GED changes raise concerns

Some state lawmakers have concerns about the new electronic-only form of the General Education Degree being intimidating to students.

State Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said being someone who finished his college degree late in life he could understand the intimidation of older GED students with the test being strictly computer-based.

Rue said when sitting down in his first college class, he did not even know how to turn on the computer at his desk.

"I've never felt so helpless in my entire life and I wouldn't want to feel that way again," Rue said. "The challenges they (students) are going to have to face just to get computer literate concerns me."

Todd DeKay, director of Adult Basic Education at Eastern New Mexico University's Roswell campus, said legislators and higher education officials are concerned a price increase could also intimidate GED test-takers.

However, DeKay said the computer-based testing could be a benefit to the GED.

"Computer-based testing, while scaring some older generation Americans, may spark some to want to better learn computer basics," he said.

The GED discussion Wednesday was part of a three-day session for the Legislative Education Study Committee forum at the Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union Building.

Changes to the GED program will be implemented in 2014.

Representatives and senators from five New Mexico districts and committee staff members were present for the forum.

"We have a problem with dropouts," DeKay said at the beginning of the forum. "There's not a high school kid without a cell phone. We need to make education that way in New Mexico."

DeKay said the goal of the GED is to give students an alternative degree to a high school diploma to ensure individuals have the same knowledge they would graduate high school with.

DeKay listed the changes that will be made to the GED test in 2014:

  • It will have two levels of achievement: The traditional high school equivalency standard and a career-and-college- readiness benchmark.
  • The test subject areas will be revised to more closely reflect common core state standards with a set of English and math standards and other topics that students are expected to learn.
  • The test will be strictly electronic but will still have to be taken at an official testing center.
  • The test will now cost $120 to $125 as opposed to the $110 to $115 it currently costs.

State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, said he would like to see a study on how students from rural school districts and from home schooling test with the GED.

"Being part of a rural school district has its challenges but also its advantages," said Roch, assistant superintendent of the Texico school district. "It's two different worlds."

Legislators said another concern was making registration for the test strictly by phone and Internet.

DeKay said the concern was that students would back out from taking the test before testing day arrived.

He said educators need to find ways to better promote the opportunities available to help prepare for the GED.

"We aren't just looking for students to have high school diplomas," he said. "We want them to have some other skills."

"We need to work on an alternative for testing and testing opportunities and we have a year and a half to do so," added committee State Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, who is chairman of the committee.

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