By Erica Ninneman, Lead Education Forward Instructor
After the scramble with the impending transition of the GED test at the end of 2013, 2014 seemed like a different world in terms of both teaching the GED and students being able to pass the GED.
During winter break, I found myself babysitting a student’s kids in order to ensure my student, who had been working on her GED for over five years at Education Matters, took advantage of the last opportunity to pass the Math section. This was the only subject holding her back from receiving her GED. And she got it! Tonette passing her GED was one of the most successful moments in my teaching years in Lower Price Hill. Though this is an example of success, this was not the case for many students. It was the last hour for many people to pass their GED. It was hard for me to watch some students come so close, but just didn’t have another chance to pass once 2014 brought about the test change. As much as I told my students “don’t believe the hype,” I can see why everyone was coming in at the end of 2013, panicking about the GED test changing.
The GED test changed from a not-for-profit organization to Pearson Vue, a well-known school book publishing company that is for-profit. The test changes involved upping the price of the test to $120, but making a voucher system to compensate $80 for the first round of testing. It also gives students two chances to retest, at a $10 cost instead of $40 each. Though the test is now completely computerized, the biggest change was the material being tested.
The GED is now only four sections versus the five of the previous version. Before the GED was a paper based test focused primarily on reading comprehension, with only one five-paragraph response that gave a prompt. Math was primarily multiple choice word problems. The new GED test requires students to be not only comfortable using a computer, but test different response skills. Now students have three sections that require a written response. Each have different expectations than just keeping on topic, and they must use different key terms and quotes from the multiple articles given. Scantrons are now used to grade these responses, which do not give students a fair chance to score even one point out of four.
Due to these changes, I’ve had a few students test. Though the new test allows students to pass a section without scoring on the response, how does that really benefit the student? All the information made available on how to prepare a student for the extended response or short answer has been unclear. I’ve sat with another tutor and picked apart what a perfect response was composed of, but being that there is no consistency in what will be presented on the test, we found this approach not beneficial for our students. We’ve focused on building their language and comprehension skills needed to answer the prompt effectively.
I’m proud of all my students who have committed to the challenge of the new GED. As well as my fellow tutors who have adapted to the new material to teach. I’ve watched Sandra, one of my students, as she surprises herself each time she passes a section of the GED. She’s halfway to completing her GED, and I think she finally understands why I have been pushing her so hard. Mostly because I saw how much she underestimated her own intelligence.
In my opinion, I don’t agree with some of the test changes and wish Ohio would consider how many barriers they have created with the change. But at the same time, I see the importance for the GED to meet the standard of current high school graduates. I will continue to prepare my students for the writing sections and for the GED overall, because it is a necessary step to keep the doors open in their lives. Remember though, it’s all about personal motivation. Education Matters provides the opportunity and support to get you through it. As I tell all my students, “If you want it, you will get it!!”