With a more rigorous testing process and higher prices, some states are now looking at alternatives to the standard GED process. Will the new test deliver better preparation for life after high school?
A new GED examination is coming to states nationwide, with the promise of better preparing students for the rigors of higher education or the 21st century workforce. The update marks the largest change to the exam in its 70-year history, and not everyone is onboard with the new product – or its higher price tag. Is the new GED a necessity to maintain a competitive workforce in America, or will it price some students right out of high school completion?
Need for Revamping
The Washington Post reports that the new GED examination is scheduled to be introduced on a national level in January, 2014. The exam is currently in a pilot phase in select locations, and has received positive reviews from many who have taken the new test. The test is designed to assess skills and knowledge that are more relevant to the 21st century, including critical thinking skills, a deeper knowledge of mathematics and basic computer literacy.
“The content has been aligned with the Common Core State Standards,” Tiffany Cowie, public information officer for the Florida Department of Education, stated in a report from the Gainesville Sun. “The new test will reflect the knowledge and skills required for current graduates.”
The current GED exam is available in English, French and Spanish. It covers five test areas: writing, reading, mathematics, science and social studies. According to the website for GED Testing Service, the new exam will cover four test areas: literacy, mathematics, social studies and science. The test will involve two written response sections and more short answer responses in science, social studies and literacy.
From Paper to Computer
One of the biggest changes for the new exam is the move from pencil and paper to an online testing version. The new exam will not be available in paper format, so students interested in taking the test will need to have at least a small bit of computer savvy to succeed. The Sun cites a number of potential advantages to the online exam, including:
· Faster access to exam scores, with instant access to unofficial scores
· Time shown in corner of screen to help students track timed sections
· Flag specific questions the test taker wants to return to later
· Can move from one test section to the next at student’s own pace
· Quicker to answer questions on screen than move between answer page and test booklet
Cowie told the Sun that students currently taking the online exam as part of the pilot program are scoring higher on the test on average than students still taking the paper test. Text experts are not sure why the scores or higher, but surmise the reason could be attributed to the comfort level of students taking the tests online, rather than on paper. Because many students taking the GED are teens or young adults, they are more accustomed to working with technology than traditional methods of test taking.
The online testing is also advantageous to the states offering them. Online tests are typically cheaper to administer and take less time to grade. However, the cost of taking the test is going to increase significantly, which could put a financial strain on states that often subsidize at least a portion of the expense for low-income students.
The Cost Question
ABC reports that the rising cost of the new GED exam is leaving some states looking for alternatives for the alternative to a high school diploma. The new GED may cost anywhere from $120 to $140, which is double or more the cost of the current examination. Students that are hard-pressed to come up with the exam fee this year may find the new cost completely out of reach – which makes higher education unattainable as well.
The GED, also known as the General Education Development, is a series of tests that have been considered the gold standard in high school equivalency since the 1940s. Although states have always had the ability to select their own examinations for this purpose, the GED has been considered the national exam for decades. Since its inception, the test has been modified four times to make the exam more rigorous.
This recent change could be considered the most pronounced. The creators of this examination are moving students from paper to computer framework and striving to produce a more rigorous test simultaneously. For the first time, states are exploring other options for testing beyond the standard GED. Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia are looking at options in exams that would fill the same purpose of the GED without the additional expense. Some states also want to be able to continue to offer a paper version of the test, for students who are not computer literate.
“It’s a complete paradigm shift because the GED has been the monopoly,” Amy Riker, director of high school equivalency testing for Educational Testing Service, told ABC. “”It’s been the only thing in town for high school equivalency testing. It’s kind of like Kleenex at this point.”
Students that are currently in the process of taking the GED will need to finish the exam by December 31, 2013, or they will need to begin the entire testing process over again in 2014 with the new format. While states are still considering their options in GED testing, it does appear that the traditional paper and pencil test students have been taking for decades will soon be extinct. Time will tell whether revamped exams will produce students who are better prepared to launch careers or move forward to higher education.
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