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Potential GED changes “dynamic”

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CANTON - Kevin G. Smith, deputy commissioner for the Board of Regents adult education and work force development, does not want high school students getting their General Education Development certificate after 2014 to feel excluded.

After reports were released about possible changes to the GED, including the possibility of reverting to a local equivilency diploma, and extending the age at which tests can be taken, Mr. Smith said he wanted to make sure students and parents understood the process is still in a state of flux.

“We don’t want to endorse, we don’t support and we’re not planning to keep our under 21 cohorts from taking the GED exams,” he said.

He said the discussions among members of the Board of Regents about making the state less reliant on the GED have been very dynamic.

“We don’t own or want to do away with the GED,” he said. “We are concerned because of the changes. Test takers will have to pay for the exams.”

Each exam costs $60 per student and the cost is covered by the state. Because the more rigorous, computer-based GED Testing Services tests will likely lead to a significant cost increase to about $120, the state may not pay for the exams after the changes take effect.

“Right now, New York state has a law on the books which prohibits (students) paying for the exam,” said Mr. Smith.

According to state Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn, New York is one of two states that does not have students pay for exams.

Mr. Smith said the state Legislature would have to overturn the law if the change were to happen.

Jack J. Boak, Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, feels the price increase would create limitations for students.

“If New York state sets aside a specified amount of money and the cost of the test goes up, that means fewer kids would be taking the test,” he said.

Even though the student would pay for the exam, he thinks the state would put a cap on the number of tests available at exam sites.

Mr. Smith also said the changes could limit students, but said the limitations would not include how many students would take the exam, because it would be prepaid and computer-based.

Students could be limited if they could not afford to take the test or did not have access to a testing site.

In a previous interview, Mr. Boak said he hoped the state would consider creating a new equivalency test when exploring their options. This is one of the options listed in the Board of Regents discussion item. It is also considering using the National External Diploma Program that is scheduled to expire this July.

According to a Jan. 25 Board of Regents committee discussion item, “NEDP could be a prime candidate as an alternative pathway to a High School Equivalency Diploma. The program recognizes that some people do not do well on high-pressure sit-down tests, but have high level skills and knowledge that are better displayed in other formats.”

Mr. Smith said the Board of Regents will have much to consider before GED Testing Service takes over.

“So much of this is outside the realm of our control and decision-making,” he said.

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