The Ottumwa Courier

August 26, 2013

No more GEDs in Iowa

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Getting rid of the GED doesn't mean adults are out of luck if they want a high school diploma.

This month, the Iowa Department of Education announced that a new test will replace Iowa's GED in 2014.

Those earning a diploma will still get the same certificate that's always been given out: the adult high school equivalency diploma. Yet some people trying to improve their lives are already worrying when they hear they won’t be able to earn a GED.

"That's kind of a misconception. People associated the GED with the diploma. [Yet] the state always gave an Iowa adult diploma," said Raeann Wyngarden, director of Adult Education and Literacy at Indian Hills Community College.

GED is actually just a company, "GED Testing Services," which has a diploma test accepted by various states and has been used in Iowa at least as far back as the 1940s. D.T. Magee, interim director of the Iowa Department of Education, said the new test aligns well with state standards in English language arts and math. The new test, called HiSET, was chosen in Iowa through a competitive bidding process.

Sometimes, that means finding the cheapest product available. And HiSET is less expensive than GED. But the DOE said this new high school equivalency test was chosen by a state selection committee made up of education leaders from their department as well as community colleges. In Iowa, community colleges are the entities responsible for adult high school diploma testing.

“As expectations rise for high school graduates in terms of college and career readiness, the expectations for adult learners will rise, too,” Magee said in a statement to the press.

Those adult learners who started studying for their GED exam do need to pay attention to time. They have to finish by December. Even if they completed 90 percent of the exams required for a GED diploma, those tests won’t count after that time.

“The very last time that [GED program final exam] will be given here is December 10,” said Wyngarden. “If they don't finish, they'll have to start all over.”

Yet the testing center is still allowing students who want their high school diploma to sign up for the GED program; they just need to be aware that they have a limited amount of time to finish. GED classes take place on the North Campus (airport area), Centerville and the various service satellite centers.

The amount of time it takes to start and finish the GED program depends on the skill of the student. Someone who did well in high school, or is at least skilled in math and reading, can be done in weeks, while someone who is, in essence, starting their high school education from scratch, will need a lot of time to get caught up.

“We have known about this and posted letters. People putting it off a little bit are now coming to us, ‘I need to get this done by December!’ But if they don't come, they're going to lose the time and money they already invested,” Wyngarden said.

The new HiSET test will be $50. The 2014 GED testing series would have cost $120.

“Our top priority has been to choose an assessment that is the right fit for Iowa,” said Jeremy Varner, administrator of the DOE Division of Community Colleges. “The savings to Iowans are important because we know that cost can be a barrier for people who want to earn a high school equivalency diploma.”

Wyngarden said regardless of which program they take, students will leave the adult program more prepared to earn a sustainable wage or enter the world of higher education.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark