Florencio Avila dropped out of high school at 16 to be with his girlfriend, also 16 and a dropout.
He began regretting that even before he started a family, but it took another 19 years for Avila to do something about getting his General Educational Development (GED) credential.
Avila was one of hundreds of adults packing into Utah’s 17 testing centers this month, trying to complete the high school equivalence certificate before the test becomes more rigorous on Jan. 2.
"We’ve had several dissolve in tears" when they learned they failed one or more sections of the test, said Jean Gorringe, a proctor at the Granite School District’s testing center, where Avila took the test.
Most employers and colleges accept the GED in lieu of a high school diploma. Some 7,000 Utahns pass the exam each year.
Granite’s center was open extra hours to accommodate twice the usual number of test takers before shutting down for the Christmas break on Friday.
Most of Utah’s centers are run by school districts’ adult education programs, and are closed until next year.
"You’d be hard-pressed to find an opening [to take a test] anywhere in the state," said Rick Anthony, director of Granite Peaks adult education program.
A tougher test » The new GED test will drill deeper into fewer subjects, just as the public school curriculum it reflects has become more focused.
Common Core standards, now adopted or adapted in 46 states, including Utah, changed how certain subjects are taught.
The U.S. Department of Education last spring issued new standards for adult education, and the GED is changing to meet those standards.
To pass the GED, test-takers need to know what the average graduating high school senior knows. The new test also measures college and career readiness skills.
Test-takers will still be able to re-take sections of the test that they fail. The price of the test remains $120.
Marty Kelly, the state’s GED testing administrator, said on a Utah Office of Education blog that the new test ensures adults are ready for college and careers, based on Utah’s Common Core standards. "The focus is going to be narrower and deeper."
The test will now have four sections rather than five: science, mathematical reasoning, social studies and reasoning through language arts.
Test-takers will no longer be able to use pencil and paper, except in special circumstances, and the test will all be on computers. The GED Testing Service has online help for adults who want to take the test.
Getting it done » Many of those taking the test in December were teenagers who lacked the credits to graduate with their peers in Utah high schools.
Kolbe Phillips, for instance, said he has suffered from migraines since he was 8 years old and missed so much school that he couldn’t catch up in time to graduate from Granger High.
The 18-year-old had been taking a preparation class for the GED, four hours a day for 12 days. He needs the certificate to continue training as an auto mechanic.Next Page >
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