Putting Education Reform To The Test

Changing GED Adds New Problems To An Old Test

Uzelea Evans has had a tough run recently.

Her unemployment payments have been hung up for six weeks because of the state’s new online system.

And the mother to two lost her Tampa housing and has to move out next month.

Uzelea Evans, right, and TKTK TKTK, left, talk with GED teacher Travis McGinnis at Metropolitan Ministries. The GED is changing in January, and McGinnis said his students have been planning since September whether to take the old test or the new GED.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Uzelea Evans, right, and Cynthia Williams, left, talk with GED teacher Travis McGinnis at Metropolitan Ministries. The GED is changing in January, and McGinnis said his students have been planning since September whether to take the old test or the new GED.

But she’s working hard toward some good news in a classroom at Metropolitan Ministries – passing the GED exam.

“My life has been a struggle ever since my mom died,” Evans said. “But I’m just trying to stay focused and keep going. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve got a lot on my plate but I’ve got to keep going. I’ve just got to keep going – that’s why I need this so bad. So I got to get this.”

Evans works as a cook. Dropping out of high school has hindered her in finding a higher-paying job.

She’s one of about 40 people taking GED classes at Metropolitan Ministries.

Like Evans, all of them have to answer a question before even stepping into the exam room: do I try to take the old GED before the end of the month, or wait for the new GED in January?

More than 80 million people have earned the equivalent of a high school diploma by passing the GED exam.

But the test is making big changes starting in January.

Students won’t be able to take a pencil and paper version of the test – now it’s all online.

The test will get tougher, with more focus on problem solving.

Teacher Travis McGinnis says he started telling students in September that a new exam was coming.

“There are quite a few changes,”McGinnis said. “The cost. How you take it; it’s going to be on a computer only now. So we have to make sure that everybody has basic computer skills. As far as the material is concerned, the base of it really is not changing.”

But McGinnis said rumors about the new test are scaring away students.

“There’s no trig, there’s no calculus,” he said. “‘I heard there’s trig! I heard!’ No, there’s not. It’s not on this test. You know, that’s what they hear. So it’s just trying to work through all of these misconceptions. That’s why the class has thinned out somewhat.“

Advanced math may not be on the exam. But GED Testing Services believes the exam will be tougher.

The GED was created in 1942, when a high school education was fine for industrial jobs. The test has been updated several times as the job market has changed.

GED Testing Services vice president Nicole Chestang said the 2014 changes will measure talents colleges and employers want.

“And that is: increased critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Chestang said. “Unlike the current test, which focuses much more in measuring what you know, the new test will be focused more on how you can apply what you know in real world problem-solving context.

Jermaine Watkins is studying for his GED at Metropolitan Ministries.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Jermaine Watkins is studying for his GED at Metropolitan Ministries.

Not only is the test more difficult — it’s also more expensive.

The old test is $70. The new test is $130.

Many of McGinnis’ students are homeless or unemployed, so cost is a big deal.

Are students rushing through their studies just to beat the deadline?

McGinnis said he’s advising students about when they should attempt the exam.

“I hate to see somebody waste their money on this test,” he said, “so I try not to send anybody out that I feel does not have a great shot to pass the test.”

McGinnis said about half of his students are taking the test now while the other half are waiting.

A half-dozen students who have take the exam this month have passed while more are waiting on their results.

Cynthia Williams is one of those waiting. She started studying for the GED in July.

“I feel I’m not ready yet. I’ve been out of school a long time,” she said. Williams got married when she was 15, dropped out of school and raised 10 children.

“It took me out of school and I just stayed out. And when I was supposed to go back I didn’t go back.”

Williams works in health care — “I love working with the elderly” — and thinks a GED will help her advance and earn more money.

Williams said she’s very nervous about taking the exam on a computer and has been getting help from her teenagers to get more comfortable.

Uzelea Evans isn’t waiting. She’s ready to tackle the old GED test this week.

“I’ve been doing all advanced work and didn’t even know it because my teacher tricked me,” she said. “But he knew a little bit more than what I knew of myself. I haven’t been in a class in 30-some years so I’m nervous about that, but all of my work has been advanced work and I’ve been acing it.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct a reference to Uzelea Evans’ children.


  • Tom

    What about the pending RFP by FL Dept of Ed for a competitive bid in 2014 for a new test in 2015??

  • Angie

    I took my GED test late last year but missed by a few points though I passed ALL sections with over 410. Anyway, I ended up getting my High School diploma through http://www.SECRETGEDLOOPHOLE.COM which has the same accreditor as the college I wanted to go to, plus I was able to do it from home and online which I LOVED!

    Which is better anyway, the HiSET or Tasc? I’m just curious, cuz I heard the it can be harder.

  • Rod Clarkson

    Don’t waste your time on these too good to be true scams. Earn a real and legitimate, State Department of Education recognized high school diploma at Excel High School.com – http://www.excelhighschool.com

    You can transfer credits and complete what you missed and get a high school diploma fast. Because Excel High School holds Government Department of Education recognized accreditation, you can use the EHS diploma for college, university, government jobs and the US military. Don’t get scammed. Choose an accredited. BBB A+ rated online high school. Excel High School is the best choice!

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