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Thousands rush to take GED

A new, tougher, more expensive exam becomes effective in January.

The number of Ohioans taking the GED test jumped 68 percent over the last six weeks as students rushed to complete it before a new high school equivalency exam replaces it in January.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, 5,741 people took the GED or General Educational Development test between Nov. 1 and Dec. 16., compared to 3,953 people who took the test during the same time period in 2012.

The increase in test-takers showed people were trying to complete all of their requirements before the new exam goes into effect, said John Charlton, a spokesman for ODE.

The new test will cost more, be fully computerized and be more challenging, officials said.

The cost of the test will increase from $40 to $120.

Ohio allocated $2 million each year for the next two years for vouchers to subsidize the $80 increase for students.

The vouchers will be tied to Career Technical Planning Districts, Charlton said. “We’re still waiting on the specifics of how the voucher will work,” he said.

Approximately 24,000 students drop out of school in Ohio every year, Charlton said.

In 2012, the latest year figures are available, 20,275 people took the GED test in Ohio, and 14,959 passed, according to the GED Testing Service.

Aligning with Common Core

The GED was created in 1942. It was last changed in 2002. GED is changing the test now to better align it with the new Common Core standards which most states, including Ohio, are implementing and to make students more competitive in the job market, said CT Turner, a spokesman for GED Testing Service.

There’s been some concern that the test might be too difficult because more analysis and reasoning will be required, Turner and those who work with GED students said. “The truth of the matter is we’re still measuring high school equivalency in January and it’s still going to be about as difficult as high school students are performing, which hasn’t dramatically increased,” Turner said.

More emphasis is being placed on career and college readiness, Turner said.

A more difficult level, a college and career readiness indicator referred to as GED with Honors has been added, Turner said. Only about 12 percent of students who pass the GED go on to pursue higher education, Turner said.

The computerized format will also allow students to receive results quicker and get detailed feedback on their performance, Turner said.

Studies show students perform better on the computerized test — an 82 percent passage rate compared to 72 percent on paper, he said.

Educators said some students are uncomfortable with computers, which can penalize them in the workforce.

Most companies require applicants to fill out applications online or at a computer kiosk, Turner said.

“Really basic digital literacy skills are really basic literacy skills for today and they are required for jobs. They are required for these college and career training programs that most people will have to go into to get the jobs that are available in Ohio,” Turner said.

More sites added

The computerized test, which must be given at Pearson Vue designated test centers, will be administered in more places, Charlton said. By mid-January, Ohio will have 120 to 130 sites — up from 64 when the test was paper based, according to Charlton.

In addition to more sites, students will gain more flexibility in scheduling their tests because it can be done by computer at any time, Charlton said.

Many students rushed to take the test because they were concerned about paying more and using a computer, said Kathy Trangenstein, chief GED examiner for Greene County.

“I have a few who are very, very nervous about doing the computer test. They haven’t been exposed to the computer and they’re just kind of afraid of it, ’’ Trangenstein said.

Greene County Career Center boosted its testing sessions from two to eight a month in December, Trangenstein said.

She said very few students were turned away and they were able to take the test at other sites.

Terri Bennett, director of the Butler Tech ABLE/ESOL/GED programs, said the school will work with students to grow their digital knowledge.

“We’re actually revising our curriculum to include more and more computer basic skills,” Bennett said.

The cost of going with an online testing company was a big concern in Ohio, said Amy Leedy, adult education supervisor for Miami Valley Career Technology Center.

“The cost increased dramatically and this is a population that is trying to get a high school equivalency and a lot of times those financial requirements are a bigger burden (for them),” Leedy said.

Everyone who takes the new test will be considered a first-time test-taker and can apply for the subsidy, Leedy said.

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