Jail educators prep for GED test changes - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Jail educators prep for GED test changes

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Changes are coming to the GED test in Wisconsin that could make it harder to pass the high school equivalency exam.

Willa MacKenzie is the jail educator from Western Technical College. She works with inmates at the La Crosse County Jail, in an effort to help them complete their GED. In 2012 and 2013 about 40 percent of those who started the exam, successfully competed it.

"The thing about the jail setting is they don't have that outside network of friends to deal with," MacKenzie. "They don't have the problems and the addictions in jail so it really is a nice clean, clear time for them to complete."

Beginning January 1, there will be changes to the GED in the state of Wisconsin. The test will only be administered on a computer, so test takers must have basic keyboarding and computer skills. It will also be harder..and condensed in to four sections instead of five

"We've raised the level of things people need to be able to do," said Chad Dull, the dean of instructional support services at Western Technical College. "There's very little memorization, it's more comprehension and being able to respond to text and make an argument."

While the new test is more difficult, educators say those who successfully complete it are more prepared to continue their education or enter the workforce.

"On the current test, when you write you write a 5 paragraph essay based on a random prompt, which is not a very real world thing to do," Dull said. "Now you're going to read things and respond to them in writing which really mirrors more of what most of us do in the real world."

Mackenzie says many of the inmates she works with have the skills to pass the exam, they just need to know how to apply them.

"What we're looking for is them to understand something they read, understand what the argument is and use that argument to back up their opinion," MacKenzie said. "And I think that's what these people can do in real time and that's what gets them ready for the work force. So I think those skills together that they already have on board, for survival skills, if we can channel those, they're going to be good."

Anyone in the jail interested in completing their GED is able to get in to the classroom 3 to 4 times a week. And Mackenzie says if you started the GED, you must finish before the new test in January, or you will have to start over.

If you have taken a part of the GED and want more information on completing it, you can click here.

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