The high school equivalence test known nationwide as the GED begins a new era this month by updating its content to align with higher current standards in place at the high school level.
The GED, developed in 1942 to help educate young members of the military returning from World War II, undergoes changes about once a decade. The test was last changed in 2002.
"The ages of those taking the test varies," said Maria Durrance, the GED testing supervisor for Lee County. "We've had adults who have been in the work force for many years without a diploma for whatever reason coming in to take the GED. Most go through our preparation classes. We also serve regular high school age students."
One of the more visible changes is the elimination of the paper and pencil test. It is now offered only on computer at the Adult & Career Education offices in Lee County. The cost of the test also increases along with the additional rigor expected of a traditional high school graduate.
"I think it is all good," said Durrance. "People can register online at home, but still have to come to our center to take the test on computer. It was offered on paper or computer since 2012, but we stopped the paper test last October. Everybody wants the quicker results through the computer based test, usually the same day. It took four to six weeks to get the paper results. Plus, there was a lot of security involved with having the paper test, printing and distribution costs."
The computer-based test is offered 2-7 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. In 2013 alone, 4,884 people took the GED test in Lee County.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of all jobs now require education and training beyond a high school or GED credential.
The new test will better prepare most adults to enter the college or career programs they will need.
Florida is one of about 40 states that offer the GED, though there are two other equivalency tests available.
"We live in a transient population across the nation," said Durrance. "Having multiple tests could mean someone could move to Florida and have to start over or finish up in their state before the move. I don't know how companies will view having different tests."
The GED test focuses on measuring higher level critical thinking and problem solving skills. It is the only one fully aligned to state and national college and career readiness standards.
According to GED Testing Service, only 12 percent of GED grads gained additional education credentials in the past. That low number is one reason for building the new comprehensive program.
As high school standards change the GED can be improved to keep up.
For more information call the Adult & Career Education center at (239) 939-6300.