ETX literacy program embraces training changes for new GED test

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - For the first time in more than a decade, major, nationwide changes are coming to the GED earlynext year, and that means education programs are having to adjust their training methods to better prepare their students.

Major changes haven't been made to the GED since 2002, but starting January 2, the test will bevery different for the 700,000 students who take it nationwide each year.

There will be four subjects tested instead of five, with an emphasis on cross-subject testingand critical thinking skills.

More importantly, the current paper-based test is about to be a thing of the past. Now, one ofthe biggest differences in the new test is that it will be entirely computer-based.

"As we saw the change coming in 2014 to the GED, we decided we needed to do something in our classrooms,"said James Price, the ESL supervisor at the Literacy Council of Tyler. "So all the classrooms are required to work with their students in computer lab. They help them with basic computer literacy like using a mouse, using a keyboard, getting on the Internet,using email. All of these skills are things that will be tested in the GED in 2014."

The Literacy Council of Tyler says that many of the students who need to take the GED tend tobe older and poorer -- and also computer-illiterate. And so, in addition to teaching core subject matter, the Literacy Council is introducing many of the 2,400 students it sees for GED training, like Claudia Jaimes of Tyler, to basic computer skills they'venever encountered before.

"I learn how to use the computer," she said of her one year in Literacy Council classes. "That'sthe one thing I didn't know when I came here. Now I know how to work more."

"To see them get online, and feel comfortable with that, is a great success for us because thatshows us that they're moving in the right direction towards getting their GED," said Price.

Literacy Council teachers say that even if their students never take the GED, the computer trainingis invaluable for them.

"Simply having computer proficiency, simply having savvy with computers, is linked to as muchas a 14 percent increase in pay. That's what it comes down to for a lot of people - can you make money?" said Gareth Wingfield, a GED instructor at the Literacy Council of Tyler. "And being able to promote your computer, to be able to promote your computerskills gives you more leverage to get a better job, even if your education level doesn't change."

Programs like the Literacy Council will offer you computer training as long as you're enrolledin their classes. Instructors say their students receive anywhere from an hour of training a month to an hour or two of training each week.

"I think we would define success as seeing confidence grow in our students," Price said. "As theyget on the Internet, as they use email, as they become more comfortable with it, there tends to be a moment that we call the aha moment or we call a light bulb moment, where they realize it's not as daunting a task as they thought it was going to be."

The new testing requirements will go into effect January 2, 2014. If you've already started thetesting system in 2013 but haven't finished it, you need to do so by the end of the year or you'll have to retake all the tests.

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