Changes to high school equivalency

Monroe-Randolph Regional Superintendent Kelton Davis is skeptical of the proposed state alternatives for earning a high school equivalency certificate.

According to the State Journal-Register, the Illinois Community College Board plans to roll out changes in the fall to help those a few credits short of graduating high school. This could mean putting them through a credit recovery program or allowing them to pass a community college course.

“My concern is it’s the traditional classroom in a K-12 environment that has not been successful,” Davis said. “What will be different with college coursework? I’m unclear who we’re targeting and what the anticipated outcome is.”

The State Journal-Register reports the changes are due to the fact Illinois has seen a significant decline in the number of people taking the GED in the last four years. The reasons for the decline include that the test has become more rigorous, moved to an online format and become more expensive.

Davis said neither the rigor of the test nor the move to online have not affected scores coming out of his office. He did, however, concede that the increase in price may have initially discouraged some people from taking the test.

“We had fought — when it was paper and pencil, the ROE had fought for years to keep (the cost of) that testing down,” Davis agreed. “We were barking when they wanted to have it up from $30.

“When Pearson — the only contractor in the state — went electronic, and the state required the test be electronic, the price shot up. Which is an argument to say it should be cheaper because you’re not proctoring it with people.”

Davis said he believes this has led to people second guessing whether the investment will be worthwhile.

“If I’m not sure I can do it and I’m scared and nervous about it, am I going to waste (that much money) on it?” he questioned. “It’s fear of what you don’t know at a high cost.”

Monroe-Randolph Regional Office of Education Secretary Audrey Hicks said the price is now $120 to complete the GED after the test moved online in 2014. While numbers are down across the state, the Monroe-Randolph ROE has recently seen an uptick in test takers.

The numbers for 2015-16 came out to 112 tests completed in the region. In 2016-17, that rose 55 percent to 250 tests completed. Davis said a contributing factor could be the demand for higher-skilled employees in jobs that once held fewer prerequisites.

“I think unemployment had a lot to do with it, and the demand for higher-skilled people,” he said. “When you have a lot of highly educated people willing to do entry level work because you have to pay off student loans, it pushes those people out who don’t have a high school diploma. I think we’ve worked past that initial fear, too.”

Another explanation Davis offered is that many people looking to take the GED will come over from St. Louis to do the testing out of his office. To elaborate, Davis said the heavy volume of people taking the GED at St. Louis testing centers means waiting much longer for the test to be administered.

“We have such a low number of people testing that they can get in quicker,” he said.

At any given time, an average of three to five people are attending a GED prep course administered by the ROE. One such class is currently available from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo.

In addition to the Waterloo location, the ROE will make classes available in Valmeyer and Columbia based on demand. Hicks and Carole Crum are the current ROE instructors for the program.

“It’s been great. I’ve met some wonderful people that are motivated,” Crum, a retired teacher, said. “There’s a need for it locally.”

At the onset of the course, the ROE will administer an entrance exam to participants to understand their individual needs. The course is then personalized for each student.

“We need to meet the students where they’re at education-wise, but there’s also a need for a flexible schedule because many of the people in these classes have full-time jobs,” Crum elaborated.

To that end, Davis said those with a more challenging schedule can also take the prep course online or do a combination of online and in person work based on their needs. He added that the average person will spend about 30 hours preparing for the GED.

“For some people it’s two hours, others it’s 200,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for them to do more than 30 hours of work.”

The ROE also offers the Test Assessing Secondary Completion and High School Equivalency Test as alternatives to the GED. 

For more information on receiving a high school equivalency certificate through the ROE, and on the different testing options, go to or call 939-5650.

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