Monday, December 9, 2013

GED: Ch - Ch - Changes!


Big Change! 

Big, BIG change!

That's the word for Adult Education right now and not just in terms of structure, funding, and the creation of the new Regional Consortia system in California.

The GED, one of the core missions of Adult Education and the Big Daddy of climbing up your own bootstraps out of poverty into something better in the US of A, is changing.   

There are approximately 30 million adults in the U.S. without a high school diploma. And almost 700,000 of them take the GED test each year.   So a change in what the GED tests, how it is administered, and whether it's a for-profit or non-profit venture is a big deal.

The old test was a multiple choice type test.  Students prepared for it on their own with the support of teachers.  They worked alone at their desks and consulted with a teacher in the room with them, as needed. And it was run by a non-profit, the American Council on Education.

As of January 1, 2014, that's all changing.

Hit the "read more" link to learn how.

The new test is in line with the new Common Core standards.   It emphasizes critical thinking.  Students will prepare for the test by studying in classroom settings, subject by subject.  The new test is on a computer.  Students must have the computer skills necessary to take the test.  Scoring will reveal if the passers "just" passed or passed at a higher level of college and career ready.   And in California and most other states, it will be run by a for-profit company, Pearson, the largest for-profit education business in the world.

This Atlantic article, "The GED Is About To Get Harder, And Much More Expensive" has a good overview of the changes, including this:

The GED test has been revised over the years, but in 2014 it will undergo a complete overhaul. It will become more difficult and more expensive. For years, the GED test was dismissively called the ‘Good Enough Diploma’ because passing the test was so much easier than earning a traditional high school diploma. Now it’s being aligned with more rigorous college and career readiness standards and will be far more difficult. Molly Broad of the American Council on Education (which along with Pearson oversees the test) says they are “raising the requirements” so the GED test will become more meaningful. To pass the new GED test, students will need some background knowledge, not just the ability to understand the passage in front of them. There will be more emphasis on critical thinking, more questions on science, and more writing. In addition, the scoring will change to identify whether the students who pass are just “high-school equivalent” or are at a new higher standard of “college- and career-ready.”

Another very good overview of the situation can be found here on the PBS Newshour, including this:

RANDY TRASK: What we're doing is absolutely the most monumental-- change we've made in our-- in our GED testing service history. I think what we're doing is-- complicated. It's confusing. It's worrisome. But we're absolutely convinced that what we're doing is the right thing for learners.

MONA ISKANDER: Randy Trask is the president of the GED testing service, the for-profit company that’s developing the new exam. The GED was created in 1942 for returning veterans who dropped out of high school to serve in World War II and was run by the non-profit American Council on Education.

RANDY TRASK: And in the 70 years since then, our test takers have evolved quite a bit. But we now have more than 19 million people that have-- have earned their second chance at-- at a high school credential by way of the GED test.

MONA ISKANDER: The GED has been an important tool for high school dropouts and immigrants to make inroads into higher education or to secure better jobs. About 700,000 people take it every year, but only about 36% of those who pass the GED, enroll in a two or four year college… compared to 66% of high school grads who enroll. And overall, those with a high school equivalency degree earn less than those with a regular high school degree.

MONA ISKANDER: Trask says figures like that compelled the Council in 2011 to partner with Pearson, an education services company. They formed a joint venture under the name GED Testing Service – and hired Randy Trask to overhaul the GED.

You can read more about the change from non-profit to profit in this article, "After 70 Years as a Non-Profit, GED Test Switching to For-Profit Venture."

Not all states are going with the move to the the new Pearson test.  Some states, including New York, are moving to other tests run by other companies. You can read about that here.  They are using this test or this one.   All the companies are for-profit companies.  Some are cheaper than the one California is using.

UPDATE: This 1/5/14 LA Times article has this important info:

States that have decided against administering the new exam have cited cost and accessibility concerns with the elimination of the pencil-to-paper test. Nine states — Iowa, Montana, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, West Virginia, New York, Missouri and New Hampshire — have dropped the GED exam and will now offer other tests. Some states will offer several options, including the GED exam, and others will decide in coming months.

California is currently offering the test, but the state is expected in March to begin considering whether to offer solely the updated GED exam, another test, or a slate of exams going forward, said Diane Hernandez of the California Department of Education.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest school system in the nation, will not provide the GED exam this year and will await California's decision, state officials said.

This California Report, "Students Will Soon Face A More Difficult GED Exam" features interviews with San Mateo Adult School staff and students.   Listen to this report on the Radio.   Or read it in Print.

This is a huge change for students, teachers, and the schools where it's all happening.

Could you pass the new GED?    Give it a try here.   Believe me, it's not easy.

David Rosen discusses his concerns about the new test on his blog in the post, "Is the Adult Education and Literacy System in the U.S. prepared to Unlock the Door to Economic Opportunity?"

To address some of the concerns that he brings up and to help students pass the new test, San Mateo Adult School is using a new teaching method called "Constructing Meaning."  This method helps students learn the academic language they need to express their ideas, using a"bricks and mortar" approach.  The bricks are the vocabulary.  The mortar is the connecting words.  To pass the new test, students need to verbalize what they know in a logical, succinct way.   This is a measure of how well they have internalized the information.   Constructing Meaning teaches students how to "chunk" an article - see the way it is written as logical chunks of information that can be decipered and understood in terms of theme and purpose.  And in turn, to write that way, as well.

The San Mateo Union High School District was so impressed with Constructing Meaning they are going to use it in their professional development this year. 

Assistant Director Susan Williams
San Mateo Adult School is doing one more thing to help students pass the test.  Assistant Director Susan Williams got a grant so that SMAS could have a counselor on staff one day each week.   The other days, the counselor will be at other local Adult Schools.  The counselor will help GED and ESL students cope and transcend the obstacles that can get in the way of academic and career success.

Both the Constructing Meaning approach and the on-site counselor are thanks to Susan Williams' hard work and vision.   Big thanks, Susan.  We appreciate you.

Carlota Agundis Zuniga
We're also lucky to have Carlota Agundis Zuniga registering and welcoming new GED students.  Carlota welcomes students with the affirmation, "You've made a great decision."  As one student described her, she is "a nice lady who pointed me in the right direction." 

Just what we're looking for in this time of change - the right direction.

And a nice lady to point us to it!


San Mateo Adult School GED and High School Diploma Program
SMAS Ged Program
SMAS GED Testing for 2014

The San Mateo Adult School has updated its GED Program to meet the challenges of the new computer-based 2014 test. Students can attend an orientation describing our test preparation services, focus on subject-specific instruction, and take the GED test all under one roof. Call us at 650-558-2116 for more information.
First person testimonail, "Why I Want My GED" by SMAS GED student Jessica Franco

Mark Wahbert Op Ed on getting his High School Diploma

And because life is an art as well as a science, and sooner or later, we get tested on all of it, a song about change from a highly critical thinker:

Thanks to Susan Williams, Ann Thomson, Carlota Zuniga, Shirley McMahon, Mary Peros, and Patricia Brown for helping me understand what is happening over there in the SMART Center!

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