Many Texans don’t know that the GED (General Equivalency Degree) will be updated in 2014. Several elements of the exam will change significantly from the way the test is taken to the subjects it covers and the aptitude it measures. These changes will pose some challenges to the community of non-profits and organizations that serve at-risk youth and young adults seeking the General Equivalency Degree.
So why should you care? Ideally, as human beings, we would care because we believe that ultimately, as a society, we all do better when we all do better. But if that isn’t compelling enough consider this: Those who successfully achieve a GED will earn more money over the course of their lifetime. They will lose fewer jobs. They will exit poverty at a significantly higher rate, they will cost the city less (in the way of services and public assistance) and they will contribute (economically) more – much more, over a lifetime. At the cost of about $1,000 per prep class. But new. tougher requirements may tax a system that is already breaking with need, especially here in Texas.
Instead of completing a paper exam, every student will now take the test on a computer at a certified testing location, and while this may seem insignificant to some people, the reality is that many test takers will not have adequate experience or exposure to enough computer education to make them comfortable taking the exam in this way. Test-takers will need solid computer skills and a general level of practical experience navigating a digital interface.
The very name of the exam implies high-school equivalency, but the new test will designate test-takers as being prepared for college or for the workforce. This very critical change will mark many who fail to achieve their GED or who never try to take the GED at all, as even less qualified for American jobs. It will also distinguish where someone placed on the exam. One test-taker may score ‘college ready’ while another simply qualifies for ‘workforce capable.’ On the one hand, this will allow test-takers to set specific goals and to work towards those while studying for and completing the GED process. On the other hand, it will also increase stratification among already taxed groups of people trying to carve out some pathway of (economic) mobility in their lives. This change will also tax free or low-cost GED programs trying to work with large numbers of students.
The new exam will have four (instead of 5) sections: Math, science, social studies and literacy. The general consensus from those in the know is that the exam will have more small writing pieces. While the old test had one essay section, the new exam will have a variety of questions that demand shorter and longer written responses. The written component will continue to be a challenge for bilingual GED candidates whose primary language is not English. Organizations offering GED prep will need to supplement and boost their ESL work with test-takers.
As we move closer to the date the exam will change, we need to work together as a community to look at how we are providing more bilingual, cost-effective options for young people in need of a GED.