Tiara Crickenberger grew up in a troubled home and started using heroin and cocaine as a teenager. She dropped out of high school, had two children and lost one of them in a custody battle.
Now Crickenberger, 25, lives in Ellington and has been clean for three years. She will soon have both her children living with her, and she is working hard to get her life in order.
Part of her plan is to earn her general equivalency diploma – GED -- and further her education. She wants to do something in the medical field, she said.
"I have so many goals," Crickenberger said. "I want to accomplish them."
The GED test system, which has been in use since 2002, challenges students in writing skills, social studies, science, reading and mathematics. All five parts of the test do not have to be taken at once. The test can — and often is — taken in pieces.
Crickenberger started the GED test process about two years ago. She's passed four parts of the test, but says she is struggling with the math test. She's taken that section twice, but said she was a few points shy of passing each time.
But under a new GED test system, to take effect in January 2014, the clock is ticking for Crickenberger. Under the new rules, instead of being able to take her time passing the final portion of her test, she must pass by the end of this year. Anyone who hasn't passed all five GED subject areas in the current version of the test by the end of 2013 will be out of luck – any earned test scores will expire.
The test content will be changed in 2014 to align with common core standards, said Armando Diaz, a spokesman for the GED Testing Service. Test-takers will be assessed in four areas: literacy, math, social studies and science. Writing skills will be incorporated throughout, Diaz said.
Diaz said the test won't necessarily be more difficult, but the skills tested will be different. The GED Testing Service saw a need to test for real-life skills and to keep pace with changes in education, he said.
Also in 2014, the GED will only be offered as a computerized test. Although some test centers in Connecticut currently offer the test on computers, most still use a pencil-and-paper version.
In places that do currently administer the test on a computer, Diaz said test-takers finish quicker and have a better testing experience.
Diaz said another benefit to the new GED test will be the information provided to test takers when they receive their results. The 2014 test will provide more in-depth information as it relates to students' scores, he said.
For example, Diaz said the results might indicate the test-taker is ready for college-level classes in a certain subject area. Conversely, if a person fails the test, Diaz said the GED Testing Service will offer tips on what to study when preparing to retake the test.
On average, the GED Testing Center said, 700,000 people throughout the country take the GED test each year. Diaz said the testing center expects to see a double-digit increase in test-takers this year because of the changes coming in 2014. The GED was created in 1942, and the center updates the test about every 10 years, he added.
Diaz said the testing center is working with education officials throughout the country to make sure people are aware of the impending changes. He said the center also plans to launch radio advertisements and use other marketing techniques to let people know about those changes.
In Connecticut, 5,090 people took the GED test from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, according to the most recent data available from the state. Of that number, 2,698 passed the test. The average age of a test-taker in Connecticut is 27, according to the GED service, and the state has a 60 percent pass rate.
"The changes to the GED test are predicated on becoming a better tool to measure not just content, but career and college-readiness," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly. "By aligning the test to essential skill sets and knowledge necessary for future success, the test can better prepare students."
In anticipation of the changes to the test, Donnelly said Connecticut's more than 20 local testing centers are readying for the impending changes. She said adult education providers in the state have included information on the expiration of the current version of the GED test on their web sites and in the brochures they distribute to residents in their area.
Enfield's adult education program web site features information about the changes and includes a countdown clock that says — down to the second — how long students have until the new test debuts.
"We're really concerned that there will be people that don't know," said district adult education Director Kathy Chapdelaine.
Chapdelaine said even if students can't finish the GED by the end of the year, it is important for them to connect with the adult education program because the office can help them transition to the new version of the test. They need to know that getting their GED is possible and that there is support available, she said, explaining that the GED, which was originally designed as a way to test the skills and knowledge of soldiers who enlisted in the military before completing high school, remains a transitional vehicle for people.
To take the GED test in Connecticut, test takers must be state residents who did not graduate from high school and who are not currently enrolled in school. They must be 17 or older and have withdrawn from school for at least six months.
There is no fee to take the GED tests for veterans and those under 21, but all others have to pay $13.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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