Friday, June 01, 2001

New GED test coming

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — The nearly 17,000 Kentuckians now pursuing a high-school equivalency degree have until the end of the year to complete their testing or they will have to start over virtually from scratch.

        The American Council on Education is changing the test for the first time since 1988 and after Dec. 31 will no longer count passing grades on any of the five parts that comprise the test.

        The deadline should not be news to most students. Starting as early as 1999, the state sent some 39,000 postcards to students alerting them to the coming change, said Lisa Schwendau, the state's GED administrator.

        To emphasize the seven months remaining, Kentucky is mounting a $2.5 million advertising and promotional campaign. The campaign began Thursday with rallies and news conferences in Lexington and Louisville.

        “I think we can use this deadline as a catalyst and move people along,” said Ed Ford, deputy secretary of the executive cabinet for Gov. Paul Patton.

        Kentucky needs the GED more than most states — it is 48th in the percentage of adults with a high-school diploma.

        Shirley Wilson knows the difference a GED can make. Ms. Wilson dropped out of school at 16. Last year, at 55, she went looking for a better job and was stymied by the lack of a high-school diploma. “I decided from there that was not going to happen anymore,” Ms. Wilson said.

        It took a year, often going to preparation classes several times a week and studying until 3 a.m. She fell short of passing her first try by the tiniest of percentages and nearly gave up before trying once more. “It was hard, believe me.”

        She recalled receiving her results. “I saw that big brown envelope and started screaming,” she said.

        The diploma goes with her on job interviews now. But not for long. “It's going on the wall,” she said.


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