The current paper version of the GED test will expire at the end of this year.
In January 2014, a new computer-based General Educational Development test series will be introduced in the United States and Canada for people seeking a high school equivalency credential. There's a national campaign to encourage new adult learners to register by the Oct. 18 deadline to take any necessary GED tests before the 2013 closeout date.
In Berkshire County, Adult Basic Education (ABE) program administrators say they are trying to get the word out before the changeover occurs. Though there are preparation courses offered throughout the region, Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield is the only registered testing center, meaning seats could fill up quickly.
"Support is available. We can help adult learners get prepared to take the parts of the GED test they still need to pass," said Thelma Marguiles, coordinator of the Northern Berkshire ABE program based at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Berkshire County ABE programs typically have open and ongoing enrollment and courses are subsidized so there is no cost to students.
The only expense to students is the testing center and exams fees, which will double with the new GED system. In Massachusetts, the total current cost to take a GED exam is $65. The new fee for the computer-based exam will be $120.
It is still debatable what other costs may be associated with the changes. Local ABE administrators say there will likely be a need to upgrade curriculum, materials, technology systems and training for instructors and test administrators.
Though still in development, the new exams are also expected to be more rigorous and will require those taking them to have solid computer skills.
The current GED test series, also known as the "2002 Series GED," is taken in multiple parts, and it is not uncommon for students to pass some portions but have to re-test in others before successfully completing the series.
According to the GED Testing Service, in 2011 more than 723,000 adults in total took at least one of the five GED content area tests -- also known as subtests -- measuring skills in writing, reading, social studies, science, and mathematics.
Approximately 631,000 people completed the GED test, while only 454,000 of these, about 72 percent, met the passing standard by earning scores equal to or higher than those earned by the top 60 percent of graduating high school seniors.
The GED exams were always meant to be aligned with high school curriculum so that a GED credential would be an equal degree. Currently the majority of the U.S. curriculum is aligned with what are known as the Common Core standards.
"As the K-12 system changes the GED exams will change. Now the focus nationwide is being college and career ready," Marguiles said. But there are many people still out there who are not ready, she said.
The 2010 U.S. Census indicates that more than 39 million adults, about 18 percent, ages 16 and older in the U.S. lacked a high school credential and were not enrolled in any kind of secondary, postsecondary or other kind of educational program.
Kelly Jourdain has taken on a new role this year as academic coordinator of Berkshire Community College's Adult Learning Program located at the South County Center in Great Barrington. The program was re-started this fall, after a year without funding.
Jourdain said the program currently has 17 registered GED students, more than double the center's headcount from the previously funded year.
She and her staff are currently working to prepare themselves and students for the imminent changes while simultaneously trying to not discourage students from participating in the program.
"We're just trying to educate ourselves as much as we can because we want to prepare students as best we can," Jourdain said.
To reach Jenn Smith:
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What to know about the current GED testing system closeout
Friday, Oct. 18 is the deadline for new individuals wishing to register for GED testing, including those who need special accommodations.
Saturday, Dec. 14 is the last date for all GED testing and re-tests in Massachusetts under the current system.
The new testing system is expected to launch in January 2014.
How to get help:
Northern Berkshire Adult Basic Education Program: Offers courses in North Adams, Adams and Williamstown. To learn more, call (413) 662-5314 or (413) 662-5310; visit abeged.com or on Facebook.
Berkshire Community College Adult Learning Program at the South County Center: Offers evening courses in Great Barrington. To learn more, call (413) 236-5202. To reach the BCC GED testing center, contact GED Chief Examiner Liz Recko-Morrison at (413) 236-1656 or call (413) 236-1655.
Pittsfield Adult Learning Center: Offers day and evening courses in Pittsfield. To learn more, call (413) 499-9530 or (413) 499-9509.
Literacy Network (LitNet) of South Berkshire: Offers GED and ABE tutoring. To learn more, call (413) 243-0471 or visit litnetsb.org.
Keep updated on GED testing system changes and dates:
GED Testing in Massachusetts: www.doe.mass.edu/ged
GED Testing Service: www.gedtestingservice.com