Time Running Out for GED Students in Iowa & Around the Country
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Time is literally running out for thousands of Iowans hoping to earn a high school degree after high school.
The company offering the well-known GED, or General Educational Development exam, is changing the test. And after December 13, 2013, the current credits accumulated by students won’t count towards a degree.
Last year, 9,568 Iowans took the series of tests that, if passed, lead to a GED high school equivalency diploma. A total of 3,404 passed and received that degree. The GED Testing Service promises a new test in 2014 that will be both tougher and reflect more modern expectations of education. The new GED won’t be a paper exam and instead will be offered only as an online computer program. Because it’s such a major overhaul, any work left finished from 2013 or earlier won’t transfer as a credit. That means students who are only halfway done at the end of 2013 would have to start all over.
Cindee Taylor, 24, left high school without finishing seven years ago. But two more successful tests at Kirkwood Community College’s High School Completion Program and she’ll earn the equivalent of the degree she missed the first time around. On average, students going through Kirkwood’s GED program take one to six months to finish. An estimated 450 to 500 on average get degrees every year.
But Taylor admits with the deadline approaching, this isn’t the year to procrastinate and not finish the work. It’s something students talk about among themselves.
“It just gives more motivation for people to get in here and get it done. You know, it’s never too late,” Taylor said.
Marcel Kielkucki, director of Kirkwood’s High School Completion Program, said instructors have warned students for months that unfinished work won’t do them any good after December 13th. Students pay $125 for the program that includes a series proficiency tests in reading, writing, math and other skills. Iowa also requires GED students to participate in practice programs before attempting the actual exams.
Kielkucki said as the cutoff date for a new test approaches, Kirkwood may counsel some students to just wait rather than trying to do the work too close to the deadline and risk losing time and money.
“We’re working on having some procedures in place that at a certain point in time we’re going to talk to students as they come in the door, look at where their skill levels are and talk to them about that options they have,” Kielkucki said.
Another Kirkwood instructor said that concern isn’t just the deadline alone. Connie Konigsmark, lead GED instructor said she also is concerned about the total switch from a paper exam to computerized testing.
“What I’ve noticed is students are very familiar with Facebook and different social media. But when it comes to saving a file, typing on a keyboard and using more than one or two fingers it can be difficult. So we are starting classes this summer to get them proficient on the keyboard so that they can make the transition,” she said.
Kielkucki said one common mistake is assuming the GED is just a generic term for a high school equivalency test. It’s actually a brand name for a company offering the best known exam. But some states, including Iowa, are looking for alternatives to see if there’s a cheaper option to a completely reconfigured GED in 2014. Kielkucki said Iowa officials haven’t made any decisions about a switch just yet.
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