The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

December 4, 2013

Big changes

GED to impact students, local labor market

The Commercial-News

---- — Changes to the General Educational Development test starting next year could have a long-lasting and unintentional impact on the Danville area.

Next week, the 2002 version of the GED test will be administered on paper for the last time at Danville Area Community College for students who have previously taken the GED test.

“This is their last chance,” Laura Williams, adult education director, said. “You’re going to lose all your gains if you don’t finish.”

After next week the slate will be wiped clean for those who have made previous attempts on the GED before a host of changes to the exam take place starting Jan. 1. Some of the changes include: the GED being taken on a computer; the cost to take the test increasing from $50 to to $120; and the exam becoming more rigorous with students being tested on content standards that are aligned to K-12 curriculum.

To give next week’s test-takers a boost, the DACC Adult Education Department has scheduled two GED cram sessions, one today and a final one that is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. Thursday in Prairie Hall on DACC’s campus.

Tutors will be available for each of the subject areas: reading, writing/essay, social studies, math, science and the U.S. and Illinois constitutions.

The session is a free service and is open to anyone who resides in the DACC district, but they do not have to be a current DACC student to attend. Participants, however, must be signed up to take the GED test on Dec. 10 and 11.

“Anybody can just walk in,” Williams said.

The changes to the GED are not going to affect only students. The Vermilion County Regional Office of Education has been in charge of administering the test on DACC’s campus, but starting Jan. 1 DACC will be licensed by a private contractor to be a GED assessment center.

The assessment center designation has meant that DACC had to buy two-dozen new computers for the center using technology grant money.

“We had to buy all new computers, and we augmented that room to become a computer-based center,” she said.

A computer instructor also was added to the adult education department in the spring because concerns were raised that some adult education students would need to be taught basic computer skills, such as typing, cutting and pasting, dropping and dragging, using a mouse and using drop-down menus, in order to take the GED test.

“As soon as we knew what was happening (with the GED), we got her in here immediately,” Williams said.

DACC staff discovered, though, that most adult education students had some knowledge of computers, so computer skills now have been blended with the core subjects being taught, she said.

According to Williams, the most troublesome aspects of the new GED program are the cost to the student to take the test and the increased rigor of the testing. She said it is her understanding that part of the $70 increase to take the test is going back to the assessment centers at a rate of $5 an hour to offset the cost of hiring staff and purchasing equipment for the sites.

“Being a GED student once myself, I can relate to being that person taking the test,” she said. “I think it’s going to be extremely cost prohibitive.

“It’s really going to impact the area in the long run,” Williams said. “Not only is it going to hurt individuals, it’s going to hurt the community, and there will be fewer people in the labor pool (because of the cost of obtaining a GED).

“If we don’t pitch in, we’re going to perpetuate issues,” she added.

Some organizations and community members are starting to recognize the financial burden GED students will face next year and have contacted DACC with offers to donate money that could be used for GED scholarships.

The test also will become more rigorous next year, which has prompted adult education instructors to change what they teach.

“All of our teachers have been going through content standards training,” Williams said. “Illinois law also requires that GED students are tested on the Illinois Constitution besides the U.S. Constitution. Not all of the states do that.”

Williams noted that the new GED test has at least one positive.

“It’s now an at-will test and you can take it whenever you want. Before, you had to wait to take the test because it was scheduled only once a month,” she said.

Williams said she believes DACC’s adult education department is prepared to help students obtain their GED next year.

“Like it or love it, it’s here, it’s reality and we have to do it,” she said.