Education News

What It Took One Student to Pass the New GED

Educators say the new exam is tougher and harder to pass.


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 Back in his native Mexico, Sergio Salazar went to the university in Saltillo and became an architect.

Those credentials didn’t mean much when he came to the United States in the 1980s.

He didn’t speak English, and without his transcripts he couldn’t show he had the equivalent of a high school diploma.

“If I want to get more education, first of all, I need to get my GED. If I want to have more job opportunities, I have to get my GED. I can’t even get the $10, $11 an hour salary, and at this time, that salary for a family of three is not enough.”

So Salazar signed up for a GED course with the Harris County Department of Education this year.

He was among the first class at the agency to study and take the new GED exam, which debuted earlier this year.

The new test is harder because it’s supposed to show that its graduates didn’t just earn the equivalent of a high school diploma, but that they’re also ready for college.

Salazar says it was hard going back to school at 52 years old.

“It was challenging try to remember all the knowledge that I already had. It seems like I have all the knowledge in a bank, stored somewhere, because when I started, a lot of things I didn’t remember.”

For three months, he went to class three days a week.

Then it was time to take the GED exam in five different subject areas.

But he failed math by just one point.

So Salazar studied almost ten hours a day for the last two weeks. He got extra tutoring from a family friend. He took the math test again.

When he got the result he yelled out in Spanish: Sí se puede! I can do it!”

But actually very few of his classmates could pass the new GED.

Salazar was the first one to pass the test.

By the May graduation, only three other students had followed.

Sergio Salazar, a former pastor, recently became the first student to pass the new GED exam at the Harris County Department of Education. Salazar, 52, wants to continue studying and become a counselor.

So for this county program, that makes four graduates with the new GED credential compared to almost 400 graduates from the last semester under the old GED.

“Any time there’s a new test there is a transition period.”

That’s Eduardo Honold. He directs adult education for the Harris County Department of Education.

One of the things that we’ve learned is that you really require much higher reading and math skills in order to be successful with the test. But it’s a matter of simply getting our students up to speed and our teachers ready to help our students achieve their goals.”

Honold says they’ve totally revamped their GED course, so students can master one level before moving to the next.

The county program is also training teachers for the new GED.

One instructor even approached Salazar for tips on what helped him succeed.

He has this advice for others.

“To whoever is listening to me, you can hear my English is not as perfect as many of your listeners. But if I can do it, with my broken English, you can do it, too.”

Salazar, a former pastor, says he wants to continue his education and become a counselor.

At a recent ceremony, about 100 adult students received their high school diplomas from the Harris County Department of Education. Sergio Salazar was among the few students who graduated with the new GED credential. Most students had taken the previous GED exam, which was replaced in January with a tougher exam.

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