Braille Monitor                                                                                 May 2006

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The New GED Tests

by Doris M. Willoughby

From the Editor: Doris Willoughby is a distinguished blindness educator, who lives in the Denver area and teaches at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The following article brings together valuable information for anyone interested in helping blind people earn this important credential. She hopes other educators in this field will contact her. This is what she says:

From time to time I plan to write an article about the GED (General Educational Development, or high school equivalency) Tests or Adult Basic Education. This article will describe materials and methods that we have been using at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). The November 2002 Braille Monitor showed two of our graduates, and we frequently have students working toward the GED. I hope to contact other teachers and students with experience preparing for the GED.

The Test Itself

The GED test is available and recognized throughout the United States. It is actually a battery of five tests: Language Arts, Writing (partly multiple-choice, partly essay); Reading; Social Studies; Science; and Mathematics.

The GED Testing Service, which is part of the American Council on Education, provides the test and its rules. The individual states vary somewhat in details of how the test is administered. In Colorado, for example, community colleges and other adult-education centers give the test, but they are strictly regulated by the Colorado Department of Education. If you do not know where to find a test site, inquire of your state department of education.

Accommodations

Typical accommodations related to blindness include: Braille edition, audiocassette edition, large-print edition, talking calculator, scribe, private room, and extended time. On the old GED test (before 2002), the use of a live reader was expressly prohibited. We in the NFB made an effort to change this, but did not succeed. The manual for the new (2000) test, however, states that the use of a reader may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

One of my students did apply for use of a reader. We wrote a rather detailed "justification," and the request was approved. Unfortunately, however, that student ultimately did not proceed with the actual test.

I would like to know whether anyone else has successfully requested the use of a live reader, received permission, and proceeded with the test. A scribe, a live person to record answers, is typically approved without question.

As one might expect, misunderstandings and errors sometimes occur in arranging accommodations. A notable problem is that, since one-and-one-half the standard amount of time is typical for people with learning disabilities (and using inkprint), officials often specify this time increase for anyone asking for extended time--this in spite of the GED Examiner's Manual clearly stating that twice the standard amount of time is usual for a taped or Braille test. Some students have had to reapply, with a cover letter, in order to receive the accommodation they deserve. Since diabetes is a major cause of blindness, some applicants need to consider the possibility of a reaction during the test. The student would typically need to stop, eat something, and take some time to recover. One of my students applied for the accommodation of "frequent supervised breaks," enclosing a letter from his doctor. The approval came back to allow him to "test for fifteen minutes and then take a ten-minute break." In other words they want him to schedule his reactions according to their plan! We considered this incredible response and decided to ask for three times the standard testing time. This was approved, and I suggest this approach for anyone subject to frequent diabetic reactions or any other condition that is likely to require interrupting the test at unpredictable intervals.

Whether or not there are disagreements, the process of receiving approval for accommodations is often slow. The student is well advised to apply for accommodations as soon as he or she decides to pursue the GED, rather than waiting until almost ready for testing.

How to Go about Studying

Some GED applicants are very strong academically, having had circumstances or problems that kept them from receiving a diploma. Other applicants have had almost no education (like an immigrant from a developing country) or an education so poor that it takes years to reach the GED testing level. Most are somewhere in-between. In a community of any size, some schools will offer GED preparation to the general public.

Testing is available continually (in contrast with tests such as the ACT, which are offered only on infrequent, specific dates). Some schools, especially in urban areas, are accustomed to including blind students. Many, however, will have no experience with blindness. Moreover, it is increasingly common for there to be no actual classes--instead, the work is done individually on a computer (where accessibility may be doubtful).

Independent study is entirely possible, especially for stronger students. Students can take practice tests in each of the five areas, and then proceed with any indicated strengthening. GED study books are generally oriented toward independent study, with plenty of practice questions and answers.

Preparation--with or without a teacher--needs to involve alternative techniques in addition to the kind of preparation needed by everyone. How will the applicant handle long, detailed passages with complex questions afterward? How will the essay be done?

Materials Available

January of 2002 brought a complete revision of the GED test battery. All old, partial scores became obsolete. A flurry of new study materials (in inkprint and on computer) followed the change. However, a considerable time lag has occurred in the production of study materials usable by blind students. Old study materials (from before 2000) are still usable in many respects, since the new version really brought relatively few changes in content. However, we certainly want to use new study materials whenever possible.

New tape-recorded study materials are available from Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D), which charges a modest fee for enrollment and for annual renewal.

Most study materials contain pretests and post-tests. Also, the Steck-Vaughn publishing company offers a set of official practice tests in taped form (as well as large and regular print).

Computer-based study materials are becoming increasingly common. I have not used these thus far and would like to hear from students and teachers who have.

New Braille materials have been slower in becoming available. There now is at least one: GED Basics (Third Edition), by Nancy Lawrence, published by ARCO. It is relatively compact for a book covering all five tests, having only 234 pages in inkprint. This book is available for loan through the National Library Service. It may also be purchased through the American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

The Minnesota State Services for the Blind has produced a number of Brailled study materials. Minnesota educational institutions are entitled to them, and those in other states can purchase them.

As a sighted teacher (although literate in Braille and able to use tapes) I find it convenient to obtain for myself an inkprint copy of the main materials used by my students. Also, of course, inkprint study materials can be read aloud or Brailled by anyone assisting the student.

Study materials labeled "GED" generally assume that the student begins at essentially the high school levelóninth grade or above. A student whose starting level is below ninth grade will need materials called "Pre-GED" (or perhaps "Adult Basic Education").

Let's Pool Our Resources

I would like to collect information about methods, materials, successes, and problems. I would also like to know of other teachers or agencies that have successfully prepared students for GED testing. Let's compare notes. Please write to me at Doris M. Willoughby, 1279 W. Ridge Road, Littleton, Colorado 80120; or telephone (303) 424-7373; or email <dorwill@dimcom.net>.

REFERENCES

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, Kentucky 40206
(800) 223-1839

GED Testing Service
American Council on Education
One DuPont Circle NW
Washington, DC 20036-1163

McGraw-Hill/Contemporary
4255 W. Touhy Avenue
Lincolnwood, Illinois 60712

Minnesota State Services for the Blind
2200 University Avenue West
St. Paul, Minnesota 55114
(651) 642-0500

National Library Service for the Blind
and Physically Handicapped (NLS)
Library of Congress
1291 Taylor Street NW
Washington, DC 20542
(Note that at least one affiliated local library exists for every state.)

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D)
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
(800) 221-4792

Steck-Vaughn Company
P. O. Box 690789
Orlando, Florida 32819-0789
(800) 531-5015

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