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GED requirements set to change in Oregon

Jul 8, 2013


By The Associated Press

PORTLAND — GED exams for those who want an alternative way to earn a high school diploma are about to change and community organizations in Portland are encouraging people to finish their studies this year before the tests gets harder or more complex.

The Oregonian reports (http://is.gd/fv2MrR) the groups that usually address poverty, gang activity and immigration are trying to persuade people to get their GED by the end of the year.

The GED will change in January 2014. The new tests will be more difficult, in line with the Common Core Standards. People who haven't completed the test by the end of December will have to start over.

Oregon's Department of Education is trying to push 14,000 people through the five exams toward a certificate that can help them get better jobs or into college.

Antoinette Edwards, director of the Portland's Office of Youth Violence Prevention, is planning to push the GED closeout message right under people's noses: in church bulletins, on public transportation, in fast food restaurants, on grocery bags.

“This is more of a mass callout, a shout-out,” Edwards said.

At a recent Gang Violence Task Force meeting, she talked about her plan to have community groups reach out to people and offer tutoring. The community organizations took the idea and ran with it.

Cassandra Minnieweather and Lakeesha Dumas are working through Straightway Services to offer GED tutoring as part of the organization's other support services for families struggling with crime, addiction and poor access to education.

They were excited to become part of the closeout campaign when they heard Edwards talk about it.

Dumas got her GED in 1996, when she was 18, and worked as a GED instructor at Portland Community College for a few months. She then struggled with addiction while trying to raise her son, but got clean two years ago and wanted to reach out to troubled youth. She is now one of six volunteer instructors for Straightway's closeout campaign.

The main challenge will be to persuade people to come to classes, Minnieweather said. She plans to promote the program in church, at the food bank, at the clothes closet ministry, through fliers, Facebook, Twitter, at low-income housing facilities and out on the street.

“Sometimes it takes incentives, maybe a meal, to bring them here,” she said. "People need to see success stories. They also need to understand that timing is key, and they'll have access to tutors and other free resources.

“Just to diminish the costs, that's half the battle,” she said.

According to the American Community Survey's five-year estimates (2006-2010), there are more than 271,000 Oregonians (age 18-64) without a high school diploma or GED certificate. Of those, the people who held jobs earned on average $471 a week in 2012, compared to $652 for high school graduates and $749 for those with some college or an associate degree.

“We're talking about dropouts who become adults that get caught in a cycle of low-wage jobs,” said Carole Scholl, manager of the Londer Learning Center. Scholl said that ever since the economy gave out, “they've had a harder time finding work because the recession put the higher-skilled workers into low-wage jobs and bumped out further people who haven't graduated.”

The Oregon Employment Department projects that between 2010 and 2020, of about 728,000 job openings, 30 percent will have no educational requirement. About 68 percent will require a high school diploma or an equivalent, said occupational economist Brenda Turner.

So the odds of getting a job might double with the GED.

More than 16,000 Oregonians are enrolled in the GED process but haven't finished, said state GED administrator Marque Haeg. The current version was introduced in 2002, and since then, between 9,000 and 10,000 people have received their GEDs in Oregon every year.

In 2001, before the former test changed, 14,000 people got their certificates. Haeg is expecting a similar turnout this year.

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