Geannine Shuster is good at multiplication.
But fractions, she said, give her a little bit of trouble.
That’s one of the reasons why she spent a recent chilly December day preparing for the General Educational Development exam, more commonly known as the GED, at a free class at Cleveland’s adult literacy program Seeds of Literacy.
She’s trying to prepare for a new, more challenging version of the test that will be released in January.
“I think about it and I get nervous and excited about it all at the same time,” the 39-year-old said. “It’s just a happy, confused, scared feeling all at once.”
Three of the biggest changes include:
- It’s more challenging. The test is now going to be aligned more closely with the standards of the Common Core, a set of learning expectations that Ohio and the majority of the country have adopted.
- It’s strictly computer-based. The test used to offer a paper version, but now people will only be able to take it on a computer at a testing center.
- It’s more expensive. The new test will cost $120 in Ohio, while the old paper version of the test cost $40.
Nicole Chestang, vice president of GED Testing Services, said these changes are necessary. The test was last updated in 2002, she said, so an update is way overdue.
“The status quo was no longer good enough,” Chestang explained. “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 joined the program’s staff last year to completely revamp the study program to help students prepare better for the test’s new challenges.
“The Common Core standards have a lot more to do with close reading, a lot more analytical writing,” McLaughlin said. “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 has also used the program’s new computer lab to teach people basic technology skills, like how to drag and drop and point and click.
And Jo Steigerwald, Seeds of Learning’s Development Officer, believes those skills are necessary. Many of their students don’t have a computer at home, so the process could be a little foreign to them .
“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 said. “It’s just another additional skill that they need to learn.”
But even with these new possible roadblocks, Shuster doesn’t believe she will be deterred.
“Me and computers, we get along,” she said, nodding.
She’s also grateful that her mother offered to help pay for the test, and she’s logging a lot of hours at the GED classes to make sure she keeps learning.
The mother-of-three has big plans of passing the test and then enrolling in nursing classes at a local community college.
“I just wanna make something of my life,” she said. “And getting my GED is the first start of it.”