Feb 092010
Authors: Sara Michaels

The GED Testing Service has announced a new pilot program that will bring the test, equivalent to a high school degree, into the digital age.

Starting in April, Colorado will be one of 11 states across the nation to participate in trials of a computerized testing program. The goal, officials said, is accessibility ­–– the war of paper and pencil vs. technology.

GED State Administrator Chalmer Naugle said the current method of testing limits the number of tests people can take because of room space and the surveillance necessary to proctor the exams.

The advantage of a computerized system is that students can come any time of day, sit down at the computer and simply take a test, he said.
“There’s not the same kind of setting as walking in a room, sitting down and using a No. 2 pencil,” Naugle said.

The program will pilot on a volunteer basis. Anyone who takes the new test on the computer, which is not yet considered valid, will then get a voucher to take the real, paper test for free, sparing them the $89 charge.

“With the paper-based test, there’s a lot of paperwork, surveillance, logs; inventory,” Naugle said. Quoting one of his colleagues, he said, “It doesn’t make sense to be shipping paper across the country.”

With the new program, GEDTS is hoping to increase the number of students who take the GED. Currently, about 17,000 take the exams and about 11,000 pass.

“We’d like to raise that to 14,000,” Naugle said.

In addition to increasing accessibility, the GED will up the ante.

The test will be more rigorous than the paper version ­­–– more in line with Obama’s vision of higher academic standards and more students going to college, Naugle said. This way, he said, students who take the GED have a higher chance of having to not take remedial courses in college.

“The score needed to pass the GED now is higher than what 40 percent of high school seniors that come out with a diploma could score,” said Naugle. “We’re raising the bar.”

Despite its difficulty, the GED is widely viewed as inferior to a high school diploma, a generalization Naugle rejected.

The CSU recommendations for admission with a GED suggest a score of at least 550, a score that the Colorado Department of Education’s Web site says could be expected of the top 25 percent of a high school class.

“You can get into Harvard with a GED,” he said.

Staff writer Sara Michael can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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