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Dropouts who want to take the GED high school equivalency test will soon have an online guide to walk them through their preparation, registration, and college and career planning.
“We’re not just stopping with: ‘Here’s your test. You passed. You failed. You’re on your own,” said Nicole M. Chestang, executive vice president of GED Testing Service. There is now “a whole program developed around the test taker,” she said.
The new MyGED Web portal is expected to be available in late November, in time for people to register for the updated, computer-based GED test that will be aligned to more-rigorous academic standards starting in 2014.
The overhaul to the 70-year-old test is an attempt to meet the call for more skilled workers in a nation where nearly two-thirds of all jobs require more than a high school diploma and 39 million adults did not finish high school.
It also reflects growing criticism that the GED has not offered a meaningful second chance to high school dropouts.
Only 12 percent of those who pass the GED test later graduate from a higher-education program. Research shows that GED holders earn about the same as high school dropouts without the credential.
The nonprofit American Council on Education, which has historically administered the test, partnered with Pearson, the world’s largest education and testing company, to finance and engineer what has become a $30 million, three-year endeavor to overhaul the exam.
Their goal was to streamline the process from beginning to end and make it easier for adult learners to navigate.
The resulting portal shows people where they can take a test preparation class. Official practice tests are available through the Web site. And test-takers can get feedback on the kinds of questions they missed and information on how to follow up, including which chapters and pages of their test preparation book they need to review to improve their scores.
“Adults don’t have a lot of time,” Chestang said. They want to know “what I need to do right now.”
The Web site displays nearby testing centers and allows people to register for the test online. Then, after the test, “they can check their scores on their smartphones on the way home” rather than waiting weeks for the results, said Cassandra Brown, senior manager for marketing communications for GED Testing Service.
Results will come with a scorecard, or transcript, that details which skills the test-takers have mastered and what they still need to learn if they want to enroll in credit-bearing college classes or training programs.
The portal also links to information about colleges, admission requirements and financial aid options. And it gives test-takers information about possible careers, including how much different jobs pay and what additional training they would need to pursue a career of their choice.
On the back end, the portal allows testing administrators to see how test-takers are doing and to follow up with people who need help in specific subjects.
The new test comes with a higher price tag. The $120 fee is about twice what test-takers in Maryland, Virginia and the District currently pay. Officials say the cost reflects the expanded services.
But a few states have cited the cost, as well as the shift to an entirely computer-based format, as motivations to contract with other vendors who also are developing new tests.
The computer-based GED became an option in January 2012, and GED Testing Service has reported encouraging results. The pass rate for the computer test is 88 percent, compared with 71 percent for the paper-and-pencil version. Those who took the test on the computer were more likely to return to retake a test they had failed.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said he is hopeful that the expansion of the program will make a difference.
“What has always been missing in the world that the GED lives in is counseling and support services,” he said.