the General Educational Development (GED) exam designed to ensure that this first step toward a higher education is truly a step up.
When it debuts in a few months, the 2014 GED test will have a new structure and delivery method, along with new content. Instead of the usual battery of five tests, there will be four, with writing incorporated throughout the other subject areas of Reasoning through Language Arts, Mathematical Reasoning, Science and Social Studies. Based on the Common Core State Standards, the test is academically rigorous and demands complex thinking and problem solving.
The 2014 edition of the test also demands students possess the essential 21st century skill — computer literacy. Students will now test exclusively via a computer. Many view this as an additional barrier to completion. One definite challenge of the new system is a significant fee increase. Currently, students register at their county Regional Office of Education with a fee of $50. This test fee will increase to $120 with an additional $10 fee to receive the actual certificate.
Waubonsee’s Adult Education Department has been busy preparing our GED students for both the new content and delivery method of the 2014 test. This fall, the department started offering a GED enhanced course that meets for 16 hours each week. Students study subject area content for three days each week and then use the fourth to get extra help where they need it, with the aid of a tutor and/or the computer lab.
As students work to prepare, so too is Waubonsee’s Center for Learning Assessment, which is a GED test site. With a new online test registration system, technology requirements and security guidelines to implement, staff have been working hard. Ultimately, the hard work will result in increased convenience for test-takers, who will be offered more flexibility than the traditional group testing allowed.
Waubonsee’s GED students, like other GED students across the nation, are motivated by a number of factors — the satisfaction of completing something, the chance to set a good example for their children, or simply the opportunity for a better career and improved quality of life. While these individual goals have always been worth supporting, helping the nearly 14 percent of Illinois residents without a high school diploma earn their GED has taken on increased importance in the context of college completion and the United States’ role in an increasingly competitive global economy.
As Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” For next year’s GED test takers, that first step will look slightly different, but it will still pave the way for a long, exciting educational journey.