GED test-takers have been given a two-year reprieve to finish the high school equivalency exam.
The state Board of Regents has voted to let test-takers keep their passing scores on sections of the GED, even though that exam will be replaced next year by a new, harder test called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion.
Those who take the exam often pass most of the five sections on their first try. They only have to retake the sections they failed, and sometimes they will retake one section many times before they finally pass.
All year, GED centers warned students that they would have to retake everything if they didn’t pass the entire exam by Dec. 31. But instead, they will have to pass the harder test for the sections they hadn’t passed by the end of 2013 but won’t have to retake sections they had passed.
Board of Regents member James Dawson, who represents Schenectady and surrounding areas, said he voted for the reprieve so most students would be able to finish their exam.
“We’re not interested in hurting anyone,” he said. “You have to remember, some of these people have been studying a syllabus that led to one examination, and that’s going to change. We are making a major change.”
At the main branch of the Schenectady County Public Library, librarians expressed relief after the vote. They won a grant to buy instructional materials for the new test, but nothing is available yet, they said. Knowing their current students won’t have to start over completely was reassuring, they said.
Dawson said the new exam will align better with the new Common Core requirements for all students. He said it would not be “harder” but it would be “more challenging.”
“We do feel it’s going to be a step up,” he added.
But he said students who drop out of high school after going through the Common Core will probably not find the new exam any harder than current students find the GED. Students who made it through part of high school could generally pass the exam after a six-week class.
“If you started at the beginning [with Common Core], it wouldn’t be more challenging than the old exam,” Dawson said.
The state Education Department has spent the last year trying to get “near-passers” to enroll in classes and finish their exams before the deadline.The state sent letters to every student who had passed at least three of the five sections of the GED test in the past three years. There were 4,800 near-passers in New York City and 2,800 throughout the rest of the state, and thousands signed up for last-minute classes, according to state officials.
The state also organized efforts in New York City to encourage dropouts ages 17 to 24 to take the GED before the new exam came out. About 1,500 new students signed up through that campaign, and about 1,000 of them passed the exam by the end of the year. GED centers reported running out of space to accommodate the sudden surge in students, state officials said.
Given the number of people who passed some but not all of the exam sections this year, state officials asked the Board of Regents to let students keep their passing grades. Dawson said he was persuaded by the reports of students who had passed some sections and needed more time to pass the others.
“You have to understand, people are midway through the process,” he said. “It’s part of our effort to phase in the new program without doing any serious harm.”