Education
4:33 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

As N.H. Drops GED, Students Urged To Complete Program

Itziury Zamora is a student at the Nashua Adult Learning Center and is taking her GED.
Itziury Zamora is a student at the Nashua Adult Learning Center and is taking her GED.
Credit Sheryl Rich-Kern, NHPR

This week, New Hampshire became the third state in the country to announce it will no longer use GED Testing Services for its high school equivalency exams.

Beginning in 2014 , the state is moving to Educational Testing Service, also known as ETS.

And instructors are urging the more than 1,400 adult learners in the state to finish their GED exams before the end of the year.

Otherwise, they’ll have to face starting over with a new test that will be harder to pass.

GED has been the brand name for high school certifications for almost 70 years.

But that’s about to change.

Last year, many states like New Hampshire began looking for alternatives when the nonprofit American Council on Education sold its GED testing services to the for-profit company Pearson Vue.

The upgraded GED testing service also spiked its fees to $125, almost double what New Hampshire students pay. And it decided to offer its test only on computer.

The exam from Educational Testing Service will cost less, although the state hasn’t set the new fee.

Affordability is a big reason the state is switching. 

But Steven Reid who works at the Adult Learning Center in Nashua says it’s also good that the new test will offer a choice between computer and paper-based exams.

It’s not a problem for a lot of the younger kids who have grown up their entire lives working on a computer: most of them would opt for the computer-based test. It’s some of the students who don’t work on computers all the time, who don’t know the keyboard and can’t necessarily type an essay. They would have a very difficult time with this test on computer.

Compared with a couple of decades ago, today’s high school curriculum has a stronger focus on technology, science, and math.

And computer skills will be a necessity for many students’ futures.  But Reid says they shouldn’t be required.

I realize that moving into the college world now, you’re going to need those computer skills. But a lot of the students we have aren’t heading to college. They want to increase their abilities to find a job. And some jobs don’t require those computer skills that would be required for this test.

Adult learners will have until 2017 before the paper-based tests are completely phased out.

Art Ellison is with the state’s Department of Education.

He says the current GED hasn’t been revised since 2002. And it badly needs an upgrade to reflect what students need for success at college or in the workplace.

The new tests are going to be tied to the Common Core State Standards, which are going to be more rigorous that what’s now available.

Ellison says the test will gradually get tougher over a three-year period. And so will the classes, so that students have time to prepare for a very different type of test.

There’s going to be a lot more, what we would call, open-ended critical thinking questions on this test, as opposed to fill in the blank or bubble in the right answer.

Itziury Zamora is a student at the Adult Learning Center in Nashua. She's pursuing her GED.

Zamora sits at a large, round table in a classroom in Nashua with several practice booklets and sharpened pencils in front of her.

She dropped out of high school ten years ago.

I didn’t feel smart enough. I suffered from dyslexia, so school was very difficult. Nobody knew how to identify it, at least at that time. And I was just not - I mean, I didn’t want to go to school. I pretty much didn’t want to go to school.

Since signing up for the GED classes, she’s regained confidence.

But like all adult learners in the state, she needs to pass the five parts of the GED before the end of the year, or risk starting over.

The fact that it’s going to be a little more difficult, the fact that I’ve already invested a year and a couple of months. To have to relearn whatever the new test is going to be – that’s making me scared and nervous to get it done.

Her goal is to finish by the end of the summer.

And as her instructor, Steven Reid says to all his students, time and again:

Anybody who has completed part of the test needs to get to a center soon to get those pieces finished.