MALTA – At 50 years old, Paula Goral is only one test away from realizing her dream of obtaining a General Educational Development certificate.
But that dream could hit a setback if Goral does not pass the math component of the GED program by the end of this year. The GED will get a makeover in 2014, and students partially through the program will have to start from the beginning in the new format if they fail to finish the five required tests.
For students such as Goral, starting over would mean higher costs, as the price for testing will increase from $50 to $120 plus a $10 charge to receive the certificate. It would also mean a new curriculum to fall in line with Common Core standards being implemented at high schools and testing performed exclusively through computers – an uncomfortable change for Goral.
“There is some anxiety for the older generation when it comes to taking tests on a computer,” she said. “I’m not very good with them.”
Goral is one of 192 students in Kishwaukee College’s adult education program who are in the testing phase of the GED program. Another 180 students are in classes to prepare for tests this year, said Tricia Wagner, director of the adult education program.
Wagner said her top priority is to help as many students who have started testing to finish this year, but there is also an eye on the future. She said there are workshops scheduled for staff to update them on the new curriculum, which will feature four tests instead of five.
Replacing the reading and writing tests in 2014 will be a new exam titled reasoning through language arts. Wagner said the new curriculum would be more about critical thinking and analytical writing rather than memorization and opinion writing. Writing will also be implemented in all the subjects tested.
“It is a necessary change,” Wagner said. “High schools are making higher standards part of their process with the Common Core standards coming, so it’s important adult education changes with it and the GED remains an equivalent to a diploma.”
Although the changes are positive, Wagner said accessibility is a concern, not only because of the increased testing fees but the bump in retake costs. The new fee of $30 a test, for a $120 total, would be applied to any exam students must retake if they fail the first time. Students only pay $5 to retake tests now and can test up to three times a year.
Wagner said there have been discussions on how to financially assist students and she expects the state to offer some supplement, but is unsure of what it would entail.
“Realistically, it’s very likely our students will need more assistance than they have needed in the past,” Wagner said. “We just don’t know what that is going to look like yet.”
Victor Obijuru, a 41-year-old GED student originally from Nigeria, said it would be frustrating to start over after more than a year of working through all but one test. He said not knowing how the tests would be on a computer and what the new courses would entail also made him uncomfortable.
“I’ve come to do what I was supposed to do a long time ago,” said Obijuru, who is hoping to attend Kishwaukee College. “I would not want to start fresh.”
Julie Axelsen, a GED instructor for seven years, said students such as Obijuru are her sole focus before turning her attention to learning a new curriculum. She said students who have invested six months or more in the GED program would be devastated if they failed to finish this year and might not have the motivation to try again.
“My only goal right now is this class,” Axelsen said. “The good thing is there is still a lot of time to finish this year.”
Wagner encouraged those interested in pursuing a GED certificate to take advantage of the college’s free GED preparation classes and consider testing this year. Students generally take between three to six months to complete the required tests.
For more information
For information on GED testing and classes, visit kishwaukeecollege.edu/adult_education/ or call 815-825-2086 ext. 3180.