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LETTER: New GED test: Challenging but not impossible

THIEF RIVER FALLS — I read with great interest the Herald’s recent story, “Setting the bar higher,” about the strenuous nature of the new General Education Development or GED test (Page C1, March 9).

I am somewhat concerned that the tone of the story may discourage adult learners from pursuing their GED for fear that it is now just too difficult.

I have worked in the field of adult literacy for 17 years and currently oversee a consortium of 18 adult basic education classrooms in northwestern Minnesota. These include two East Grand Forks ABE classrooms on the campus of Northland Community and Technical College; the two classrooms serve more than 400 adult learners per year from the greater Grand Forks community.

About 20 percent of those learners are coming to the East Grand Forks classroom to study for their GED, in order to increase their employability and lifetime earning power.

While it is true that the new GED test is more rigorous and challenging, it is also true that the new test offers a lot that the old test did not. For example, it requires learners to gain basic technology skills, something they’ll need to be successful in both the college and workforce environment.

It exposes students to the world of standardized online testing, a norm for getting almost any certificate or credential, including a high school diploma.

Also on the new test, students have to be able to think at a little higher level and to show that they can encounter new material and construct a thoughtful response. Both of these are assets that are valued by colleges and employers.

Perhaps the most significant change is that GED students will need to have a basic understanding of algebra — the gatekeeper class that has prevented many GED (and high school) graduates from succeeding in college in the past.

Yes, the new test will be different, and it will require more studying, but it certainly will not impossible to pass.

The GED undergoes significant changes about once every 10 years. This is the third version of the test I have seen in my 17 years working in adult literacy.

Each past version caused anxiety, and students wondered if they were going to be able to pass the new test, and this version is no different.

Time likely will show that this new GED test is a more relevant predictor of future success in college and on the job than either of the previous test versions I have encountered.

I encourage anyone who is considering taking the test to contact their local adult education classrooms to get started today building a better future for tomorrow.

Kirsten Fuglseth

Fuglseth is adult basic education coordinator for the Northwest Service Cooperative.