New GED testing options coming to Colorado
Valley Campus / February 2, 2016 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
New and less expensive testing options will soon be available to those seeking a high school equivalency degree in Colorado, thanks in part to intervention from Anna Mae Rael-Lindsay of Trinidad State Junior College. The General Education Development (GED) tests were changed two years ago and by all accounts made more difficult.
Rael-Lindsay, who heads adult education at Trinidad State’s Valley Campus, is also the President of the Colorado Adult Education Professional Association (CAEPA). In September and then again in November she wrote to the board explaining why a greater selection of high school equivalency tests is needed. She then testified in early December before the Colorado State Board of Education in Denver asking that new testing options be approved CAEPA was also circulating an online petition in favor of more test choices and had accumulated 150 signatures.
Seventeen other states are already using three different test options including Colorado’s neighbors to the north and to the south, Wyoming and New Mexico. Some Denver students were driving to Wyoming to take the tests. One student had asked Rael-Lindsay if he could take the test in Taos, NM, to take advantage of more test choices.
For the non-traditional student that never learned to use a computer keyboard, the GED computer tests are a daunting challenge especially when it comes to time limits. Unfortunately, Trinidad State’s adult learning center is not equipped to teach keyboarding. Finances too, are often a problem. “Many of our students are poor,” said Rael-Lindsay. “If it’s a choice between putting gas in the car or taking a test, it’s going to be gas in the car. Having these other choices will make a big difference for our students.”
Following the steep upgrade in study materials and test requirements for those seeking high school equivalency degrees two years ago, Rael-Lindsay said that informal data gathered since then indicates pass rates dropped by approximately 80 percent nationwide. She believes the GED exam is aimed at those who intend to continue on to four-year colleges and universities. But many who simply want their high school equivalency or want a career and technical education such as welding, cosmetology, or mechanics don’t need the same kinds of skills. They simply want to get in, get out and get a job.
When the seven-member State Board of Education voted after hearing testimony, the vote was tied three to three. In the event of a tie, the President breaks the tie and with his vote the measure passed. Now, with the addition of two other tests to choose from, both of which can be taken with paper and pencil, the options for students are much greater. The battery of four tests using the TASC (Test Accessing Secondary Completion) or the HISET (High School Equivalency Test), which have now been approved, is less expensive than the GED tests. GED has long been equated with a diploma, but it is a trademark like TASC and HISET and stands for General Education Development. The appropriate terminology is high school equivalency, not GED. The four subjects tested are reading, language and arts (grouped as one) science, social studies and math. Because The Department of Education has 90 days to write the agreements with the other test vendors, it will likely be April before the additional tests are available.
More evidence that the new tests are just too difficult came recently when the GED Testing Services announced a change in scoring, reducing a passing score from 150 to 145 and for honor students whose higher scores can qualify for college credit from 170 to 165. The change is retroactive to January 2014. This decision positively affected Dora Peregrino who has been working toward her high school equivalency for three years at the Trinidad State Valley Campus. She scored 148 on the reading, language and arts portion of the exam. She was very disappointed then, but knowing it is now considered a passing score, she said, “I feel really happy. I really worry about taking the test again because if I fail less than 148, maybe I won’t come back. My big problem is the language. When I came here, barely I speak English. Now I feel better.” Dora’s English has improved so much that her confidence level is rising. For now, she’s concentrating only on completing the science and social studies portions of the four-part exam. Her goal is to accomplish this by June 30. Her children have been good role models for her. Her oldest daughter graduated with a degree in Biology from the University of New Mexico and she plans to go on to law school. Her son studied diesel mechanics and welding at Trinidad State in Alamosa and her teenage daughter is happily attending Sangre de Cristo High School. She often corrects her mom’s English.
Rael-Lindsay is looking forward to more passing scores and a bigger graduating class. Prior to the upgrade in 2014, it wasn’t unusual to have 18-20 graduates each year. The past two years she felt lucky to have six. Graduation is scheduled for June 11 this year.
Rael-Lindsay has been invited to Washington D.C. in September to meet with legislators to address adult education needs with the Commission for Adult Basic Education (COABE).
To learn more about high school equivalency studies and testing at Trinidad State call Anna Mae Rael-Lindsay at 719-589-7058.