By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Beginning this year, New Yorkers will no longer be able to say “I’m getting my GED!”
Any person in New York who wishes to earn a High School Equivalency diploma can no longer do so by taking the General Education Development test, or GED. Instead, he or she will have to take the state’s new official High School Equivalency assessment, called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion, or TASC.
The replacement comes after the state Education Department announced it would no longer use the GED because an updated version of the test would be more expensive and entirely computer-based.
For the past decade, the GED was the only way adult learners and students in New York could get their New York State High School Equivalency diploma.
According to TASC’s website, New Jersey, West Virginia, Wyoming, Indiana and Nevada have also dropped the GED in favor of the TASC.
According to Karen Rowe, director of Oneonta’s Adult Education program, the GED used to be made and owned by a nonprofit company, but was bought out in 2012 by education and publishing company Pearson. Together, Pearson and the American Council on Education created the for-profit General Educational Developmental Testing Service, or GEDTS.
Under its new ownership, the GED was revamped and a new test was created for 2014. According to its website, the new GED is more challenging because of its alignment with the Common Core State Standards. It also costs $120, nearly double the price of the old exam, and is strictly computer-based. Interested students will only be able to take the test on a computer at a testing center.
In response, state Education Department Commissioner John B. King Jr. announced in May that the department would move away from the GED in favor of another HSE test that would be more affordable and accessible while still in line with the Common Core.
CTB McGraw-Hill, the same educational publisher that created California Achievement Tests and TerraNova, provided an answer with its creation of the Test Assessing Secondary Completion.
According to Rowe, the decision to replace the GED with the TASC was probably mostly financial. She said because New York state pays for each person who takes the test, the new GED would have cost New York state three times what it was paying with the GED.
According to TASC’s website, the test will be available in paper- and computer-based formats. It can be taken at any state-approved testing site and will cost the state $52 per test.
The test will include five sections: English Language Arts Reading, English Language Arts Writing, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. The website said it takes about 7 hours to complete.
Rowe said the TASC is roughly 20 percent more difficult than the old GED because of alignment with Common Core curriculum. However, she said, the TASC allows for a gradual transition into the Common Core over three years, letting test-takers get used to the new standards just as students in high school have gradually been allowed to.
James Cimko, a teacher with Oneonta Adult Education, said the switch to the TASC is intimidating simply because it is a change, but he believes it will be positive in the long run.
Cimko said the TASC seems more difficult than the old GED, but said the new GED would also have been more challenging. Cimko said he recently attended a conference in Syracuse concerning the math portion of the TASC, which he says he believes will be one of the most challenging aspects.
“There is more algebra and more functions ...’fancier’ math that adult learners may not have ever had experience with,” Cimko said. “The new calculators that students will have to use have more functions and are more difficult to navigate.”
Cimko, who said he has taught with Oneonta Adult Education for 15 or 16 years, said adults that come in to the program usually need the most help with math and writing essays.
Rowe said although both the math and writing portions of the test will be more challenging than in previous years, she is not too concerned.
“We have a pretty strong program,” she said, “so we don’t have to change much. It will involve a lot of professional development and getting the teachers used to the new standards.”
Unadilla Valley Central School Superintendent Robert Mackey said he believes the old GED was not properly preparing students for the workforce. He said the TASC will open more doors for students than the GED did as far as acceptance into military and trade school, but he said he does have some concerns about the change, particularly whether or not the problem-solving level needed to pass the TASC is as high as what students will need in the workforce.
Oneonta City School District Superintendent Joseph J. Yelich said the TASC is definitely more rigorous than the old GED, and that the challenge will be in preparation for the exam.
Yelich said the Oneonta City Schools will continue to provide students with tutoring, training and HSE programs through BOCES. He agreed with Mackey and said he wished there was a greater focus on job-readiness in High School Equivalency tests.
According to Rowe, the old GED test had become mistakenly synonymous with the High School Equivalency credential.
“People and employers always want to know, ‘Do you have your GED?,’ but the High School Equivalency diploma is the actual credential that is needed,” Rowe explained. “The GED was just the test you took to get that credential. Now the test you take is the TASC. The GED was just a brand of High School Equivalency test.”
Cimko said he encouraged his students to get their GED done before the new tests were in place to avoid any problems with transferring credit and because the new test will be harder.
According to the state Education Department, people who started the GED previously and passed sub-tests but did not finish will be allowed to use up to four GED sub-tests to count towards earning a High School Equivalency diploma. This will prevent them from having to start all over again. Individuals in states that have accepted the new GED will not have this opportunity.
Oneonta’s Adult Education program serves Otsego and Delaware counties. Rowe said there are 250 students enrolled in the over-21 Adult Education Test Preparation program, and 15 students in the Alternative High School Equivalency program, which is for people younger than 21 who have not graduated from high school.
According to Rowe, there are more than 5,000 residents in Otsego and Delaware counties that don’t have a High School Equivalency credential.
Rowe said the advice she would give to a person looking to get his or her High School Equivalency diploma by taking the TASC would be to come in to classes and get lots of practice with writing comprehension and the new calculator. She said the classes are free and allow for individual attention. Students are able to work at their own pace and there are a lot of class options for anyone looking to prepare for and take the exam. Rowe said there are classes in Oneonta and Cooperstown in Otsego County and Afton in Delaware County.
Rowe said classes are held at 31 Center St. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thurday. The center also offers a program for people for whom English is their second language.
Rowe said the first TASC will be available to take in March.
“The most important thing is that people know that we’re here to help them achieve that high school equivalency credential,” Rowe said. “The best and most effective way to get that credential is by taking classes. Just come in to class and we can help.”