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Changes are in store for the GED in Ohio and nationally
Price increase, test reformatting are among multiple updates to GED coming in January

Geannine Shuster
Courtesy of AMY HANSEN
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It goes without saying these days that education is the key to success, and a high school diploma is just the bare minimum one needs to begin to get ahead. For those who never finished high school, the General Educational Development exam - commonly known as the GED - offers a second chance.

Passing the GED is generally considered the equivalent of graduating high school. As StateImpact Ohio's education reporter Amy Hansen tells us, significant changes to the GED that take effect in January step up the challenge for both students and educators.

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Geannine Shuster is good at multiplication, but fractions, she says, give her a little bit of trouble. A volunteer tutor at Cleveland’s adult literacy program Seeds of Learning guides her through the math. Shuster, who is 39, is one of about 350 people every month who utilize the center’s free GED exam preparation classes. She’s planning on taking the test sometime next year, when a new, more challenging version will be introduced. 

“I think about it and I get nervous and excited about it all at the same time," Shuster says. "It’s just a happy, confused, scared feeling all at once.”

Time for change
Nicole Chestang is vice-president of the company that administers the test, GED Testing Services. The GED was last changed in 2002, she says, so an update is overdue.

“The status quo was no longer good enough," Chestang says. "We needed to step up our game and make sure that people who came through this program could demonstrate strong academic skills, including critical thinking and problem solving skills, so the test is changing to provide the opportunity for the test taker to really demonstrate a whole breadth of skills but across the same areas that we’ve traditionally tested.”

Seeds of Literacy’s Education Consultant Dan McLaughlin has completely revamped the study program to help students better prepare for the test’s new challenges.

“The Common Core standards have a lot more to do with close reading, a lot more analytical writing, so we tried to beef up our curriculum by having longer, information based reading added to the curriculum, and also have our students do a whole lot more writing than they had been doing," McLaughlin says.

No more paper
McLaughlin is also using the program’s new computer lab to teach people basic technology skills, like how to drag and drop and point and click. That’s necessary because the paper version of the test is being eliminated; now it’ll only be offered on a computer at a testing center. That could be a problem according to Jo Steigerwald, Seeds of Learning’s Development Officer, who says the majority of their students don’t have a computer at home.

“To write an essay by hand, if that’s all you’ve been doing, is very different from composing an essay, on a keyboard, in a timed situation, during a really high stakes test..." Steigerwald says. "It’s just another additional skill that they need to learn.”

Don't get discouraged
They’ll also have to find a way to pay more for the test. The new version will cost $120 in Ohio, and the paper version of the old test cost $40. Dan McLaughlin worries any one of these changes could discourage people from pursuing a GED. 

“I think a lot of people are angry, especially when they hear about the cost..." McLaughlin says. "A lot of our students feel like this is their shot to get back into the labor force, and this is just a huge stop.”

But Geannine Schuster says she’s not deterred. The mother-of-three has big plans of passing the test and then enrolling in nursing classes at a local community college. Schuster says, "I just wanna make something of my life and getting my GED is the first start of it.”

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