What’s behind changes in GED test program

Changes are coming to the GED assessment in 2014 and some adult educators have concerns.

Program Manager Donna Smith with the Warren Forest Higher Education Council is worried some changes may leave people behind.

Smith specifically cited changes to content in the GED’s math test. The threshold for the level of material in the new mathematical reasoning test is trigonometry. The current assessment only allows material up to algebra II level.

“We have a lot of people who have trouble with the math portion,” Smith said. “I’m concerned if you raise it to trig(onometry)., you’re dooming some people to a life of poverty.”

Armando Diaz with GED Testing Services, the company that handles test content, said the company has to keep its overall goal in mind.

“I think the main thing we’re seeing now is, every time there’s a change to the tests, the headlines read it’s getting harder,” Diaz said. “I think the issue is really adult education in this country. It’s the most under-funded, but it has the largest audience.”

Diaz pointed out approximately 40 million, or about one in six, American adults do not hold a high school diploma. More than 1.6 million of those adults live in Pennsylvania.

“If someone is just looking for something to go work at Walmart, then they can do that too,” Diaz said. “If they want to go for further education, the test allows them to do that too. It’s projected 70 percent of jobs are going to require a bachelor’s degree or some other higher level education. The thing about computer testing is, it provides more in-depth scoring to show people what they can qualify for and where they might need a little more work.”

Smith said aiming the test at post-secondary education doesn’t reflect what she sees employers looking for out of GED level workers.

“When we went out to design our diploma program here, none of the employers said, ‘We want someone to know trigonometry,'” Smith said. “They said, ‘We want them to know basic math and fractions. We want basic reading skills.’ I’m afraid there’s nothing there for the people just looking for a GED to get a $10 an-hour job at a factory compared to making $7.50 at a convenience store. That difference, especially for a family, means an entirely different standard of living. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can make a huge difference in quality of life.”

“The thing to remember is we’re on the side of the test-takers. People who only want a GED, that’s kind of that one example that doesn’t really represent those 40 million Americans,” Diaz claimed. “At the end of the day, we have to provide a credential that’s equivalent to a high school diploma if that’s what we’re going to claim it is. If we could help everyone we would. It’s what we’re here for.”