WELLSBURG - Area residents who have found a lack of a high school diploma has hindered their ability to get jobs or to be promoted from their current position now can test for the equivalent of a diploma at no cost.
Individuals considering taking the General Educational Development examination to receive the equivalent of a high school diploma first must pass a shorter pre-test but will no longer be required to pay the $50 fee for the exam, said Jean Crago, a GED instructor for Brooke County Schools' adult education program for 15 years.
Crago said by waiving the fee, state legislators hope to encourage more West Virginians to pursue a GED, and she believes it will attract more candidates.
In light of an estimated 1,000 high school dropouts in West Virginia who fail to seek GEDs each year, state legislators also eliminated a waiting period for 18-year-olds planning to take the exam and shortened the waiting period for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Those who pass the free pre-test, known as the Official Practice GED Test, are issued a voucher for the GED by the West Virginia Department of Education. Those who don't pass are referred to local adult education programs that offer free instruction in preparing for the GED exam.
Officials with the Brooke County Schools' adult education program are registering individuals to take the OPT on Wednesday, and space is available. To register, individuals should call (304) 527-1410, extensions 3134 or 3140.
The last day to register is Sept. 12, with testing set Sept. 19-20.
The OPT also will be administered on Nov. 13, Feb. 19 and May 14 in preparation for GED test dates in December, March and June.
Crago acknowledged the addition of a pre-test could deter some from pursuing a GED, and she and others are encouraging GED candidates not to be overwhelmed by the pre-test.
She said many underestimate the difficulty of the GED examination, which covers five subjects - math, writing, reading, social studies and science. It's largely comprised of multiple choice questions, though it also includes an essay question, Crago said.
Crago said the OPT offers a sampling of the types of questions found on the GED exam. Participants are given four hours to complete it, compared to the eight provided for the GED exam.
Those taking the GED examination aren't required to enroll in a GED-centered course offered by adult education programs throughout the state, but it can be helpful in preparing for the test, Crago said.
Joe Starcher, Brooke County Schools' adult education director, said beginning Sept. 2, GED classes will meet at the Brooke County Public Library from 9 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays up to Sept. 19-20.
Crago said the course offers self-paced, individualized instruction, based on the needs of each student, and participants aren't required to attend every session.
She said the courses are offered with support from Regional Educational Service Agency 6, an organization representing five county school districts in the Northern Panhandle; and with the cooperation of the library, which has served as the site since 2005.
"We are very fortunate in Brooke County to have the support of our public library, which includes Director Mary Kay Wallace and her staff. They have been very gracious in their efforts to meet the program's needs and have supplied a spacious, cheerful room that affords each student an opportunity to study in a comfortable environment," Crago said.
She said the program isn't related to the Brooke County Adult Literacy Council, which has disbanded.
Crago said Verizon and other groups had helped to make the GED free to some in the past, and she believes expanding that to include any candidate will encourage more people to take the test.
"I think it's going to make a huge difference," she said.
Crago said typically 15-30 people have enrolled in the GED program, though unfortunately, not all complete it.
She said some, particularly young adults, lack motivation and fail to see the benefits of obtaining a GED.
Crago said despite an increasing emphasis on education as being key to getting a job with which one can support himself or herself, there has been a growing number of high school dropouts in recent years.
She said that may be due to negative influences at home or a natural tendency among teens not to see beyond the present.
Crago said not all of her students are recent high school dropouts, as a number of participants have been older adults who are pursuing a GED because they have found they can't advance in their careers.
"There's various reasons people enroll in the class. Some come to prepare for college entrance examinations," she said. "I get all age ranges, from 16 to 68."
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