The requirements for passing the high school equivalency test are about to change at the end of the year; if you haven't passed all the tests by then, you'll have to start over from scratch.
During World War II, millions of young men were drafted into the military before they could finish high school.
When the war was over, those young men were discharged and expected to make their way in the world without their high school diplomas.
In response, the government and school systems came up with a substitute those veterans could earn: the General Education Development (GED) diploma, a “high school equivalency” degree.
“The point of the GED is to get the skills to get a job to support yourself and your family,” said Pat Thomas, Adult Basic Education (ABE) coordinator based in Marshall.
Last year, 5,775 GEDs were earned in Minnesota. Of those, 40 came from the Marshall testing center, and 13 came from Redwood community education.
Earning a GED consists of taking five tests that show you’ve learned the skills and concepts associated with a traditional high school diploma.
Tests involve showing an understanding reading and writing, social studies, science, and math.
In Redwood Falls, the GED is administered by the community education system in the public school. Thirteen people earned their GEDs through the Redwood school district in 2012.
However, the local school operates the program through Adult Basic Education (ABE), a Marshall-based coop.
“We (ABE) like to work with community education programs, since they’re local and most knowledgeable about the needs of the community,” said Thomas.
“Only about 40 percent of the working population in Minnesota has a high school and secondary school education,” said Thomas.
She added that because of declining birthrates, baby boomers retiring, and a need for more immigrant labor, “by 2018, 70 percent of the working population will need some form of post-high school education.”
Starting next year, the rules will change.
If you have not completed all five of the tests by Dec. 31, 2013, you’ll lose all the progress you’ve made to date and have to go back to the beginning to retake all of them.
Currently, the tests are administered by hand. Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the tests will be completely computerized, and the cost of taking them will go up.
Thomas said that people wanting to earn GEDs, but who don’t have home computers, will be encouraged to make use of public computers in libraries.
Currently, in the Redwood area, classes are offered at the high school and Gilwood Haven, and at the Lower Sioux Community Center.
The GED program is open to all Minnesotans age 19 and above who have not completed a high school diploma or in classes to get one.
That will continue for the forseeable future. However, starting Jan. 1, the closest site for taking the tests will be in Marshall, at SMSU.
Thomas acknowledged the new requirements might make it more difficult for people to get GEDs.
“If the requirements for getting a GED become a barrier to people moving on to secondary education, then we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” she said.
As an alternative to the GED program, the state is currently looking at creating an official Minnesota state high school diploma.
For more information, see the website www.marshalladulteducation.org, or call 507-537-7046.